10 Questions with ... Andrew Lee
April 14, 2009
NAME:Andrew LeeTITLE:Program DirectorSHOW:KQTH 104.1 The TruthMARKET:TucsonCOMPANY:Journal Broadcast GroupBORN:MiamiRAISED:Miami/Ocala
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
First radio job was with Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando, then The Sky 97.3 in Gainesville, where I was eventually promoted to Program Director. Went from there to WXNT-AM in Indianapolis, and left there to launch The Truth here in Tucson.
1. What made you decide to get into radio? Why radio?
I fell in love with talk radio when I was a delivery driver paying my way through college - in fact it was Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando that got me hooked. Alan Colmes and his Radio Graffiti was must-hear radio every night for me. I had never really considered working in radio, though - I was learning audio engineering and studio production when The Russ & Bo Show (which has since evolved into the Monsters in the Morning) put out a call for interns on the air one night. I needed an internship, and loved the show and the station, so I figured why not?
2. About what are you most passionate these days?
Honestly (and I know this is going to sound cliche), outside of my family and friends, growing this station and the morning show (Jon Justice) is what I'm most passionate about. Since I've been with the station since before we launched, I take a lot of pride in the overall product, and take the whole thing very personally. It's a lot of fun to watch the station come from the group of 'also-rans' and start competing with the big sticks in town.
3. In both Indianapolis and Tucson, you came up against established heritage talk stations with upstarts. How do you approach taking on the long-term powerhouses? What moves have you made in Tucson that have made the station a competitive threat to the heritage station?
Y'know, the two competitive situations are worlds different, but the one thing you have to do when taking on an established in-format competitor is find a strong, compelling point of difference, try to be as good at that as possible, and promote/brand your station appropriately. Here in Tucson, you can't overstate the advantage being on FM gives us. We're able to expose the format to a whole new group of people that had never bothered to explore the AM dial, and it's creating new talk P1's. We're not just trying to take listeners from the in-format competition, we're going after the younger end of the demo who are just starting to recognize the importance and value of strong, issues-oriented talk shows and have never been exposed to the format before. We share a significant percentage of cume with the country, rock, and AC stations in the market, and our audience growth hasn't necessarily come at the sole expense of our in-format competition. Beyond the obvious FM advantage, we spent a lot of time and effort making sure we had the right morning show. The growth of Jon Justice is directly tied to the growth of the station overall. Jon has quickly become a major player in town.
4. You've programmed two talk stations on FM -- how does being on FM alter your philosophy on talk programming, if at all? Is there a difference? Do the younger available demos play into that?
Besides my time in Indianapolis, my entire career has been on FM, so I don't think it alters my philosophy at all. It still boils down to creating and presenting compelling and relevant content, and branding/promoting appropriately. Without that, the delivery method doesn't really matter. We do use it as a strong point of differentiation here in Tucson, but in Gainesville we rarely emphasized it, because the market there didn't have an established AM talk station that we had to compete against. Generally speaking I think it's a mistake to try to alter the product to specifically target the younger demos - you don't need to re-invent the wheel with this format, you just need to stay relevant, informative, entertaining, and keep your hosts true to themselves. If you're doing it right, you'll get a good share of the younger listeners.
5. Of what are you most proud?
Professionally, being able to say that I've helped lead 2 FM talk stations from the bottom of the ratings pile to being successful players in their markets. I strongly believe in news/talk as not just a viable format choice for FM, but one of the best format choices. When someone tells me that they're using one of my stations as an example of the formats success on FM, that makes me extremely proud.
6. How, if at all, has the change in the economy and in the administration changed what you do in talk radio? Do you perceive any changes in what audiences are demanding, or has nothing changed?
Hosts that can decipher and contextualize all the big economic stories are really starting to stand out and cut through all the clutter. There's a lot of frustration, confusion, and anger in the audience, and it seems like a lot of hosts are starting to understand that they need to be more than just a daily litany of "what Obama did wrong today" stories. There's still plenty of that, but I don't think that's what most listeners really want to hear right now. They want context, information, hosts who help them make sense of everything going on around them, and who make them feel like there are still some people willing to stand up for their values and give the listeners a voice. But as serious and depressing as the economic news can be, we can't forget to have a sense of humor - we can't forget to laugh at the absurdity of it all. There's a reason The Daily Show and The Colbert Report continue to not just get great ratings but be influential voices in our discourse - and talk radio could learn a thing or two from their approach.
7. Who are your mentors, influences, and inspirations in the business?
Mentors: Steve Godofsky was my General Manager when I was first given the reins in Gainesville, and he taught me a lot about managing people and letting the talents of your staff flourish. Ken Beck's input and influence was invaluable to my growth as a talk programmer. Journal has given me the opportunity to work with Bill McMahon and E. Karl, and I've learned so much from both of them. The really fun and inspiring part of this job, however, is figuring out the nuances of each individual host and giving them the support, coaching, and tools they need to excel.
8. What do you do to relax?
I'll let you know when I figure it out.... For me, I need to step away from the news cycle - if I'm watching cable news or Sunday morning shows, it feels like I'm still at work. I like to spend one-on-one time with my kids, watch sports, and play poker.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ____________.
...checking my e-mail obsessively.
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst?Best: Give frequent, consistent, and honest feedback.
Worst: "You should take up golf."