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Q&A with Will West

Tyler McComas

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Sports radio wasn’t on Will West’s mind during his mid-20’s. That time period tends to be critical for most in the business, West was more concerned about surviving the day, instead of what the local programming in his hometown of Knoxville had in store. Sure, sports radio had been his dream job while growing up, and he even chased that passion into college. But instead of starting at the bottom of a sports radio station, West was at a different bottom in his life – rock bottom.

For five years, a drug addiction sent West’s life to the streets, where the pondering of ‘how to stop the bleeding in life,’ was frequent. What he would eat and where he would sleep, was the daily dilemma he found himself in throughout the course of each day. Sports radio wasn’t exactly a high priority for the future star in Knoxville, but survival surely was.

Through the grace of God, West got saved and then got clean. For the first time in a long time, there was a positive outlook on how things were going to play out in his life. Drug addiction may have taken a lot from him during that dark and difficult time, however, one thing it didn’t touch, was his beautiful voice.

By the time he was 28, he was back in school chasing his dream. This time, he would double major in communications and communications management. His thought process was simple: If he brought something to the table on the sales side, it would serve him a better opportunity to get his foot in the door at a local station. He was right. Almost two years after giving his dream a second try, West was hired at a local station that quickly took notice of his skills with sound production. From there, he was asked to voice a commercial that was a hit piece for a local election. West’s voice was heard on every news station in Knoxville. Soon after, he was asked to voice more commercials and even did the traffic reports at his station.

After all he had been through, West’s life and career were heading in the right direction. While producing a show on Saturday’s, his career would take a complete turn for the best, when he was asked the simple question of: “Hey, have you ever wanted to do sports radio?”

Sports radio WNML in Knoxville gave West his first opportunity at his childhood dream as a morning show producer. Mostly, they wanted his voice to be featured during the updates of the show on morning drive. Six months into his new gig, he was given a Saturday show that showed off his talents as a host. For the next 18 more months, he would produce the morning show during the week and host his show on Saturday, until finally receiving the news that every young person in the business dreams of, being awarded his own weekday show with Josh Ward.

In span of a few years, West had rebounded and gone from being homeless to the host seat. You can hear now him every week day on WMNL with his show Sports 180.

TM: So is it fair to say your dream of doing sports radio was long forgotten during your drug addiction?

WW: Oh yeah. At the time, I just thought about how I was going to eat for the day. Like, how do I get off the streets? It’s hard to stop the bleeding, that’s something you learn when you’re homeless. It wasn’t about getting back on track or into sports radio, it was just, this was my dream when I was 16 years old. It was cool to see how I got back into God’s game and how everything turned around when I got an opportunity to do this later in life.

TM: Do you think going through all of that in your younger years makes you more appreciative of your role now?

WW: I’m playing with house money, Tyler. Every day I just look at this as a blessing, it’s awesome. What we do for a living, and it’s so funny when I talk to other people in the business that complain about this or that, I’m thinking, I’ve worked day labor pouring concrete. This is a lot easier. I also try to look at it this way: There’s somebody out there who’s going through something that’s listening to this radio show and just wants to get through their day. How can I help them just get through their day the best that I can? So, we always try to have a good time. We don’t dodge tough topics but we never take ourselves too seriously. No matter how bad of a day that I’ve had, I’m never going to mail it in because there may be a person out there that might need just three hours of a reprieve from their lives. If I can give that to them, then I’ve had a good day.

TM: Was the Tennessee coaching search the craziest story you’ve ever covered? And was it a dream or a nightmare for a sports radio host?

