April 28, 2010, was a memorable day for me and lots of my friends who formerly worked at the six-station Quad City Radio Group in Davenport. It marked one year since Clear Channel released us for economic reasons. That corporation, like many other large media companies, is heavily in debt for a variety of reasons, including over-expansion.
The firing wasn’t a total surprise – thousands of CC workers nationwide had been given the boot in January 2009 – but it was still a shock. It was also a shame; we were dedicated employees and good at what we did. Many of us had worked in Quad-Cities radio for decades, long before there was a Clear Channel.
I was the second-shift news reporter/anchor at WOC-AM and was replaced by a so-called “news hub” at sister station WHO-AM in Des Moines. Someone there records daily newscasts that are fed to and heard on CC stations around the Midwest. That made it possible for the company to get rid of news people like me at those stations. Yes, your local radio news isn’t always local anymore.
The reporting I did on evening city council and school board meetings also was discontinued when I left WOC because I had been the only reporter working second shift since my friend Terry James left in December 2006 and, per CC, could not be replaced.
My deejay friends who were fired by CC a year ago were victims of what critics call “repeater radio” – syndicated music shows hosted by announcers from afar. Listen carefully sometime, and you’ll notice they don’t talk about events in your community or the local weather. That’s because they’re in L.A., Miami or who knows where.
Are news hubs and repeater radio the best way to serve what remains of the local radio-listening audience? I don’t think so, but anything the big corporate owners want to do to save a buck or make a buck is OK, thanks to deregulation of the industry.
I dearly miss my job and the folks I worked with, but I’ve moved on emotionally. I have, after all, been through downsizing four times now in my more than four decades of work. It’s not pleasant, but it’s nothing new. And it is survivable.
Luckily, my wife has a good job, and I’m a year away from drawing early Social Security if I choose to do so – one of the few benefits of getting up in years.
In the meantime, I’m doing a lot fun things on a part-time basis, working out of my home. Truth is, I was doing many of these part-time activities while I still held a full-time job. I’ve just stepped it all up a notch now that I have the extra time.
I’m a freelance writer of magazine articles, an auto race announcer at two speedways, the advertising coordinator for a business, a newsletter editor, a news reporter for this paper (The North Scott Press) and the Wilton-Durant Advocate News, a correspondent for the Radio Iowa network and a reporter for a service that supplies news stories to a Muscatine radio station.
I was also the publicist for a racing series, but it went out of business earlier this year. I have tried to break into voice-over work (reading commercials for hire), but that’s a very competitive business.
My wife and I are now free to travel more, and I’m getting to my grandkids’ concerts and sporting events more than I ever could as a second-shift worker.
I took an online college course for fun and, for a change of pace, I’m studying my genealogy when I feel like it; scanning old photos into the computer; and archiving family videotapes and a variety of audiotapes.
I am Mr. Fix-it around the house when things break, and I prepare dinner most every night for my working wife. And, oh yes, she is reminding me I still need to clean my basement office. I’m working on that, dear. At least it’s in the planning stage.
I don’t miss Clear Channel. But I miss my full-time radio news job, and I miss seeing my former co-workers regularly, though I keep up with many of them on Facebook.
Jobs come and go, but good memories and friendships last forever. Sure, life is different now, but life is still good.
Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.