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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"A smile Remembered"....

I can't come up with an ideal title for this entry in the C.C. Did my best.  It doesn't seem appropriate to do something clever.  This writing  is a "wake up call" (no pun intended on our weekly trivia) to me, yet what it calls-attention-to I've known since I was 13 years old, when my mom died in a car accident. Treasure the people in your life.  Even the ones that are not family, and the ones you see only now and then, for they may have a profound impact when you look back over the years.

Monday morning, I was at the WION microphone. As many of you know, I'm pretty transparent. I'm the same person on the mic as when I'm downtown at dinner, visiting with friends, or relaxing at home. You can read me like a book. Some mornings, I'm energetic, some tired, some relaxed, some on edge, some excited, some just "there"...but always...REAL. Or so, I hope you know.

On this particular Monday, I had the left-hand screen for the morning show open to the web. My show notes, the weather, the list of online towns tuned-in to WION, some trivia notes, our forum, and of course, the one media I've been trying to break myself of, FACEBOOK.  

After being in radio since 1988, I've gotten fairly good at multi-tasking, speaking into the mic while surfing, writing e-mails while putting a call on the air...covering for a software failure....you get the idea.  Then suddenly, while speaking to you, I had to stop.  Something on Facebook made my heart sink, and it was an "I don't believe I'm reading this" kind of moment.

Part of my radio journey which landed me in Ionia to own, rebuild and operate WION, and eventually co-own WGLM in Greenville was my time as an announcer in Lansing.  Yes, I worked on a country station. WITL.  In fact, "Steve the Voice Guy" that you hear between songs on WION and I met at WITL. He did the Saturday afternoon show in the early 90's, and I did Saturday nights.  How we ended up working together to build WION is another story...for another blog.  

My first fulltime radio gig was at WKHM in Jackson on AM 970. Back then, live 24 hours a day and with a kick-ass signal that reached into Lansing even at night. They didn't own an FM then, and the format was much like our WION one today.  I wanted, however to continue moving "up" the radio ladder, and a weekend gig in Lansing was the next step.  WITL was my hope. I'd sent a tape and resume. Yes, a TAPE! That's how we did it back then.  One early morning, after a late night at the WKHM studios, the speakerphone in the head of my bed rang, and I groggily answered. It was Jay J. McCrae, the WITL program director asking me to come in for a chat and to maybe work weekends. I was instantly awake, and excited!  To make a long story shorter, I was given the chance to work on the air. I loved it. I was working in the "Wittle White House" which meant I had achieved some level of announcer credibility. The first time around at WITL I had to use an "air name" different than my name today, so I was "Jim McIntyre"....and, by the second time I came to work regular weekends at WITL, I went by just my known name, Jim Carlyle. Much easier.  

WITL led me to a job in the U.P via a recommendation to become a program director on a big hundred-thousand-watt Country FM, where I was also the afternoon host. Loved the people, the job, but I was severely homesick for lower Michigan and my father, who then was about 75 or so years old.  Left there for sharing an apartment with my college buddy who was in Chicago, but I hated living in the big city. Good place to visit for culture, museums, bars, but not a place in which I wanted to live.  When I knew I was coming home, it was ONE call to WITL and Jay J, and I was back on the air...once a week, overnight. He apologized to me that he only had the overnight gig available,  but I told him, "there are no bad hours to be a jock at WITL."  I was back, I was on the air, I was pleased.  

Now that you see how much I enjoyed WITL, let me rewind you back to my first show there as a scared young announcer just after Jay J. Hired me.  Steve (now our voice guy) was the usual Saturday afternoon host, but was gone that week as memory serves. We hadn't met yet.   Jordan Lee, Jay's wife had filled-in.  The studio was early into having computers, not for the music and commercials, but for the announcers' information about songs, local events, and more. Jay was a big fan of computers. His wife Jordan knew I was a bit scared, and in the first few minutes when I took to the air, she said, (with her signature Texas accent adjusted to Michigan) "Would you like me to stay a bit with you until you get comfortable?"  I assured her this would be more than welcomed, and she did. She watched me work, we talked, and....about half past the hour, maybe about an hour later, she said with a huge smile,  "Honey, you don't need me here, you're gonna be just fine!" I'll never forget that...nor the fact that long after I'd moved on, I was always welcomed to drop in to the WITL studios. 