WW: I wouldn’t really say it was a dream or a nightmare, it was just chaos. What you’re trying to do day in and day out of the coaching search, was try to make sense of the chaos. A lot of people don’t know this, but the coaching search at Tennessee that landed on Derek Dooley was almost as insane as this one. The only difference, is this one played out publicly. They hired Derek Dooley and then went and did an interview with Kevin Sumlin after they had already hired Dooley, just because they planned on doing it. When it comes to football, coaching searches at Tennessee have always been kind of a train wreck. Some of them were because of the big boosters and how many they have, this one was because of how publicly it all played out. The tough part for us, was that so many people were leaking information to us. The key, was deciding which information was good enough to go on the air with, versus, a particular booster or administrator with the university trying to get their way and plant the athletic director into a corner to make a decision. But it was kind of fun, because each day you’re going on the air and waiting for how nuts it’s was going to get that particular day. Each day, you’re thinking it can’t get any worse than it did yesterday. And then sure enough, it would.

TM: Tennessee football is always going to be the lead topic in Knoxville, so how do you give the Titans their due credit, especially when they’re in the playoffs like last season?

WW: NFL gets great ratings in Knoxville. In the viewership figures that ESPN releases, it seems like they’re always in the Top 15 or 20 of major sporting events. People watch all sports in Knoxville. So, the one thing we did differently than any other show, was that we realized you can walk into any bar on Sunday afternoon and see people eating wings and watching Sunday Ticket. People like the NFL here. So, instead of doing 70-80 percent of Tennessee football and 20 percent of everything else, all packed into one day, what we would do is 50-60 percent Tennessee stuff and 40-50 percent national sports, to give people that live in this market an outlet and venue to talk about what’s going on with Lebron James or what’s going on with the Titans. Even the Predators, when they made the run to the Stanley Cup last year, we had 6,000 people in Knoxville packed in a bar and watching on a big screen television here in downtown. We looked and realized the strong television ratings for the NFL, which means people are watching it. So we’ve given people an outlet to talk about those things locally, where they might not want to call into ESPN or CBS Radio. We’ve given them an outlet to discuss it. Tennessee football still drives the bus, but we don’t need to completely ignore the fact that people locally care about the national sports stories.

TM: The Vols are big, but how much do you make a point to cover Florida, Alabama, Georgia and other SEC schools that Tennessee fans hate?

WW: The SEC always moves the needle in east Tennessee. It’s a large university town, but it’s also very transient with thousands of workers that have allegiances to a number of schools. Locally, in terms of the Tennessee fan base, you can always talk Vols, but especially the teams they hate. People hate Alabama here, they hate Georgia, they hate Florida, and you can always talk about those things. But also, you’ll get alums from those schools that call in and want to talk about their school. It makes it tough from a show prep perspective, because not only do I have to have a working knowledge of Tennessee, I have to have one of Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and every other working in the conference. I also need to pick about seven schools nationally that I have a working knowledge of and what they’re doing during football season. OU is one of those schools, Texas, Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State and Clemson, I at least need to know how they run, because people do care about those schools, too. Especially if they dislike them, they seem to really care about them.

TM: What would you classify Knoxville as? Mid-market?

WW: Yeah, mid-market. Knoxville proper doesn’t have a massive population base, but if you look at who we hit with our listener base, we’re both AM and FM, and there’s over 700,000 people. So, we need to make sure we’re servicing not just the areas around Knoxville proper, even though the majority of our advertisers are from that area. So, if we talk high school football, we need to talk about all the surrounding counties.

TM: Why do you think doing sports radio in a mid-market could be more enjoyable than a large market?

WW: Relationships. That’s the one thing I still like. There’s still a relationship game that’s harder in a large market, but one part that’s fun, is that I can just roll into any high school game, because I have the time. I would love to cover a major sports team, but it’s cool to be able to roll in on a Friday night and talk to coaches, players and fans about a small town team that’s doing well and give a little bit of coverage to them. That’s the fun part, is that relationship, because at the end of the day, what we do on air is about relationships you have with the listener. That’s what keeps them coming back.

TM: There seemed to a mob mentality last year with Tennessee fans on why it took Butch Jones so long to get fired. In that situation, was it hard not to just join on that thought and pile on like everyone else?

