Going Back To Your Old Workplace

Have you ever gone back to visit a place you used to work at? Did it feel like going back to your old school? It sure did for me the other night. From 1998-2008 and then from 2009-2012, I worked for a cluster of local radio stations in various capacities. First as a fill-in guy from 1998-2004, and then full-time from 2005-2008 as news director/public affairs director/on-air morning traffic and news reporter. And then again from 2009-2012 as a marketing and promotions manager.

In small market radio, one often wears many hats. In addition to all the jobs listed above, I also wrote, recorded and produced commercials (or as they call them “spots”). Everyone on the air staff did it, it was just part of the “other tasks assigned by the manager” that seemed to be baked into every job description then (and now). Here’s a spot I really liked that I wrote and produced (i.e., I directed the voice talent and put all the audio elements together). The client (Simply Fondue) loved it, but their corporate parent company wanted more added at the end –which to me, cluttered up the message. But what are gonna do? The client often has the final say.

The reason I went back was to get some the old spots I wrote for my writing portfolio — the Simply Fondue ad was one of them. Some of the people I worked with back then are still there (my brother, who helped me get a part-time job back in 1998 still does some fill-in work there as well), so I spent a half hour or so catching up on all the changes since the stations were sold. The stations were owned by a couple of brothers for about 18 years until Alpha Media made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Some things have changed in the office (new carpet, paint, and flooring for some of the areas), but other things haven’t (the studios, production rooms, and offices have the same carpet and most of the same equipment from 2007). One thing I noticed was how small everything looked. I haven’t worked there since 2012 (when I got laid off for the second time in my history with the stations. The first being in 2008), but after my visit it brought up many memories of the years I punched the clock there.

This was around 1998-99 when they wanted pictures of the DJs for their website. I snapped this with a digital camera the promotions department had.

When I started working there, it was just a job to make extra money while I worked on completing my graduate degree, so I didn’t feel all that connected to the station. How could I? I would show up infrequently to fill in for people who were sick or on vacation.

Flash-forward to late November in 2004, my manager asked me if I was interested in working there full-time. Since I was working two part-time jobs (teaching and at the radio station), I said “Yes” right away. I was part of a new morning show, and it was a lot of fun. About seven months in to the gig, the station owners bought another station, and I was assigned to a do traffic reporting for two stations.

More work, same pay.

Pretty soon, there was a flurry of activity to rip out the old equipment, and build out a new studio.

This was during the build out of the new studio. The newsroom was where I worked, and it also became, for a short period, a place where a lot of junk was stored.

Oh, and before the “flash-forward” I should add that from around 2001-2004, I also produced a lot of public affairs programming for the station. I couple of times, I was able to interview a few noted celebrities when they came to a local film festival.

Me and Mark Hamill at the California Independent Film Festival in 2004

And then I met this guy later in the same year when he came to speak to reporters (he missed the film festival earlier due to an illness).

Me and Tony Curtis at the Rose Hotel in Pleasanton, CA after he got a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Independent Film Festival in 2004.

And now, back to the historical tour…

The new studio for the new station in 2007.
This picture was also for the station websites, but you can kind of see the new equipment in the newsroom. It was much cleaner after that.
The new equipment finally gets phased in…as the host of morning show makes sure all the spots are running when they are supposed to.
This workhorse “mobile studio” slowly became a kind of prop as technology changed to the point where radio stations can use iPhones to do remote broadcasts. No more big vans with periscope antennas showing up. TV station still use them, but not so much for radio stations anymore.

When I got re-hired in 2009, it was for a management job. No more on-air stuff, but I resumed being the public affairs director as well as being the marketing and promotion manager for two stations. A tough job because it was like a weekly party planning committee — in addition to the million other things that needed to be done each week. But I was happy to have a job during The Great Recession when people were getting laid off in massive numbers.

Managing a promotions team made up of part-time, casual employees, brings with it many challenges. Employees don’t have regular hours, so it’s tough to keep them on staff for more than a year because other opportunities for more steady work come along. Part of my job was to make sure our promo team members looked good when we went out to events. So, we bought new shirts for them, got the booths cleaned up, and worked on making sure when people came by everyone was friendly.

We really worked on presentation so when people came to our booths, it looked like a place where something fun was happening.
Sometimes we couldn’t set up our booths, but we did try to make our tables look good.
We also put together big events! Like this Halloween party at the Hilton.

And occasionally, we had to do these kind of remote broadcasts at a local Safeway. Cheerleaders and Elvis impersonator for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? Okay. We’ll be there if you’re putting cash on the table.

And then there was that time I chased a wild turkey through the parking lot at the station — and it freaked out my assistant at the time.

So, overall there were many good times working at those stations, but it’s weird to think how long I spent working there (a total of 14 years). That’s a long time to be associated with a company.

And then going back for a visit really made it seem like a lifetime ago…

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