10 Questions with ... Russ Borris
March 21, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I took a radio class in college and started to work a bit at the station there (WBJB). After doing a semester's worth of mediocre-to-poor air shifts, I started showing up at the station just for the hell of it. So, they put me to work doing voiceovers, production, music library maintenance, whatever. And I dug every bit of it. I guess I got better because they hired me part-time to do three overnights a week. Eventually I was hired as MD to program Jazz which, at the time, I knew very little about. But, I worked at it, researched, listened and did a pretty good job of it.
We were, however, competing with WBGO and CD101.9 at the time. After a while, I really felt like the station needed to change in order to grow and survive. So, I recommended a switch to Triple A (which the station had some history with). In January of 2000, WBJB flipped to Triple A full-time. I did middays in addition to being MD. After a year-and-a-half or so, the AMD position at WFUV opened up and I jumped at the chance. I've been here ever since.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I can't say when it started, but I always remember listening to the radio as a kid. Casey Kasem's Top 40, taping songs off the radio, whatever. I was kind of a junkie. I didn't exactly aspire to be on the radio or anything; I just knew I liked it.
2. Who are your mentors?
For fear of leaving anyone out, let's just say I've learned a lot from a lot of different people over the years. I like to think that I take things in, absorb ideas and figure out my way of doing things from there.
3. Besides being AMD at WFUV, you are also intimately involved with The Alternate Side. How is that going?
I've been programming TAS for almost two years now. It's been a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. I think we have something pretty special with the weeknight show that I host from 10p-12a on WFUV. The full-time stream on www.thealternateside.org and HD radio offers a unique option for WFUV and potential new-WFUV listeners.
4. What do you like best about your job?
It's very cool to come to work and do something different every day; whether that's listening to a new record or interviewing a new band. It is rare when two days are the same at WFUV. Plus, PD Chuck Singleton often picks up pastries from the Nyack Farmer's Market on Thursdays, so that's pretty kick-ass.
5. What has been your biggest career highlight?
Recently, my wife and two-year-old were listening online to the station when I was on the air. My son, not knowing what I do or where exactly I go to work every day, screamed, "That's my Daddy!" Not sure I can name something that tops that.
6. The station recently boosted is signal/reach. How has that changed the dynamic?
We've certainly seen a rise in the number of listeners in areas that did not pick up the station very well in the past, specifically Brooklyn. It's exciting to be able to extend our reach out to brand new listeners and potential supporters!
7. What is your biggest challenge at the station?
Like any other station, it's the daily challenge of trying to maintain and grow your audience in a time where people have so many other options to choose from to find entertainment. More specific for me, I guess, would be the balance of the things I'd like to get done versus the things that have to get done. Oh, and I am also the type who is ready to go with changes at a moment's notice. I often have to reel myself in, understanding that there is a process to go through before you can get certain things done. Wow, I guess that is several biggest challenges, huh?
8. What new bands are you most excited about?
Right now, it's Odd Future/Tyler, The Creator, James Blake, Yuck and James Vincent McMorrow.
9. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I've learned to not make that plan. It's not that I don't want to think about the future. In fact, anyone who knows me knows that planning/thinking ahead is how I do my job. But, I just think it's best to work hard and see where the ride takes you.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Baseball and music have always been my two biggest interests, so definitely something with baseball. I love the Mets, but please don't make jokes at my expense. It's not my fault; I'm just a fan.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
I'm a family guy (in a non-Peter Griffin kind-of way), so I spend most of my free time with my wife and son. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Last non-industry job:
I worked in the stockroom of a Williams-Sonoma for the holiday season a couple years ago for some extra money. Not the worst gig, but also not the kind of co-workers you chat with about Arcade Fire, either.
First record ever purchased:
Men at Work "Business as Usual"
Jimmy Buffett when I was 15. Really!
Favorite band of all-time:
Black Sabbath. They are my Beatles. Really!