WW:  You never want to get caught up in the emotion of things. For me, I thought after the Georgia game last year Butch Jones should have been fired. When you know someone is not going to be the guy, to me in business, you always pull the trigger, because it’s only going to create a toxic environment. Everyone around him knew he wasn’t going to make it after that point, why you keep him around I don’t know. It got worse and worse and kept getting that way. By the time Tennessee played South Carolina and lost, it was almost comical when we came back on Monday because people would call in and ask why Butch was still there. I would just have to say, I got to be honest with you, I don’t know. I’m shocked they keep rolling this guy out here, too. You don’t want to be what Jay Mariotti used to be in Chicago, just chucking grenades at everybody and calling for jobs multiple times in a five-day period. What you want to do is to be able to have reason. For me, the key was to never be disrespectful, always empathetic, but I’m also not going to lie for anyone or sugarcoat it. That’s how I decided to handle it.

TM: Ratings wise, was it better when Tennessee was showing improvement with 8-9 wins a year, or when the Vols were tanking and everyone wanted the head coach fired?

WW: It’s very similar. The key is to avoid mediocrity. If it’s going to be bad, let it be really bad. Just go ahead and let this thing tank. With ratings, It doesn’t matter whether people are mad or people are happy, but the one thing you don’t want them to be is apathetic. The moment that happens, you will begin to lose some portion of your audience. If Tennessee is consistently cycling through 6,7,8 wins, that’s when I get concerned that the ratings might take a hit.

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Rich Shertenlieb Enters New Era on WZLX: No Fred Toucher, No Music, No Guarantees

“It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Rich Shertenlieb and WZLX logo in Boston
Boston photo: courtesy of Getty Images

It’s a time of change and transition for rock radio listeners in Boston. WZLX rolled out its new morning show last week featuring local icon Rich Shertenlieb. It’s not only a new adventure for the former Sports Hub morning man. It’s also the start of a new era for the station.

Kevin Karlson, the anchor of the station’s previous morning show, died in his sleep in October. It ended a nearly 20-year run on WZLX for Karlson, McKenzie & Heather. Pete McKenzie and Heather Ford carried on, but earlier this month, they were let go.

“I definitely have big shoes to fill,” Shertenlieb says of his new gig. “Kenny Young, who was a member of the previous show, I got to know him pretty well over these last couple of months. He is now our producer, and he couldn’t be more valuable to the show. He has been an awesome bridge between what was and what is now, and I love the guy to death. He is one of the more skilled people in radio when it comes to being a jack of all trades and it’s awesome that he’s there.”

After seventeen years together, Shertenlieb split from his radio partner Fred Toucher in November. They held down morning drive at 98.5 The Sports Hub since the station’s launch in 2009. The duo was an institution in Boston and their ratings proved it over and over again. 

There has to be a juicy story there, right? I mean, who walks away from that kind of success without a concrete reason? 

Speculation will continue to run rampant. After all, each twist and turn during the final days of Toucher & Rich were covered pretty extensively on this site and others. According to Shertenlieb though, no one ever crossed a red line. There is no moment when he realized the partnership could not be saved. He was just ready for something new.

“I mean, listen, it’s kind of boring because it’s not as scandalous as people might think that it is,” he says. “You only get a couple of times in your career to be able to reevaluate what you’re doing. I would sign long term contracts for about five years. And so, you only get about once every five years to sit and say, ‘I got a chance to try to do something else.’ When your contract comes up, you ask yourself a few questions. It’s like, ‘Do I still absolutely love what I’m doing?’ and ‘Do I absolutely love where I’m doing it?’ And finally, ‘Is there another step I’d want to take?’ If any of those questions have any kind of doubt or cloud, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore what’s out there. And that’s what I did.”

Shertenlieb doesn’t hide from reality. It was scary to leave the familiarity behind. Even when apparent tension between he and Fred Toucher was impossible to hide, he never pinned blame for wondering what is next on the state of their relationship.

