Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Living Well Is The Best Revenge (Life After Radio)


Here’s a nice photo from yesterday morning of my friend and former business partner and broadcast colleague Glen Gardner hard at work in his office.  Glen’s wife Lauren took the photo and posted it to Facebook with some good-natured comments about how her hubby was slaving away at the office. It’s their back yard in suburban Boston.  Glen probably has enough frequent-flyer miles for several free trips around the world, since he also “lives” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

It’s been five and a half years since Glen and I, who had been doing the morning news/talk show on a local radio station, were summarily dismissed in a poorly-executed palace coup which resulted in litigation and sealed settlements including repurchase of the shares of stock Glen and I owned in the company. I used to joke that Glen’s stock ownership represented significant chunks of several radio stations and mine represented a few pieces of office furniture, a hallway bathroom, and the old WTDY transmitter building off Syene Road.

One of our friends, WIBA-AM talk show host Mitch Henck, had been kicked to the curb Monday by Clear Channel radio. I wrote a piece about it yesterday, telling Mitch that life was better on “the other side”, which engendered a string of comments, including one from a fellow former broadcaster, who affirmed that “Virtually everyone I know, including me, who left broadcast news is happy. Almost everyone I know who is still in the business hates it.”  Not exactly a universal truth, but you get the idea.

After our “backstabbing by former business partners”, as Glen put it back then, we both set out in new directions, with absolutely no desire to go back to work for anyone except ourselves.


Glen formed a consulting partnership and was featured in a local magazine (In Business Magazine – that’s their photo above). The article was about what we then called “the gig economy” back in 2009. The world was full of former broadcasters and print reporters like Glen and me, downsized by their employer, putting together several part-time gigs as independent contractors to keep the money machine oiled.

One of Glen’s next projects back in ’09 was to put together a group of former local news folks to contribute to an online news site, YourNews.



If you’ve been around town a while, you’ll recognize a lot of faces in the picture above. All but one of us (Brian D’Ambrosio) were former broadcast employees or print journalism employees. We had a lot of fun meetings, wrote  a lot of good stories, even made a few bucks doing it.

One of Glen’s next projects was helping expand Public NewsService, a pretty-good-sized online news service headquartered in Boulder, CO, reaching an audience of 30 million people a week. Glen brought me on board several years ago, and I still write two or three stories a week for PNS, in addition to other independent contractor projects.

In 2011, Glen moved back east to his original stomping grounds near Boston, after he’d reconnected with his childhood sweetheart.


On November 18th, 2012, Glen and Lauren got married, four years to the day since we were tossed under the bus at the Madison radio company – giving us all a new way to observe that date!  Glen and Lauren are both active in a new concert promotion company they set up with another of Glen’s childhood friends, bringing big-name entertainers to a beautiful venue in suburban Boston.


And, Glen still can wail on that big Gibson guitar, with a band he and several other colleagues formed when they worked together at a Cedar Rapids legendary rock radio station – Jif and Choosy Mothers.  In the photo above, they’re putting on an outdoor concert in Cedar Rapids.  Gotta love the horns.


As the local radio business sinks into the morass of debt it’s created for itself, and more talented and high-rated personalities like Mitch Henck are fired by an industry that can't pay its debts, life goes on abundantly for those who worked hard at reinventing themselves.  

As George Herbert said centuries ago, living well is the best revenge.

23 comments:

  1. Bravo! The best part of us is that you guys never really left the stage. You're just singing from a different one.

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  2. What I thought was one of the worst days of my life, turned out to be the best. Now the real journey starts Mitch!

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    1. Same here, as you know. Mitch will land on his feet.

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  3. Yes, living well is the best revenge! I'm kind of a lurker... not a radio personality but I did work in radio traffic for 20 years and was a colleague of Glen's back at WTSO, before it was eaten by Madison Radio Group/Capstar/Clear Channel... and now I work at In Business magazine (though I started after the story on Glen - will have to look that up in the archives), so this was a fun blog for me to find. Radio has changed so much over the years and it's sad and we weren't having any fun - looks like people escape and find the fun again. Best of luck to all the radio folk out there, may you find your new niche soon!

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    1. Thank you - you're right. Guys like Glen and me were lucky enough to find the fun again. Ain't much fun left in the broadcast biz, from what I hear from folks still trapped in it......

