For years, my friends John Flint and Tammy Lee had the top-rated country radio morning show in Madison on Q-106. I was a very small part of their show, delivering brief news/sports/weather updates twice an hour on their show, and often participating in their great little features like “Spy The Lie”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if there are two harder working people in radio, I’ve never met them.
John and Tammy’s hard work made Q-106 a dominant radio station in the Madison market, frequently topping the ratings. Then, about 8 years ago, when it came time for their annual salary review, the brain trust at MidWest Family Broadcasting made the biggest blunder in Madison radio history, a seven-figure mistake that had every professional broadcaster who heard about it shaking their head in disbelief.
More on that, later.
John and Tammy took their show across town to Star County, and proceeded to take that station’s morning show on a rocket-ride up in the ratings, bringing with them a lot of their Q-106 listeners and sponsors. Star County promptly kicked Q-106’s butt.
Then, a couple years ago, as many of us knew it would, the BIG-TIME came calling for John and Tammy. KSON-FM in San Diego was looking for a new morning show, and made John and Tammy the proverbial offer you can’t refuse. Big-time radio, MAJOR market – so Tammy and her husband Kurt and John and his wife Stephanie invited their radio pals to a going-away party, and we sent them off to the big city in style.
Just a few days ago, I learned that John and Tammy had taken KSON to the highest ratings in the station’s history. I didn’t hear about it from them, because they don’t brag about such things, even when it’s a milestone accomplishment. I read about it in one of the industry’s leading publications, Inside Radio. Radio ratings company Arbitron, the industry standard, says KSON has been the number-one station in the San Diego market month after month, and this latest month’s rating shows KSON is absolutely dominating the market.
No real surprise. John and Tammy are that good. Their success comes naturally, the old-fashioned way. They work their butts off. And they are two VERY talented people.
Now, the “inside baseball” stuff. The dirt.
If you think only a fool would allow those two talented people to take their number-one country radio morning show to the competitor over a few thousand bucks – with literally millions of advertising dollars riding on the decision - you’d be right. The person at MidWest who thought John and Tammy were “overpaid as it is” and let them walk had never programmed a radio station. Had never been in a position which required evaluation of on-air talent. Had never even done a radio show in any format. Never wrote or delivered a radio newscast. Had never written, produced, or sold an ad to a sponsor, nor supervised anyone who had.
And then, after the fatal blunder was made, walked around the hallways at MidWest showing copies of John and Tammy’s W-2’s, telling anyone who would listen that John and Tammy were greedy a-holes.
And who was running the show over there? Who was the big dog? Who let this flawed decision happen? A person with the same qualifications to make on-air personnel judgment as the person who made the blunder. Zero on-air experience, zero news experience, zero experience in ever trying to sell an ad to a client.
How do such bean-counters get into positions of ultimate authority?
Take a look at what’s happened to the radio broadcasting industry over the past decade, and you’ll have a strong clue.
As for my friends John and Tammy – the old proverb is true: living well is the best revenge. Congrats, you two!