Listeners and social media followers did a lot of speculating about the show’s future in early 2023. Toucher missed extended time, first to deal with a vocal condition and then to focus on his mental health.  They wanted to know what was going on in the Beasley Media offices after Toucher took to Twitter to say no one from the show’s cast had reached out to check on him during his absence. 

Rich Shertenlieb says that the conversations were never that interesting. He didn’t think it had to be a catalyst for drastic action.

“There was no discussion about the future of the show. I think that there was confusion. The guys on the show, I think, were confused about why he was saying stuff about us that obviously, we’re all looking at each other and going, ‘Well, this isn’t true. Why is he saying that? I don’t know what was going on there.’ That part was definitely strange, but there weren’t any conversations about the future of the show at all.”

When the decision was made to leave Toucher & Rich, Shertenlieb says he knew instantly that it would mean leaving 98.5 The Sports Hub. It wasn’t about hard feelings. It was about on-air real estate.

Shertenlieb didn’t want to join an existing show. He wanted to start something new with him at the center. Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, he was comfortable with the consequences of his name being the only one on the marquee. Without a major overhaul, that wasn’t possible at his current station.

“I don’t think that that would be fair to anybody. I think that to achieve that they’d have to move people around and stuff like that. I don’t think that that would be fair. I do think that in fairness to everybody else that I worked with, I would have to go do that on my own.”

WZLX, Shertenlieb’s new home, is owned by iHeartMedia. The company made it clear to the host that he was a priority. Bosses asked Shertenlieb who he wanted to work with and got those people on board. They presented him with the opportunity to launch a podcast network in the future. 

The company even acquiesced to Shertenlieb’s demand that the classic rock the station is known for disappear in morning drive.

“I’ve just looked around and I’ve seen that there’s really no morning show that is geared mostly towards guys that truly wins while also playing music. That’s the recipe that you have to go with, at least in mornings,” he says.

Music snobs aren’t totally left out of the new morning show. Shertenlieb loves rock music and makes it a part of the show’s regular discussions. He also notes that what is now considered “classic rock” is the music he grew up with and holds most dear, particularly Alice in Chains.

Listeners will hear Michael Hurley, who Shertenlieb calls “truly a gem” every day. Every host needs someone that gets all of his references and that’s what Hurley is for Shertenlieb. Throughout the week, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Meadowlark Media host Charlotte Wilder and Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal will all make appearances.

“I like having different personalities, you know, different walks of life and people who are experts in different things to be able to rotate,” Shertenlieb says. “The great thing about everybody that I picked, whether it be Ted Johnson or Mike Girardi or Charlotte Wilder, is that even if they didn’t talk about the one thing they’re known to be an expert on, I would still love talking to these people about everything else in their life, because they’re just that interesting.”

Every new show faces challenges when it launches and The Rich Shertenlieb Show is no exception. His former partner has poked fun, his former competitor has taken shots, but Rich Shertenlieb knows that no show gets to launched as a finished product. That only comes from years of building chemistry amongst the people in studio and the people listening.

He isn’t shy about admitting that there is no guarantee that he is going to leapfrog anyone in the ratings. Sure, he has the know-how given the success he helped propel The Sports Hub to in morning drive. He also has the advantage of joining a station that already performs well.

“It’s hard work and patience,” Shertenlieb says when asked if he has thought about how he will pull ahead of The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Hardy or anyone else. “It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Shertenlieb knows that, for many Bostonians, he and Fred Toucher will forever be linked. He doesn’t run from that. He says he never considered leaving Boston for a “fresh start” when he decided to strike out on his own.

He doesn’t wish Toucher or The Sports Hub any ill-will. He insists that the titillating scandal everyone wants to hear about doesn’t exist. He isn’t “over sports.” It was just time to do something new.