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  4. I am just an ordinary person, a senior citizen that grew up with the radio as a close personal friend. I want you guys to know how much you are missed, and remembered. Things will never be the same or as good as they used to be in radio, in large part because of the banter that was such a pleasure to hear in the morning. The day always went a bit better after listening to you. I don't listen to the radio any more. Times change, but not always for the better. Best wishes and kind thoughts; glad things turned out well for you.

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    1. Thank you for the very kind words. I'm a senior citizen now, too, and I grew up LOVING radio. Always wanted to be involved, and was lucky enough to have some truly fantastic years in the biz. Best wishes to you and thanks again for the kind and thoughtful remarks. They are truly appreciated!

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  5. I know a talented young guy who's dying to do radio and who's mighty good at it, but can't find a full-time gig. He may be luckier than he knows. The best way to do radio nowadays (if you're an on-air person) is as a diversion rather than a profession--find some other rewarding work, fool around in radio on your own terms as a sort of hobby, and have no regrets however it turns out. One might argue that's the best way to do any job or profession, but that's not the world we live in.

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    1. Remember the long hours we put in, in our first decade? It wasn't work. It was how we lived and what we wanted to do. Now, the young fellow you mention can "learn from others" by listening to a tracked station run by Selector.......the days we knew are gone. Good advice, Jim - find a career first and then carve out some weekend time to fool around in radio.

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  6. My hearty congratulations to those who escaped, only to find they could create the happiness and contentment that had been eluding them. You have preserved your ideals, and that is the stuff of your peace, and justifiable pride.

    Until a few months ago, I was a print journalist - a distinction I held more or less continuously since 1964. Over the ensuing years I watched with growing dismay as the print moguls sailed raptly on, oblivious as boiling frogs to the changing world, as they steadily steered print news away from the public trust embodied in its constitutional core.

    For them, it was just another business.

    Coincidentally, the year 1964 saw what proved to be the portentuous rise of Radio Caroline, the pirate broadcasting ship that fired an electronic shot across the bow of commercial radio, which was then already in the steel grip of "profits uber alles" corporate oligarchs. But I digress.

    As the print tycoons, in large measure, chose easily won profits (fewer staff, unpaid interns, advertiser-friendly puff pieces, press-releases vs. reporting, delayed modernization, runaway consolidation at the expense of independence, etc.), the industry inevitably began to grow fat and lazy, then rot from within, then crumble into the all-but-unrecognizable ruin it is today.

    Change would have happened anyway, of course. It always does. But, unless your purpose and intent is to use the industry up, then discard it, ignoring the obvious existential challenges over the long-term and foolishly eating the seed corn guarantees bad things will follow.

    I know little about the arc of history for radio, but it is easy to imagine that it was similar to print in many key ways.

    I can vouch for this fact: No freedom quite compares with making it over the corporate wall intact and landing on your feet - comfortable and on your own terms. I can also echo the observation our blogger expressed in reply to chornung88's comment. None of the old hands I know who are still in the soul-sucking print-cum-web mill want anything but out.

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    1. You have indeed escaped intact - with ALL of your formidable talent. And that is a very good thing.

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  7. I enjoyed the radio business from the tender age of 19, until I decided to "retire early," selling my accumlated stock at the ripe old age of 49. I enjoyed virtually every moment of my radio career, made lifelong friends, and was paid more money than parents combined ever made. I am glad I no longer work in that business, for all the changes (for the worse) that have occurred.

    One great memory is when I had the pleasure of picking up nationally-syndicated talk-show host Bruce Williams at his hotel (The Sheraton on John Nolen) to drive him ACROSS THE STREET to the Dane County Coliseum for his "Evening With" 500 loyal WTDY fans. He complained non-stop, for the entire three-minute drive, that he was in my compact Pontiac Fiero, instead of a "towne car," whatever that was/is? Good times!!!

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    1. Bob, sometime when we meet again for a plenary session, I will tell you the Bruce Williams story from a Green Bay broadcasting friend.

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  8. I saw Mitch got fired. Seems like a lot of is economies of scale; local radio's always been a tough market (from my outsider/uninformed standpoint.) But it's pretty inspirational the way you guys bounced back. I can't imagine having to start over and build another business from scratch, let alone build several.

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    1. Thanks, Briane. Creative people, which radio used to attract, reinvent themselves.

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  9. Thank you for the great post,It is really a big help.thanks for sharing nice blog . business for sale brisbane southside

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  10. Tim - I for one, and many others I presume, miss your regular posts. I hope all is well with you & family and that you've simply taken a break from blogging. Looking forward to your next post.

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