10 Questions with ... Peter Zolnowski "Peter Z"
October 1, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Peter Zolnowski "Peter Z" ... the last name is long and Polish and confuses people
I actually started out with a high school radio station. Looking back, it was a pretty legit operation.
I got my first paying job on my first day of college at WBUZ/Fredonia, NY.
At the time, my goal was to work at WGR/Buffalo...then an AM AC station. I interned there in my second year of college and they hired me as soon as I finished. I worked there full-time while finishing my degree full-time.
I've been in all kinds of markets over the years, and worked many formats. I also had the pleasure of running a small market group ... five stations in three markets in NY and PA. Some of the better-known call letters include WGR/Buffalo, KOMA and KRXO/Oklahoma City, WSAI, WAQZ and WGRR/Cincinnati and KLUV/Dallas.
The last 13 years were with CBS, first in Cincinnati and then in Dallas. I thought I'd retire from that gig, but it wasn't meant to be. When I was not renewed, the station was just added to the duties of another PD in the building. It saddens me, but I understand the belt-tightening that's going on everywhere.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
There's always happy hour ... but I'm blessed with a close family and a very tight circle of friends with positive attitudes. Spending time with them is the best remedy when I start to feel bad about the situation.
2) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
I've just started re-watching The Sopranos from start to finish. The death of James Gandolfini inspired that. Before that, a lot of cheap matinee movies. I've seen more movies inside theatres in the last 11 months than in the previous 11 years combined.
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
That's truly my desire, but I have to be realistic. I was released about Labor Day of 2012. I counted 42 other PDs let go between then and Christmas of 2012. I stopped counting because it was depressing me. Alternates? I think I'd be great in a Media Relations, Public Relations, Public Information Officer-type jobs.
4) What's the best way to get your foot in the door?
Nothing beats staying in touch with everyone you know in the biz and finding out what they know. You get to apply for things that aren't yet posted. It's sad but true: A majority of the jobs I've applied for were clearly "filled" before the ad appeared. They made their choice, then went through the required posting process. Some stations have done horrible jobs of covering that up.
5) What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get a job?
In the early '80s, I applied for the APD job at WTVN/Columbus. I'd learned it was a major anniversary for the station (60th I believe). I found a Columbus bakery that would create a cake in the shape of an old chapel radio and deliver it to the PD. I didn't get the gig, but I did get a thank you along pics of the staff enjoying my cake.
6) Are you finding salaries/benefits lower than you ever thought, about the same, or have you seen some pleasant surprises?
I'm pretty sure my next job will pay less than I'm accustomed to, and have additional duties (a second station to program, etc). Look, I get it. It's everywhere. I just want to be part of a winning team.
7) With consolidation there are definitely fewer jobs. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
The companies that I have spoken with are impressed that I have a successful programming track record, yet care just as much about the revenue record. A radio station is one team with two sets of customers. The biggest win comes when you are top of the heap in both.
8) Are you spending as much time listening to radio as you used to?
I have the luxury of listening to any station I want as much as I want. I'm a P1 to Country, though I've never programmed it. But I'd love to program it. And there are many stations I'm a P-2 to ... and I spend more time with them than I used to.
9) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
Taking a legendary radio station (KLUV/Dallas) and making it even bigger. In my years at 98.7 KLUV, the team accomplished the highest ratings in the station's 30 years (in the same format). Respect for the heritage is a requirement if you're going to try and take a station like that into the future. You can't just flush the past, especially if you have limited or no marketing money.
10) 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?
Yes ... BUT: There's a limit. There's so much to consider. Cost of living, tax rates, quality of life in the market. The word "considerably" is the wild card in your question.
My favorite new diversion is ...
Being out in the sun. At the pool or a long drive in my convertible. I've seen so much of the fringe areas of the market (DFW is huge!) in these months. Areas I've heard about but never had the chance to check out.