New adventure comes with risk and uncertainty. Rich Shertenlieb is willing to embrace it and live with whatever it becomes.

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Which Areas of Executive Performance Should Be Known in Media Companies?

“How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is outperforming or underperforming?”

Jason Barrett

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I read a great piece on Monday from Front Office Sports, which reflected on the NBA’s financial growth under Commissioner Adam Silver. Since taking control in 2014, Silver has more than doubled the NBA’s annual revenue to $12 billion from $4.8 billion. The league also set an all-time regular-season attendance record this year, and grew NBA franchise values to an average of $3.85 billion, according to Forbes. The worth of an organization alone is up 75% from 2019.

If I asked you to judge the Commissioner of the NBA and whether or not he was doing a good job, would those three categories get your attention? Adam Silver isn’t perfect in other areas, but if you more than double league revenues, increase attendance and fan interest, and elevate the value of the league’s franchises, few are going to want a different voice.

But what about in media circles? How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is making a difference? Shouldn’t we know if our markets/companies are growing in revenue and value, and increasing audience?

Radio program directors get judged by their brand’s ratings (quarterly and annually), but that doesn’t tell the complete story. What if the PD shrinks expenses 25% and stays flat? Isn’t that progress? How about if they possess digital skills and quadrupled the brand’s social media following, video viewing, newsletter signups, and podcast downloads but ratings dropped 10%. Is that a win or a loss? What if the company they work for lost the rights to a key property that drove ratings growth. Is that on them or their employer?

GM’s are tasked with boosting local market revenues, controlling expenses, and making smart business decisions. Most people inside of a cluster though have no idea if they’re on top of those things. They judge the GM based on an individual relationship, and trust the company’s judgment. The issue with that, sometimes company’s aren’t plugged in. Other times they know things that folks on the local level don’t. Regardless, little information is available to people in the building to show if the GM’s plan is working.

On the executive level, revenue growth, stock price (if public), investments in technology, continuing key relationships, forming new partnerships, recruitment, and company PR are all part of the company’s progress report. CEO’s earn credit and blame for the overall performance of the company, but wins and losses depend on people. You can blame and change them or the CEO when results are missed, but sometimes that’s a reflection of other factors. For instance, if the economy is weak, the individual and their ability to perform may not be the issue.

Examining company value over a 10-year period should be part of the evaluation process for executive leadership. But whether they’ve crushed it or laid an egg, few inside organizations know those details. Should it be? It’s easy to say yes, but radio isn’t the NBA. To expect similar progress is unrealistic. But to know how a company is growing or stalling beyond its stock price and year-to-year revenue would be helpful.

Aside from corporate leaders, many don’t know if their leaders are outperforming or underperforming expectations. We don’t look at enough areas of a position to determine if the right individual is in charge. For example, if your web traffic grew 10% but your social media audience declined 10% because article posts grew from 10 to 50 posts per day, is that a good or bad strategy? If a salesperson made budget because they got one big order from one client but did nothing else the rest of the month, is that acceptable? There should be multiple boxes to check to determine if someone is or isn’t successful in their position.

We should all be asking these questions, and challenging each other to help raise the bar. The best way to do that is through transparency. If everyone knows the score, the better equipped they are to make adjustments to win the game. That in turn inspires more confidence in those leading the company. Media folks are competitive by nature, and don’t like being tied to negative results. However, that also motivates people to perform better.

I’m not sure we’ll ever have information available the way it is with the Commissioner of the NBA. If we did, we’d know who the Adam Silver’s are in each group, and that would make our organizations stronger. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a boost in revenue, value and audience?

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Remembering Bill Walton

An industry giant was lost yesterday. Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 following a battle with cancer. He was beloved by the sports media industry, thanks to his infectious personality, and ability to crack a joke, call something out or share a gem that left you smarter. Many have greater stories to share than mine but this was my favorite because I lived it.

