JV: You arrived at ‘DVE as Production Director. You were doing imaging for them, but were you also handling commercials?
Brian: Yes, I had to do both. Then after about four years, my Program Director at the time, Gene Romano, basically got greedy on the imaging end. He wanted more and more stuff done, and I kept telling him that I was really kind of buried in commercials. At that time, we had just acquired WXDX, so we had this sister station in the building. This is when we were owned by Secret Communications. We had a guy there who everybody really liked, and he seemed to be pretty adept at production. So Gene decided to bump him up and make him the Production Director of ‘DVE, and I became the Imaging Director. I think Creative Services Director was the official title, which I still have to this day. And I’m also the Assistant Program Director here.
JV: So how long have you been doing imaging only?
Brian: It’s almost to the day been ten years, ten years imaging for one station. Most people would look at that and their jaw would drop. All the Clear Channel stations are in this building, but I’m only dealing with one. And our Production Director, the guy I was just talking about, his name is Bill Cameron, he too only deals with commercials for one station. But keep in mind, we do get asked to help out on occasion, and we’re certainly up for doing that.
JV: To what do you contribute your longevity there at ‘DVE?
Brian: As much as I’d like to say it’s talent — that’s part of it — I think it’s just fitting in with the staff. I guess you could say in a way it kinda comes down to loyalty. They know that I’m happy here. If you’re the kind of guy who goes in every year to negotiate his salary and always says, “If I don’t get this, I’m walking...” well, I don’t think management is ever going to warm up to you that much. They’re always going to feel like you’ve got one foot out the door. I’ve never had to play that card. I’m from this area, so I’ve always intended to stay here. Now, I’m not going to take abuse, and luckily they’ve never been the kind of station that has abused me or beat me up or anything like that. They’ve always taken care of me. I’ve had years where I didn’t get a very good raise, but then they’d make up for it the next year.
So it’s been a tremendous place to work for a lot of years, and the staff all feels the same way. We have very few transplants with this staff. Most of our air staff, if not all of them, are from this general area and were just like me – grew up wanting to work here – and because of that, it’s sort of the secret weapon at ‘DVE; it’s what makes it special. When you look around town at the other stations — of course there’s some hometown people working at some of them — but you’ve also got people from other parts of the country there. ‘DVE doesn’t have that kind of an issue; it’s mostly just Pittsburghers, and I feel like I fit in really well here.
JV: The station is doing very well in the ratings, beating out all the other stations in the market 12+ except a News Talk and a Country station…
Brian: And we’re beating them 25-54. We beat everybody 25-54. In fact, I believe we’ve been number one, 25-54, for about 49 straight books now.
JV: Keeping some local people on the staff is part of that success, I’m sure. But you’ve been there a long time; what do you think makes the station that strong? That’s a big market, and there are a lot of stations to compete with.
Brian: Well, you know rock in general has been taking it pretty hard for the last few years, and ‘DVE is a rock station. I think our secret has basically been some of the ancillary things that we offer. Music, for our older listeners, is still pretty important. But music just isn’t as important to people as it used to be. For years we’ve always tried to have the best personalities on the air, and what we’ve ended up with is a dominant morning show. We’ve got a guy, Jim Krenn, who has been here since 1987. The guy who used to be paired up with him, Scott Paulsen, retired in 2000 and left the business for about a year and then came back to do nights at ‘DVE. He basically just hated getting up in the morning. We hired a new guy when Scott left named Randy Baumann, who has worked out in ways that we never thought he would work out. He’s really taken the morning show to the next level. He’s a little young but he brings a little more of an edge to the show. So basically, we not only didn’t slip in mornings, we gained ground. We brought back a morning guy to do nights who, in a study we just did, is just as well recognized in the market as our morning guys. We literally have all the top personalities in town working here. Our midday woman, Michelle Michaels, has been here 20 years. So all of our personalities are actually compelling enough that people tune in just for them.
We’re also the flagship station for the Pittsburgh Steelers and have been for about seven years, and we’re looking to maintain that partnership as long as we can. So obviously from late summer through January, we get a tremendous boost in listenership, particularly on the weekends. For rock stations, weekend numbers are usually atrocious. But for a good six months, we’ve got pretty healthy ones because of the games. And Steelers fans are special. In Pittsburgh, because of the storied franchise that they have here, we’re insane when it comes to the Steelers. So we don’t just want to casually check in on game day and see how the team is doing. All week they listen. So we have some of the biggest sports names, like sports reporters from various TV and newspapers, as guests on our morning show and on our afternoon show throughout the week to talk about sports in general. But obviously during football season, it’s a very big concentration on the Steelers. So sports, which is important to this town to a lot of people, is another attribute that draws people in.
Another thing we do is — and we’ve been doing this for years and I can’t believe somebody else in the market hasn’t completely copied it – we run a lot of comedy clips. Every hour we run at least one. It can be a stand-up comedian that you might hear on Comedy Central, and a lot of times we just recycle bits from our morning show. “Hey, this is something that the morning show did this morning.” It’s a great way to promote the morning show and also play something different than “Stairway to Heaven.” The guy I was talking about before who does nights, Scott Paulsen, is just as talented at doing bits, parodies of songs and things like that. So we have this massive comedy collection.