10 Questions with ... Seth Mela
September 6, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I've been doing radio since 2005. I began by doing a half hour weekly show talking about my financial consulting business and was asked to fill in when the morning show for that station (WTWB 1570) retired. I loved it so much I ended up selling my business and buying the airtime to start my own morning show. When WTWB was sold to a Spanish broadcast group, I jumped to WLKF 1430. After four years I accepted the offer to join the team of the Wisconsin Morning News in 2012.
1. What made you want to be in radio? And how did you get that first job?
As a kid, I was fascinated that the morning show guys I listened to actually made a good living by goofing around and having fun every morning while I grumbled about getting ready for school. I even did a couple radio commercials for the high school band, but never once seriously thought about making it my career. Instead, I did the sensible thing and followed my other interest; learning about how money worked in our economy and investing. When I had my own financial consulting business I took the advice of a colleague and bought a weekly half hour slot on a local AM station. I found that I looked forward to doing my show more than meeting with clients. When I filled in for the morning show, as I described above, I couldn't let it go. It was my passion and a fire had ignited that I could not ignore.
2. You were born and raised and worked in Florida and now you're in decidedly non-Floridian Wausau- how did that come about and what was that transition like?
After spending four years at the small 5,000 watt WLKF, I felt I had accomplished as much as I could in that environment. After a heartfelt discussion with my PD, he offered to help me move up in the business. WSAU in Wisconsin, a much larger simulcast station, was looking for a new morning show host, and after much discussion with my very supportive family, we all decided it was a good fit. The most difficult part has been coming to understand that while 60 degrees in Florida is a standard "winter," in Wisconsin, that's a warm day and time to break out the shorts!
3. How does your show set itself apart from the typical morning news block -- what do you do to make the show stand out?
To set ourselves apart from all the other morning shows that are in our market, I simply follow a few basic rules. I never waste the listener's time. Our humor is family friendly and blended with our personal experiences. We may occasionally use a prepared list of topics, but we don't just read the script. It's a launching pad for a real discussion. I refuse to do the typical "filler" just to make sure we hit the top of the hour. There's so much going on in our community, state, nation and the world that I would be doing a terrible disservice to the listener if what we said didn't genuinely come from the heart. We also approach serious subjects in the light of personal responsibility and common sense. I evaluate my show when I close the mic by asking myself; "is the listener better off having heard our show?"
4. How dominant is the election in your show right now? Has the election -- the news and the tone of the discourse about it -- changed the show in any way?
The election has been a very big part of the last hour of our show. We are on the air from 5am to 9am; the first three hours are more light-hearted, but the last hour is where we do the mental heavy lifting and dig into a wide variety of important subjects. I am a Christian Conservative and my co-host is more of an agnostic liberal. The audience LOVES when we debate our differing views.
5. Of what are you most proud?
While I am proud that in the four years I've been with WSAU we've been nominated three times for the Wisconsin Broadcaster's Association's Morning Show of the Year, having won twice and were first runner up once, that's not what I'm most proud of. I am most proud that I've been a significant part of building a team where there were once just participants in the show. It's now more like sitting around a table and having a lively conversation over a cup of coffee instead of "putting on the same show every day."
6. You've been in Wausau for a few years now; what would surprise people from outside the market about Wausau? For people who might know Wausau only from insurance company commercials, what should they know about your area?
Wausau is typical midwest. The people are strong and hearty, honest and willing to help out a complete stranger. Sadly, this is being taken advantage of, as the illegal drug trade is slowly making its way into the area. There has been a slow increase in cars being broken into, petty theft, and minor gang activity. Wisconsin as a whole is a great place that you can find every day reasons to have faith in humanity.
7. Who are your mentors, inspirations, and heroes in the business?
The biggest influences in my radio career came from two people. First would be my former PD, Mike James. He took time to help me develop as a broadcaster and never once discouraged me from experimenting and trying approaches outside my comfort zone. The other would be Glenn Beck. I used to enjoy his show when he was in Tampa, FL. I had the opportunity to visit with him a few times both in his New York studios and in his Texas location. While I do not agree with all of his positions, I feel that his style is one of the best in the business. He encouraged me to always always be honest with the audience and don't make stuff up just to be entertaining. "When you're on air four hours a day, five days a week or more, if you aren't honest with who you are, it will come to light and will alienate the audience."
8. If you hadn't gone into radio, what do you think you'd be doing right now?
If I hadn't followed my heart into radio, I'd still be running my financial consulting business and I'd be miserable.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ______________.
...prayer, good coffee, a microphone, and the laughter and love of my family.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
I've already divulged the best advice I've gotten. I had a sales manger in the financial world tell me I should stick to what I know. He meant well, but the deeper meaning to that statement said I should settle and not challenge myself to be more, do better, reach higher. Not long after that particular meeting I decided to sell my business and go into radio full time. So, perhaps, it wasn't such bad advice after all!