This past monday, during that pause on my morning show, while looking at Facebook I saw the news that Jordan Lee had passed away. The very same voice that was always willing to play a 1990's request for me on her midday WITL show... was silent. I couldn't believe my eyes, as I read the news on WITL's page, and I had to politely shut off the mic, and take a few songs' break.  It didn't seem possible.  It didn't seem right. 

As you can tell from this story, lengthy though it is, Jordan, and her late husband Jay J. were just GOOD (radio) PEOPLE. Polite, warm, always took extra good care of me if they called me in for a last minute fill-in shift, and I never had to sit in Jay's office and go over a tape of my show! That's something that most radio announcers hate doing anyway. I can remember when the winter weather was bad being invited to stay at their home rather than battle the roads, since my commute was about 60 miles one way for these weekend shows.

I missed Jay when he passed away...not because we saw each other frequently, we didn't. Not because we did anything together outside of radio...we never did. I missed Jay because his name on a written reference on WITL letterhead opened many a door for me in my career. Because he was PART of my career and made a difference to me. That reference letter is still on the wall in my office/studio at WION.  That letter was part of my proposal for buying WION when I went to get financing.  It was part of my being hired to work with Garry Osborn at WLKI in the 90's, where I became morning host for nearly a decade.  Jay's words were like the "golden ticket" of references in radio, and I am still proud.  

I already miss Jordan this week for her smile, and the qualities she showed in radio, and as a person. Radio will miss her talent and dedication. People will miss her politeness, being helpful, smiling, and in my case, welcoming new talent by offering to remain in the studio with me for my first few shaky on-air breaks.   MY first night on WITL as a very nervous young announcer...is a memory that never fades. And, as with Jay J. there'd been no regular contact between us beyond the respect and friendship of years ago, but THAT never faded, either. 

Yes, it is possible to miss people who die whom you don't see regularly. It IS possible as well, to feel a loss when they leave us, even if they're not part of our every day lives.   Jordan got invited to WION to see where I "landed" but was never able to make it over to see "my" WION. I wish she could have, but the occasional e-mails now and then were enough to say, "hello. " 

So, to Jordan, a huge, "Thank you" ...for friendship and a confident smile, hoping that she knows what her presence in my career that first night at WITL meant to me.  She and Jay were a great team. They both left radio, and this world too young.

Tonight, as I finish this, I'd like to give you an assignment.  We've all gotten busier. We all multitask too much. We ALL have friends from our past who are still available by phone, e-mail, and even a note sent in the mail.  Call them.  E-mail them. Write them. Visit them.  You don't have to do it all at once, we all have a huge list of people who were at one time VERY involved in our lives.  Don't let them go without knowing they made a difference, that they mattered, and that you appreciate them.  It's a simple assignment, one I'm trying hard to do myself.  I assure you, it's time consuming, and it won't be easy. But, you'll be glad for doing it.

And one more note … Radio NEEDS people who are passionate communicators to come up through the ranks and want to communicate with an audience. Encourage your sons, daughters, whomever you know who may show a leaning toward broadcasting.  Let them know that it is NOT a dead-end, but a place where some very magical people still work, and that it may take time to find WHERE they are meant to "land" (as it did for me)....but the journey is a BLAST!   We lost a great radio person this week. Two Christmases ago a dear friend and engineer left us.  Others whose home was on the air have passed into the ionosphere and beyond.  Let's try hard to keep encouraging those who may become the next kind, friendly voice on your radio. They may even be the calming voice that helps us all to know the world is still okay even after the hourly newscast has played.

Go in Peace, Jordan, and thank you. Tell Jay he also was appreciated.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A PARTIAL LIST OF THINGS TO IMPROVE THE YEAR 2016 AND BEYOND

I asked our listeners for contributions regarding improving 2016 overall, in public, on the web, and in general. Got some nice ideas including:

1) Not wearing pajama pants in public and having more self respect.
2) Banning the misuse of words as in, "FOR free" instead of just using, "Free!"
3)Banning, "Just Sayin'".....

and, there were others recommended as well, some via Facebook comment, some by e-mail or in personal conversation. I like them all.  

I'm going out on a limb with you, as I hit "publish to the web" on this writing. I'm risking being labeled a fool, or of wearing "rose colored glasses" or even of being "naive."  Fine. I can take that.  Some of these suggestions may seem frivolous, some may hit home with you, some may mean nothing, but here's just the beginning of my general list  that I believe would help our culture in any new or future year to improve itself, or maybe get back on track:
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Meet the speed of traffic when merging on the highway. It's an "acceleration" lane.