It’s a Saturday night just after midnight, and I’m producing GameNight on ESPN Radio. John Seibel is hosting with Michael Kim, and Bill Walton calls in as scheduled. We bump back from break with Higher by Creed because Seibel wants to share the news that the band broke up. We welcome Bill to the show after the quick Creed story and try to transition to NBA talk but Bill wants more details on Credence Clearwater Revival’s breakup. John explains that it’s Creed, but Bill is so focused on CCR, that soon he’s telling 5-minutes worth of CCR stories.

We try to reset a few times to get on track but Bill keeps finding ways to connect CCR to Seibel’s words. The entire studio is crying laughing, and I tell John in his ear ‘don’t even try to talk hoops, just go with this.’ We do 12 minutes of CCR talk, laughing so hard it hurt, and wondering ‘was that radio gold or a train wreck?’ That was the beauty of Bill Walton. He kept you on your toes, went to places few did, but always kept you laughing and wanting to engage. Sports media has lost a larger than life character, great analyst, and gem of a human being.

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KNBR Fallout

I stand by everything I wrote last week and credit Cumulus Media for taking quick action in San Francisco. Yet seeing someone hurt their career is still sad. Larry Blumhagen, Bruce Gilbert and Dave Milner will find a strong, capable leader to move KNBR forward but for Adam Copeland it’s a blown opportunity.

I’m done discussing this issue but I want to make one thing clear. This was about unprofessional PD behavior, and a lack of understanding of how ratings work. I saw tweets raise the issue of race, which was embarrassing, and irresponsible. Some people say and do foolish things when they’re backed into a corner. Going down the diversity lane with me might be the dumbest decision yet.

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Thumbs Up:

Charles Barkley: He hit the nail on the head when he reminded folks that WBD CEO David Zaslav likely pissed off NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when he said that Turner didn’t need the NBA. Those comments in 2022 were likely going to create a stir. Sure enough, TNT is now in jeopardy of losing a near three decade relationship with a popular sports league. Kudos to Barkley for calling out executives for dropping the ball on what should’ve been a layup.

SKOR North: The Timberwolves haven’t answered the bell against Dallas, but SKOR North was more than ready entering the series. After Anthony Edwards told Charles Barkley following a Game 7 win against Denver to ‘bring ya ass’ to Minnesota, the Hubbard Radio brand had digital billboards, merchandise, and a box truck out on the streets promoting its content, featuring the famous Edwards quote. T-Wolves fever and leaning into the moment quickly, helped SKOR’s ‘Flagrant Howls’ crack the top-10 podcast charts last week. Nice job.

Stephen A. Smith: Nice job by Mr. SAS Productions on Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media. Covering decades of the media industry in under two hours is impossible, but I watched all three episodes and enjoyed it. The guest list was beyond impressive. I can nitpick sports radio’s role in elevating debate style discussions not getting enough focus, and Jamie Horowitz and Skip Bayless deserving to be featured heavily given their roles with the shift to debate content, but if you watch a show looking for holes to poke, you’ll find them, and miss out on being entertained. If you watch to learn more than you knew previously, you’ll find it to be pretty good.

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Thumbs Down

Sports Emmys: The on-stage show and social media execution of the event was fantastic. The access given to media covering the show though left little to be desired. BSM covered the show, and was surprised by the lack of organization for pulling people aside for conversations. There was also no press working area or seats to view the show. Instead, press had to watch the show on a small monitor in the very back of the room for almost four hours. Given how awesome the Sports Emmys are, hopefully the media covering the show are taken care of better at the 2025 event.

WFAN: A phone number change? Say it ain’t so! New York sports radio fans know WFAN’s phone number better then their own. They also tend to be resistant to change. But they’ll get over it. The only valid question is why make the change at all?

