Radio Moms

What the hell is a hockey mom anyway?

Right in the middle of a financial crisis when the Dow takes another almost 200 point drop, I get even worse news.

No, not that OPEC is calling an emergency meeting.

Word that Ed Snider, chairman and founder of The Philadelphia Flyers, has invited Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin to drop the puck at a Flyers home hockey game. And he's channeling the old days of radio by giving all hockey moms lipstick -- Flyers orange. God help us. And God help the Broad Street bullies because the team they are playing that night -- the hated New York Rangers -- are not as feared as their political guest. No one on either team can kick ass like an Alaska woman who can gut a moose.

To season ticket holders like me -- this is a sacrilege. Not that it's Sarah Palin. It could have been nearby Delaware native Joe Biden that got the invitation -- and that would be wrong as well. Snider is playing politics with ice hockey -- beloved by yours truly, his wife and children. I moved west six years ago but I continue to own my Flyers season tickets. Need I say more?

I got to thinking. If each election has its own mom's (remember soccer moms from previous presidential contests), then what would a radio mom be?

Radio mom -- that sounds nice. Who are they?

They are these wonderful ladies -- many of whom who also have their own careers -- who help support the rest of us who try to earn an honest living in a business that is in our blood. Now, to be fair, there are also a lot of radio dads -- also a good thing.

These wonderful people are the backbone of what in many ways is a remnant of a mom and pop business. Most radio people made an okay living -- some did better in good times. On-air talent was always underpaid and the few stars radio still has (Stern, Hannity, Imus et al) are the exceptions.

Even before today's mean spirited, selfish mismanagers who run radio, it was always challenging to make a living in the radio industry. There was never much security, but there was always the assurance that if one lunatic fired you, you could always go across the street and get another -- maybe even better -- job.

Your kids would stay in school. Your spouse didn't have to give up their job. A bump in the road -- not a crisis.

I once asked my boss, legendary radio executive Johnny Tenaglia, for a $25 a week raise. Maybe I wasn't worth it. Based on hours worked, I thought I was. I couldn't live on the money he was paying me -- I just couldn't.

When Johnny T turned me down, I quit. Two hours later the rest of the staff walked out and he had to sign the station off the air. He's still mad today.

I never asked anyone to quit. Some went back. I could have been blackballed. God knows Johnny T was mad enough, but I got a better job for a lot more money just a few months later.


Owners were only allowed to own two stations per market so there were lots of other crazy people to work for. Opportunity abounded. We all accepted that we were not likely to get rich but we were also probably always going to find work -- maybe even in the same market (or at least until school was out so the kids didn't have to move).

Radio was a small business -- a family. We argued, competed but we all had the same strain in our DNA.

Today, the robber barons who are running radio into the ground have disassembled what worked for local radio. They are doubling responsibilities to save costs, making unrealistic budget cuts because of their own mismanagement, firing the very talent that makes a radio station work. After all, without local talent, radio is just a tower and transmitter.

The Radio moms today are really paying a price. Christmas is coming. We're deep into a recession. Radio stocks are worth a few bucks at the most. The holidays may be a family time but not in radio.

That's when the firings get done -- before the first quarter.

Last Christmas was ugly. The major consolidators relieved themselves of lots of talent -- CBS, Clear Channel, Citadel -- and many, many more.

With the holidays a few short months away, I fear for the great people who actually know how to make radio competitive again.

I fear for their jobs.

They probably should have abandoned ship a long time ago. Even those in deep denial now believe that radio can't continue without the next generation of listeners. What they see is an industry with no future.

Yet I have talked with radio people who have more good ideas for the Internet, mobile and podcasting and yet they have no one to take them to. Corporate radio does what it does best. It appoints an Internet guru and the "wisdom" and ideas trickle down. Not well -- but that's how they do it. Oh, and did I say with a very skimpy budget if at all?

I fear for their jobs.

The glue that holds these remarkable families together is the radio moms (and dads) and their families who make never ending sacrifices because of love of this industry.

Move over soccer moms and hockey moms, for all these reasons and more radio moms get my vote.

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