(For Corporate America)  Stop the disclaimers! Especially if longer than the products' description in your commercials. If the product's that bad, DON'T sell it, and for God's sake, consumers:  DON'T buy it.

To Local TV stations: Put people back in your "booth" that can turn on mics, preview the shots of live anchors, and give us a solid product. 

Also for TV: when you cut to a local commercial and back to network, make it smooth, don't show us any of the commercial we aren't supposed to see.

Be polite and let someone into traffic on the highway who is attempting to merge. If there's room, move over and let them on, then move back! 

Find a way to properly dispose of that fruitcake you got at Christmas, not in a landfill. (It takes fifty years to begin to decompose, we're told.)

To the Radio industry:   Be better than you were last year, or the year before. Buying up your competition hasn't worked, and the debt is real.  instead, just try to air some good radio that someone may actually want to listen-to! 

Teach young kids the alphabet and how to  read, write, and do real math before you shove tablets in their faces.   Elementary-age kids don't need to be "connected"as much as they need to  be kids so they grow up dreaming, stretching their minds, creating and knowing the REAL world, with REAL social interaction.

Stop buying electronic junk made in China and look for well-made "real" electronics, not throwaway stuff.  It's out there. Might be at garage sales and thrift stores, but it's there!  I refer to radios, stereos, clocks, you get the idea. SOME new things are built well for long-life, but there are few. At least do your homework. Try not to buy junk.

Cut back on being "politically correct" and instead, express yourself (in a polite manner) without fear. 

VOTE.

Ban words like "selfie" from your usage, along with "like" and "social media." How about instead we all BE social, use our LANGUAGE better, and to like LIFE instead of a screen. 

Look beyond your smartphone camera to actually SEE and enjoy the event you're photographing. Don't miss it! It's probably important to someone that you SEE it!

Fast food restaurants: Get rid of the automated recordings that greet you before you place your order. The instant "sex change" of the person on the intercom is disconcerting.

Try holding the door for the ladies, guys!  If they're offended, oh well. You did a polite thing and proved there's still GENTLEMEN in public.

SHUT OFF YOUR DARN CELLPHONE MESSAGING during dinners and visits to others.  You're not that important.

PRAY.  It can't hurt.  Even a short one on the way to the mailbox and back. If you're afraid to call it prayer, then look up and just start talking to God like you would anyone else. 

Use a little common sense this winter. We live in Michigan. We GET snow.  We GET winter. This is NOT new to the upper Midwest.

Reduce your usage or get OFF Facebook, and if you can't do that, then agree to NEVER use it to hurt someone!  I'm reducing my use, and aiming to use it to point people to other places, as an announcement media, more than a "read me" media.

Get the bloodsucking lawyer ads off of TV. The lawyers to which I refer are the bigshot ones that ADVERTISE how you can screw your fellow man for more than you thought you could.

Cut down on your intake of bad news. Read "goodnewsnetwork.org" now and then, and if you have streaming TV in your home, look for something to watch that makes you happier, not having to do with murder, lying, and corporate bullying. You may find this changes your outlook in a positive way.

Take a day now and then to BE local. Even if you don't buy a thing...drop in to local shops, talk to the owners, and their shoppers. When was the last time you had a conversation with a stranger in a local store? I do it quite often when I'm visiting WION advertisers and I meet their customers.

Simplify your life.  Get rid of "stuff" you don't use anymore. Either you'll have to move it yourself someday, or someone else will have to sell it at your estate sale, SOMEDAY...so why not simplify your ownership of STUFF, and....simplify all you CAN in your daily life?

There's so many more things that will occur to me as 2016 begins and the usual routines continue.  Maybe you've got some ideas to add to my list.....Please DO! 

Maybe you have a comment, and that's okay, too. 

The bottom line is, whether you like, dislike, agree or disagree with all the above, it doesn't change a thing...I'm still going to believe in what I wrote, and it's up to you to try very hard to make your corner of the world a bit better in 2015 in your own way.

Start small. Hold that door. Look at someone in the eye instead of looking down when walking on our streets. You'll get the hang of it. It gets easier, the more you become real.

We now return you to your virtual world...with HOPE you'll act-on your own list.

Happy 2016 to all.
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-Carlyle