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Tony Coles


My husband is a native of Portland, Oregon, and a former "KISN Good GUY," which gives us the opportunity to visit the market on a regular basis.

Ten years ago, Clear Channel bought KKCW from Trumper Communications, and shortly after the sale came a new management team. Our association with KKCW was the unusual number of former "KISN Good Guys" who worked there, including the legendary Craig Walker. But, as fate would have it, the new management team was saddled with the task of replacing Craig, who elected to retire at an early age; and the man at the helm was Tony Coles.

In my first meeting with Tony it was clear that he had all the right answers and was the perfect person to lead K103 into the next century. Years later, Tony arrived in Chicago and performed his magic on the Chicago CC stations that desperately needed a leader, and it was Tony who has lead them to their current success. And now he will again perform his magic as Senior Vice President of Programming for the West Region
So let's hear from Tony about how he got into radio

My father grew up during the Great Depression. At a very young age, he and his brothers and sisters all had to get jobs to help support the family. He felt this was the foundation of his work ethic and I heard this story over and over throughout my childhood. It always ended with the fact that I needed to get a job and pay rent when I turned 16. While I was more interested in being a park ranger, or even a minister, as my 16th birthday approached I would have taken ANY job just to avoid a lecture from dad.

Perhaps it was Divine Intervention, but Pete Petoniak, the Program Director from the local radio station (WHIZ AM in Zanesville, Ohio) came to speak at our school. He spoke about his job and about careers in radio. Although I wasnt thinking of a career in broadcasting, he sounded like he really enjoyed his job. I began asking (okay, begging) him to give me a job. After a couple of months he finally had an opening, and I would be able to avoid a lecture. The summer before my birthday I started working at the station doing anything and everything they asked.
I hadnt been working there long before I got a 4 a.m. call one Saturday. Pete was in the hospital and he needed someone to sign the station on at 6 a.m. and host the morning show. I was his last resort. I dont remember much about my first airshift as a DJ other than the fact that Im sure Marconi was spinning in his grave. It was bad, really bad. But for some reason, I didnt get fired. In fact, the General Manager and Pete thought that with training and practice, there might be some hope for me. I couldnt believe that people actually played music and got paid, but I had been bitten by the radio bug and there was no turning back.

Years later, like many jocks, I had mastered the art of packing a U-Haul every time a station hired a new PD. I was in Columbus, Ohio, working at 92X and I had just lost my dream gig. Dave Robbins was the Program Director at our competitor, WNCI. He invited me over to make copies of R&R ads, use their studios, anything I needed. I took him up on the offer and while there I heard Dave speaking to jocks and salespeople. I had never met anyone so passionate about what they did, and so focused on bringing out the best in others. I told him that I had changed my mind. I didnt want to be a jock anymore. I wanted to program and to get others as excited about radio as he was. That day, my path to programming began.

I looked for opportunities to work with people who shared the drive and passion of guys like Dave. This lead me to my first PD gig at WFWI/Fort Wayne working for the legendary team of Russ Oasis and Robert Walker. Since then I have been equally blessed to work in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland. Each time, I made sure to surround myself with passionate people who love the industry, and who love sharing their passion with others.

Oh, and thanks dad. You may have been right about working hard.
Reach out to Tony Coles HERE

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at or 312-454-1111.

So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.

Read more How I Got Into Radio's HERE

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