...Or how I discovered rage as a motivational tool.
by Craig Jackman
We have finally found out how many “other” shoes were going to drop, and let me tell you, it was not pretty. Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. has taken over my little station group, and quite rightfully, they are running the new station group their way. They have installed their choices in all the important positions (GM, PD, RSM, and Morning Show), and while it took them 3 months, they have decided who stays and who goes. Some of the moves were expected, some a surprise, but in either case it is never something you are prepared for. 15 staff members were fired in 45 minutes one day at 3 of our stations, including jocks, sales reps, office managers, producers, and a writer. Creative Director Renaud Timson, Commercial Producer Dan Youngs, and myself were not among those who were let go, although we are among those that are left with survivor’s guilt. It was tough for me in that the person who originally got me into my current situation (and was always supportive) was let go, as was the “soul” of our station, one of the original jocks who put us on air 22 years ago. It’s tough to look at those who were let go and know that quite a few of those will never find another radio job—although some critics in this market would say that is a good thing! I am told that staffing levels now are set until the new management team rolls all of us into one building. As winter is setting in and the ground is freezing up, construction isn’t going to start until spring, with a completion date in late summer—or so I’ve been told.
There are really 3 reasons why someone would be let go: economics, the new corporate culture, or performance. Most of those that left were of the first two categories. Is that good? The truth is that it’s the new reality. It has taken me years to learn this one simple fact. There are a lot of things that you can’t control, and all you can do is focus your energy on what you can. If the new managers are bound and determined to bring in their favorite producer, writer, jock or whatever, there is absolutely nothing you can do. If they keep you but move you to another station in your group or time slot, there is nothing you can do. Sure, you can try and fight it, but all you are going to do is harm to your career and/or harm to your health. I don’t mean to imply that you should just capitulate—if you’ve got reason, sue them to the letter of the law. What can you do? Simple really. Just do your job, whatever that job is now or in the future, the absolute best you can. Be the Master of your Domain, let others be Masters of their Domains, and the GM or Market Manager will be Master of the Universe. You may aspire to be Master of the Universe or bigger. That’s fine, laudable even, but you have to master something on a smaller scale first. I heard an interesting way of thinking recently. The quickest way to your next job is to do your current job to the best of your abilities.
For the past 14 months, all the staff at CHEZ has been on an emotional yo-yo, up one day and down the next. And to be frank, we are all quite sick of it. I actually reached my lowest point in mid-October, a day that also happened to be the second day that the new PD was on the job. He had written up a new promo for a sweeps contest focusing on the Morning Show. Our Promotions Director came in, telling me that we had this new promo (which I knew nothing about of course), and could I make myself scarce for a couple of hours while someone else put it together. “Fine” I thought, “obviously they don’t want me.” I jumped to the conclusion that my time was up and began packing up my personal belongings to load into the car so I’d be prepared for the last trip home. I was just about to put the first pile in the car, when the Promo Director came back in. Apparently the new Morning Show Producer was “too busy” to do the promo, and since the new PD said this was important, could I do it? If it’s one thing I despise, it’s a backhanded compliment, but I accepted the assignment. “I’ll show them!” I thought, “I didn’t get this far on my good looks and charm alone!” I was seething, sitting there growling to myself while editing away on the computer. It soon became apparent that the promo was actually going to be pretty good, and the result is the promo you can hear on The Cassette. The result was good, but the process leaves a lot to be desired. The benefit is the new PD heard it, was impressed, and it put me off on the right foot with him. The “someone else putting it together” turned out to be a misunderstanding all around, as the new Morning Show Producer was originally supposed to be in charge of anything to do with the show. (That’s been resolved into a more realistic situation.) It was also educational in a way, showing me the produced sound that was going to be the norm on our airwaves. Could I work that way all the time? Not in this lifetime. I can use anger for a while for great results—that’s how I played football—but I don’t need the after anger feeling of exhaustion anymore. There are way too many other things in my life beyond radio that I want to participate in other than coming home completely spent and being a lump on the couch all night.
I have to give him credit though; he does say all the producer-friendly lines that I would want him to say. Being my fourth PD in recent months, he has gotten my appreciation and respect by finally signing the deal to get the new imaging library that I’ve needed for years. I did the new promo with material that had been lying around for 5 years and had been used a dozen times before. I guess another good aspect of working in anger is that it strips away any present biases you have on elements you are listening to. All that exists is the sound—oh, and wanting to clobber someone, too.
For those of you who have been through consolidation before, you will have found nothing new in all this. After talking to some of you over the past months, I understand that some of you would have given a limb to have things happen the way it has happened to me, and I would say in hindsight it could have been way worse. However, there are still some who have never gone through anything remotely like this. My suggestion to this last group would be to save "The Virgin’s Guide to Consolidation." Put it in a safe spot, as you just never know when you are going to need to refer to it. Understand that your company, big or small, is becoming a smaller part of this industry every year, heck every month that goes by. Eventually, almost everyone in radio is going to be consolidated. Economies of scale, increasing competition for advertising revenue and listeners, cross promotional opportunities, and computerization of the industry are just a few of the reasons why companies that own radio stations are going to want buy more radio stations. While eventually this could mean that only one company would own all the radio stations, you and I know that will never happen. However there are going to be fewer radio companies. If you burn the bridge on your way out the door more than a couple of times, you will be looking at fewer companies willing to hire you the next time. Hot heads be warned, if you are going to stomp on your beret and proclaim yourself an artiste, you may end up having to struggle for your art more than you do now.