10 Questions with ... Christine Pawlak
November 10, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My radio background is mainly in Alternative. After learning everything I possibly could during college at WBRU/Providence, I did afternoons at 99.9 The Buzz in Burlington, VT, nights at Y100 in Philly (RIP) and middays at Q101 in Chicago (RIP). Those were my "Electra" days. I took some time away from radio after Q101 was sold and flipped. When Tommy Mattern (who had been my PD for a few years in Chicago) called me last year with an idea for a new Top 40 station in St. Louis, I was ready to come back. This time, I'm just Christine. And I'm happy about that.
1) What led you to a career in radio?
I grew up listening to WBRU during the '90s. I loved everything about it; I fondly remember squishing myself again the front row railing at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel for a Birthday Bash Show with Ben Folds Five. I basically went to Brown University so I could work for the station. It didn't hurt that I got an excellent education and made lifelong friends while I was doing it. I did my first overnight in December of 1998 and learned everything I could from there.
2) How would you describe your first radio gig?
Matt Grasso initially hired me to do nights and production at The Buzz. I was also the receptionist from 3-5p. I remember leaving the station after my show once and walking into a minus-30° Burlington night - before the wind chill. When the PD and MD left six months after I'd been hired, I was immediately promoted to MD/afternoons. So it was chaotic at times and bitterly cold at others, but ultimately a great place to learn how to juggle responsibilities and embrace unexpected challenges.
3) What makes your station unique? How would you compare it to other stations you've worked at?
We are extremely proud of the on-air talent we've assembled at NOW 96.3. We have no syndicated shows, and we have live jocks on the weekends. NOW is a special challenge for me since it's the first Top 40 I've ever worked at, but Tommy has been terrific about letting me be myself, without changing my approach. Drew Patterson, who voices our station and does imaging for both us and 105.7 The Point, does a great job of mixing that same Alternative attitude with a Top 40 sound. This is also the first time I've ever been part of a station launch. So that makes it very different from the established stations I've worked at in the past. We're all motivated to make something new and different and better every day.
4) "Local local local" has always been radio's mantra. How do you keep your station visible and involved in the community?
As a brand new station, we know we're facing an uphill battle to change people's listening habits. So we do as much as we can do be both live and local. We did pool party broadcasts every weekend in August and hung out at movie theaters every Friday night in September. We designed a bi-weekly video series that featured local landmarks ("Car Talk"), and we have another one in the works that will take place at local bars (you guessed it ... "Bar Talk"). Emmis St. Louis is deeply committed to giving back to our community, so we volunteered at the St. Louis Area Foodbank with our sister stations (105.7 The Point, KSHE 95 and FM NewsTalk 97.1) earlier this year. And we hope to incorporate a local high school into our first annual Let It SNOW Show in December.
5) What is your favorite part of the job?
I still love the feeling of sharing a brand new song that I really like, knowing that a listener is hearing it for the first time. NOW 96.3 has a new music feature called What's Next NOW, where we showcase a different new single three times a day every week. Tommy and I pull those songs from Top 40, Hot AC and Alternative. I'm a fan of X Ambassadors, so when I first played "Renegades" back in June - early for Top 40 - that was a wonderful feeling. Playing the new Adele song for the first time gave me chills. Those are neat moments for me.
6) What artist would we be surprised to find on your personal playlist?
I love Electric Light Orchestra. Love. You know that Simpsons episode when someone asks Lisa who her favorite Traveling Wilbury is, and if it's Jeff Lynne? That's me in real life.
7) Who would you say has influenced your career the most?
No one has been more influential for me over the last 10 years than Mike Stern, who hired me to do middays at Q101 in 2005. He has consistently encouraged me to find my voice and challenged me to achieve great things. Mike has been there for my highest points and has stood by me in my lowest moments. He's one of my favorite people and dearest friends. Also, I beat him in fantasy football last week. Sorry, Mike.
8) Do you have a favorite hobby outside of radio?
I love to bake, which works out well for my co-workers. Ask them about my salted chocolate chunk cookies, and then step away from the inevitable puddle of drool.
9) What advice you would give people new to the business?
Be a sponge. Everyone you work with has a story to tell, a lesson to give, or a skill to teach. Even when you're hired to talk, it's equally important to take the time to listen.
10) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
Radio offers an immediacy and honesty that's unlike any other medium. We can connect with people and communities in such a unique way. I am tremendously grateful that I can have a positive impact on someone's daily life. That's what brought me back!
What was your last non-industry job?
During my radio hiatus, I worked as the children's department lead at the Barnes & Noble in Evanston, IL. (That's where I met my boyfriend Blake, who moved with me to St. Louis.) I absolutely loved doing storytimes there. Lots of silly voices, some simple yoga stretches, and the occasional goofy costume: namely the mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Walking around with a tail is hard.