10 Questions with ... Jay Steele
February 22, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
WKSE/Buffalo; WNKI-WNGZ/Elmira, NY; WBZN/Bangor, ME; WWYL/Binghamton, NY; WPXY-WZNE/Rochester, NY; KMXF/Fayetteville, AR and KZBB/Fort Smith, AR.
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
Different from any other experience in my life. I walked into the building the first day in 1997 not knowing anything about radio ... I was all about TV in college at Syracuse University, and my only radio experience was in a radio news reporting class. When I started at Kiss 98.5 in Buffalo (my hometown), I was really a true beginner. I did production, promotions, drove the van to remotes ... worked ridiculous hours for little or no money. When I think back, I'm amazed I stuck with it. I was fortunate enough to learn a little about everything, though. That's probably the reason I'm still in the business today.
2) What led you to a career in radio?
I failed at everything else I tried to do. Ha ... honestly, I was a Broadcast Journalism major in college, but by the time I graduated I discovered I'd rather make fun of the news than report it. It just wasn't me. I spent a little time writing news and reporting traffic, but that just made me realize that what I really enjoyed was the personality side of media. And I look much better on the radio than I do on television.
3) How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?
Besides us, there's only one other major company in the market. At Clear Channel, we're very fortunate to have four strong mainstream brands in our cluster. My station, Hot Mix 101.9, is Top 40; our sister Country station has been the market leader for about 25 years, and our AC and Classic Rock clustermates consistently dominate the 25-54 demos. We don't have a low-power AM or an FM that has flipped formats three times in the last five years. All four of our stations are top 5 in the market every book. It's a good position to be in.
4) Are you wearing more "hats" than you have in the past?
Yes, but by choice. Before I came here, I was pretty focused on being on the air. I dabbled a little in music and programming, but I didn't do it full-time until now. And really, it's not unusual in a small or medium market for a PD to handle music, imaging and a few air shifts. Besides, if you don't multi-task these days, you don't work. And that goes for any business.
5) What is the most challenging part of the job?
Trying to be excellent at everything I do. It's not that hard to be good at one thing, or to be mediocre at a bunch of things. There are aspects of my job that come more naturally to me than others, but I feel like I have to master every part of my job to be truly good at it. Being excellent is hard ... and I don't see enough of it these days. Sometimes I think too many people want to do just enough to survive another day.
6) What's one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
I was a male model in college ... swear to God. I lost more money than I ever made, got fired from one job for refusing to shave my chest and I turned down the opportunity to host a national college comedy tour so I could stay in school. True stories. I got to spend an afternoon with Sparky Lyle, though ... I walked away from that "career" with no regrets.
7) Could you give us a little insight into your on-air staff?
You mean everyone?!? Kidding ... Tony Beringer, my GM, has always run a pretty efficient operation. When lots of companies went through those painful budget cuts, we didn't get hit nearly as hard because of it. We run Elvis Duran in the morning, followed by Ryan Seacrest in the midday. One of the great things about Clear Channel is the endless number of options we have as programmers. Anybody can, and should, sound like a major-market station. I handle afternoons and try not to suck. My afternoon (and former morning) co-host Brock doubles as the night guy. He's one of the few local evening talents in the market and does a great interactive show. He also does an outstanding job with our social networking, and he's webmaster for all four of our stations. We were lucky to land Bobby Baldwin for weekends/swing; he's a guy with a lot of experience in the region. I'm pretty sure he sounds better than me.
8) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
Kiss 98.5/Buffalo. It was definitely cool to be able to work there years later and actually get to know those guys.
9) Do you have a favorite hobby outside of radio?
Fitness. I've run a marathon, and I'm ready to start my third round of P90X. I even have all the textbooks and materials to get certified as a personal trainer ... maybe someday I'll actually do it. You know, just in case this radio thing doesn't work out.
10) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
Oh, anybody who's ever done this knows the answer to that. Once you crack a mic, it's in your blood. Besides, it sure beats going to work everyday.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Outside linebacker for the Buffalo Bills (I weigh 185 lbs.), left wing for the Buffalo Sabres (can't skate a lick), first base for the New York Yankees (can't hit a breaking ball) and host of the Tonight Show (glad I didn't get involved in that mess). Realizing I wasn't qualified for those jobs, I decided I wanted to be a sportscaster. After driving through four feet of snow to cover 15 high school basketball games a night while I was in college, I settled for radio. So far, so good.