10 Questions with ... Branden Rathert
August 30, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Most of my career has been doing morning shows since 1992. In 2007 I decided I wanted to “grow up” and get into talk radio. KBOI in Boise gave me a chance, and then I went to WNRP in Pensacola, Fl. where I did an afternoon show for 6 years. Then, after being away from home for 23 years, decided to move back home to Missouri to work at KSSZ in Columbia.
1. Since we last chatted seven years ago, you've moved on from Pensacola to Columbia, MO. What was the transition to a new market like for you- what did you do to educate yourself about Mid-Missouri, and how long was it before you felt at home in your new job (assuming you've acclimated by now, and as a native Midwesterner, I'd assume that didn't take too long)?
I loved the transition here! It forced me to learn new things and do lots of research on the U.S. Census Bureau and Wikipedia…going to the local history museum… sitting at a neighborhood bar and listening in to what people are talking about… Wikipedia was a big help… maps… reading what people are writing in the comment section of the paper… and sitting downtown and watching people. I felt at home here when I won a company-wide award for “Best Morning Show” after I had only been here for 5 months.
2. The morning show is a team effort with you as the lead host - describe what each cast member's role is, and what you see your role as being. Who does what? And what makes the show different from other radio talk shows?
I’m the lead of the show, and often time I’m handing off to my co-hosts, Brad Tregnago and Breck Dumas. They are very brilliant people who can take over the show if need be. They ask smart questions, which gives me the opportunity sometimes to just sit back and spice things up with humor. The genesis of most of my questions, whether we’re talking to guests or callers, is real curiosity. We had a candidate on recently who is the son of a former governor and U.S. Attorney General; while Brad and Breck are asking what would you do if you win, I’m asking if it was easier for him to get chicks since he lived in the governor’s mansion! We thrive on being different from other talks shows by adding a lot of humor. It’s kind of like “The Daily Show” for radio but we’re more Libertarian. I don’t bang on the desk complaining about the president for 3 hours a day.
3. Has the election year changed the tone of your show? Specifically, do you feel like there's a difference in your and the show's role, and relationship with the audience, because of the tone of the election and the way people are reacting to the candidates, pro and con?
I think a lot of us in radio are thanking god for Trump and Clinton! I’m the conductor of the Trump Train and have been since June of 2015 when he announced. During the primary I had to use caution when talking about the race. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t criticizing the other candidates. I’m fortunate because Brad can be good at reflecting the anger of the audience and Breck is genuine when she expresses doubt about Trump. I think we're a good mirror of the audience without being all things to all people.
4. Is there anything you miss about Pensacola? What are the key differences (besides weather and access to the ocean) between your former market and your current home?
I miss being able to sleep in until 9 in Pensacola. Here I’m up at 1a to be at the station by 1:30… I miss the sleep in Pensacola!
The most glaring difference between Pensacola and Columbia is the politics. Northwest Florida is all conservative. There’s a sizable portion of Conservatives here too, but my impression is they lean more independent, not buying into an entire platform of a party.
5. How, if at all, are you using social media in conjunction with your show? Is it for engagement with your listeners, for material, for something else?
I like to pull material off of FB because if somebody else posted it and it’s getting reaction, then I know it’s something people are talking about already. FB live has been phenomenal for us! I use it when I interview panhandlers and when we play the interview on-air, I send listeners to the FB page so they can see what the person looks like and our audience digs it! If we’re talking about a trending video that has stimulating audio, we play the audio on the air and tell our “Facebook Family” we’ve posted it to our page for them and then we always make a point to encourage them to share with THEIR friends to get us even more exposure and likes. Apparently it works: we’ve had 1,500 new listeners join us on FB in less than a year!
6. Are you still doing standup these days? What would you say is the most important benefit you personally got out of doing standup comedy?
Last time I did stand-up I was in Pensacola and was paid an obnoxious amount of money and felt so bad about my performance I swore I would never do it again… that, and I get stage fright! The challenging thing doing stand-up is that you’re live without a net and no co-hosts, but you HAVE to keep performing no matter how bad the set is going.
There are numerous professional benefits to my radio career from having done stand-up. The most important aspect of it personally was learning to overcome my fears. I’m very shy and have very little ego, and was petrified every time I got on stage, but I walked through that fear, and it was exhilarating! And the performances were never as bad as I thought… except for that one in Pensacola!
7. Who's been the most interesting interview subject you've had in your career so far? Who was the worst (if you're prepared to identify that person)?
The most interesting are always the homeless people and the panhandlers. It’s amazing to hear how they got to where they are in life.
Once in Pensacola, my boss called me while I was on-air and wanted me to have one of his business friends on the show. So I call the guy with a rough idea of what we were supposed to talk about, but it was a very controversial issue and I didn’t agree with the guy. I think it’s the only time I got into a shouting match with a guest. My boss never called me in the middle of a show again requesting one of his friends to come on.
Oh, and one more. Westboro Baptist was in town one time threatening to protest at the funeral of a kid who died in Iraq. I called the church and told them to back off. They did but they wanted 10 minutes of air time. Westboro calls in, I intro the guest, and then... silence. I didn’t ask any questions and the guy was flabbergasted, he didn’t know what to do or say since no one was asking him questions or arguing with him. They didn’t protest the funeral and I received lots of good press from several media outlets.
8. You answered this last time, but let's get an update with another seven years gone by: Of what are you most proud?
I would like to say the awards, but as I sit here and think about it I realize that it’s been opening audiences’ eyes to the plight of homeless people, panhandlers, prostitutes, and drug addicts by doing interviews with these people.
9. Crystal ball time: Who's going to win the Presidential election?
I just consulted with Karl Rove who famously fumbled the 2012 election and he says Hillary, so I pick Trump.
10. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?
Be genuinely curious and interview fewer politicians.