10 Questions with ... Bill Zito
August 28, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I was a cop when I started as a volunteer board-op with an NPR station in Florida, moving to DJing afternoon jazz and doing hourly news updates in my police uniform before, after and occasionally during my patrol shifts.
Moving east to west, I did traffic and news just north of Seattle before I began producing Dave Ross at KIRO/Seattle. I'd ditched the cop suit by then.
Three years there, two at rival KOMO news running afternoon drive before I headed back to NYC (hometown) as Producer-Editor for ABC News Radio before a major layoff storm.
I did freelance here and there before spending exactly one year in the AM chair at FM News New York, a.k.a. Merlin Media's What Should Have Been station.
1) What led you to a career in radio?
After a decade as a cop I was getting mentally fried and I needed to look ahead and to the side. I always loved radio, particularly News and Talk. My grandfather had 1010 WINS blasting from the kitchen, so I had no choice. Besides, expressing yourself is a marvelous stress minimize, so why not make a couple of bucks (literally) at it? I was surprised at how one skill set was able to compliment the other.
2) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I had always been employed, so when ABC laid a bunch of us off in 2009, I was shaken up for sure, but I learned some things, so it won't shake me again. I have a great family to come home to, friends who never cared about what I did for a living, just me, and I remember the most important thing: it could be so much worse.
3) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
It's summer; I'm out a lot. For the last year I was working 12-14-hour days and on call on the weekends. My daughter and my girlfriend get my attention now, as do those two giant dogs on my couch ... HEY, GET OFF!!
4) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
I will try my best, but it does get difficult. I may have to go mainstream and do radio in my spare time. I have a great respect for the industry, but not always those who run things as if it was their own personal toy. If you turn a radio on, you hear voices ... those voices come from people. Sometimes I think that gets forgotten along the way.
5) What has been your best resource for finding out about job openings?
People. The last three jobs I had came from somebody telling somebody else, "This is a guy you need to talk to." Simple as that. You can sign up for all these job boards, referral services and websites, but you're just words on a page unless somebody vouches for you.
6) What's the most unbelievable question you've ever been asked in an interview?
"Ever seen a dead hooker?" "Why would you ever leave police work?" "What's Paul Harvey like?" (And these are the people running stations.)
7) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
A year after I made my last arrest, I was up on the media stand in Washington, DC watching an inauguration that followed a contentious election, helping to produce coverage not only for my station, but for a network as well. (Thank you, Dave.)
8) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
We all have to battle over something ... why not let it be the truth?
9) If you were offered a similar position to what you were doing for considerably less money, would you seriously consider taking the job just to stay in the biz?
I would always listen to a proposal. A station in the Midwest offered me a bump up in position but the money was half what I was making in New York. It was a great station, but I regretfully couldn't swing it, not with a kid. It's a shame we gotta eat.
10) Having been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
You want it? Do it! Just be responsible for your own success or failures. Leave nothing in someone else's hands.
What's one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
For someone who has been called "a combination Lou Grant and Andy Sipowicz on a bad day," I am surprisingly sensitive and have seen every episode of "Gilmore Girls" at least twice.