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Jobs

Barrett Media is interviewing potential writers to contribute to our expanded music radio industry coverage. Our brand relaunch takes place Monday July 15th. If you’ve programmed or hosted on music radio stations, enjoy writing, and have views and insights to share on the industry, email a resume and writing sample to [email protected]. Please do not DM on LinkedIn or social platforms. I won’t be answering messages through there.

1010 XL in Jacksonville has a cool opening for someone with creative social/video skills. The outlet is looking for a Digital Content Producer. Details can be found here.

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Steve Fifer Adds Local Programming Back to 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again.”

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Photo of Steve Fifer and a logo for 1250 The Fan
Photo Courtesy: Steve Fifer LinkedIn Profile

In August of 2022, local shows at 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee were discontinued in favor of national programming from CBS Sports Radio, now called Infinity Sports Network.  Steve Fifer has been with the station since the launch in January 2005 and while other hosts looked for hosting opportunities elsewhere, he stayed on becoming the station’s Assistant Program Director.  He learned the ropes on how the management side works, hosted local podcasts like “Curd and Long,” “Green and Growing” and “Spare/Time Bowling Show” and also did some fill-in hosting on stations in other markets.

While Fifer missed local shows, he had zero intentions of leaving the radio station.

“There were days along the way when big things would happen locally where it’s like man, I wish I had a talk show today,” said Fifer.  “I was asked before if I would want to leave and I didn’t want to leave.  I love the people who work in this building.  I had no inclination at any point to leave this building or go anywhere.”

That loyalty and patience has paid off for Fifer because a little over two years later, local programming is back.

This past March, Fifer helped turn the clock back just a little when he started hosting Milwaukee Bucks postgame shows on “The Fan” and the reaction was overwhelming.

“It was like the old days,” said Fifer.  “It was huge.  It was absolutely over the top huge. It gave me a lot of hope for the future going forward that a lot of the people who were listening before were right back in it again and a lot of social media right back in it again.” 

And then, the station announced the launch of Wisconsin Sports Daily, a live and local show weekdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. hosted by Fifer.  It didn’t take long for the station’s loyal listeners from the past to return and also offer Fifer some feedback on what the show should sound like.

“Everybody came with their ideas and opinions of what was missing in the market, what this show needs to be about and so forth,” said Fifer.  “It’s been a very positive experience for sure.”

And so has the experience learning the business side over the last 2 ½ years.  Fifer has worked closely with several Audacy executives including Mitch Rosen, Operations Director and Brand Manager of 670 The Score in Chicago and the Vice President of the BetQL Network.  While The Fan continued to carry national programming, Fifer was absorbing the business side of the industry like a sponge.

A lot of that knowledge came from Rosen.

“He’s taught me a lot about the business,” said Fifer.  “I’ve learned a lot from him as far as just more of the professional side of how to be a programmer, how to work with talent, how to work with producers and how to work with people outside of the company.  The last year and a half to two years, even though there hasn’t been local programming, I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot and matured a lot and I’m ready for the next step.”

And now that The Fan has taken those first couple of steps back into the local game with the Bucks postgame shows and now Wisconsin Sports Daily, perhaps it’s time to go “Back to the Future” and bring back some more local programming.

Is it possible?

Not only is it possible, it’s the vision.

“That’s the hope and the plan is to eventually over the course of time is to eventually get this thing back to close to where it was as far as doing more local programming,” said Fifer.  “That’s going to be a process.  It’s going to probably be baby steps here over the course of time to try and work its way back up again.  Hopefully, at some point in the future, we’re able to do that.”

That vision is not just to restore local programming to The Fan, but the vision also includes returning the station to dominance in a crowded Milwaukee sports radio landscape.

The Fan is one of four sports talk stations in town and the goal would eventually be to be on top.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again,” said Fifer.  “I think we will be and eventually be back to being number one again in this market.”

Steve Fifer has been a loyal soldier to Audacy and The Fan in Milwaukee.  He could have left when the station went national, but he stayed and now there is excitement over the return of a local show and what could lie ahead down the road.

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