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President of Programming Emmis Communications - Rick Cummings


Since I started Miller Broadcast Management, I have worked with Rick Cummings. The 1980s acquisition of the NBC stations added a large group of major-market stations, all of which needed premium talent. But, on December 7, 1987, I conducted my most bizarre negotiations with Rick. I had delivered my youngest son the day before and I was a bit out of it. I told Rick to be kind to me because I wasnt myself. We spent an hour on the phone conducting business and negotiating two talent agreements while nurses walked in and out of the room and I fed my newborn son. So for all you men who think we women cant do it all, ask Rick Cummings -- hes been around me for many of my life moments.

Now let's hear from President Programming Emmis Communications, Rick Cummings

I got into radio the way many people do: nepotism. In the late 60s, my father ran the gas station at the crossroads of tiny, rural Cloverdale, Indiana, population 800. The high school was having a run in the state basketball tournament very much like the movie "Hoosiers." Our tiny school made it all the way to the Final Four in the tournament. Greencastle, Indiana, had an FM station that did the play-by-play on all the games. My dad decided to sponsor. I would imagine he paid all of a dollar per commercial. But he let it be known that his son wanted to be the next Howard Cosell.

Apparently, he bought enough time that they invited me to join the play-by-play team. I patterned my call of the games after Jerry Baker, who did the Indiana Pacers games in the early ABA days. I got good enough at it, or maybe my dad just bought enough sponsorships, (thats never been clear), that I got a role as the head play-by-play guy.

That led to Butler University, where I enrolled and worked my way up to play-by-play for basketball and football. Back then, Butler sucked, unlike now. But it was a terrific experience. My course was set:  play-by-play anchor for a major sports franchise. Sometime my last year at Butler, someone pointed out that there are a few hundred great play-by-play jobs in the world and those who have them keep them until they die.

So I broadened my horizons to "radio in general." I got a job at Susquehanna in Indianapolis during my senior year at Butler and was fired a year later for insubordination. I met Jeff Smulyan, who was starting an AM News-Talk operation in Indianapolis, challenging the legendary WIBC, which Emmis now owns. I worked there for a couple years and moved on to WTIC in Hartford and was fired there for insubordination. Are you sensing a pattern?

I moved to New Orleans in 1979, with the same result. Then Smulyan called. He was starting a new company with an FM in Indianapolis. Would I like to join? Lets seeunemployment or Emmis. Okay, I guess.

Through all the ups and downs, its been, and continues to be, a magical run. Through great times and thin times, I care immensely about the people at Emmis and about our future as broadcasters. For a guy who got fired repeatedly for challenging management, I have concluded that only Jeff could tolerate such.

To this day, Im learning how to be a good manager. Someday I hope Im good at it. Meantime, we have awesome people. So I have time to develop.

Reach out to Rick Cummings HERE
Read More How I Got Into Radio features 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.

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