Radio Broke My Heart


(By Mike McVay) Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and it seemed like an appropriate time to write about Love. I could wax poetic, but that would be inappropriate given that what’s at the center of this week’s column is a break-up and a broken heart. Onetime love gone bad. The spurned individual acting out in a way that, if self-examination took place, would be embarrassed by their behavior. The story of how Radio has broken many a heart, ruined homelives and sent many into the depths of depression. A real true scenario. Not something to make fun of or light of as depression is real.

It’s not unusual for someone like me, or anyone in a high-profile position, to have “haters.” If you put a spotlight on yourself, then you’re encouraging admiration and disdain, almost equally. There are a lot of reasons to want to be hurtful to someone. Often, it’s not really about the person as much as it is about the sheer frustration experienced by the comment writer. A frustration caused by circumstances beyond one’s control. A frustration because a lifelong goal has been taken away or one’s life has been turned upside down because of a business decision.

It seems clear to me that Radio Broke Their Heart. Job elimination, deserved or not, is tough. When someone’s job is terminated, you’re not just impacting their life. You’re impacting the lives of their family, dependents, and disrupting their community of friends, social activities and derailing a support system. We have careers. We don’t have jobs. A job is something you do to pay your bills so you can enjoy your life. A career is a part of the life you enjoy.

I was terminated early in my career. That personal experience helped to form my opinion that a balanced and diligent recruiting process is extremely important. If you terminate someone you hired, you failed. Unfortunately, the terminated person pays the price for your mistake. If you’re in management and in a position where you make decisions regarding someone’s future employment, you should be aware of the impact on an organization and an individual what a termination means.

When radio breaks up with you, it hurts. It’s painful. It’s sometimes embarrassing. It feels as if you’ve failed. We can say to each other that “losing your job in this business is a rite of passage.” We can compare it to losing a role in a film or television program. It’s more than that. It’s a buzz kill. It’s a serious disruption. We love this business because it’s fun. It’s a rush to entertain. It feeds our egos. To many it is fulfilling. It makes us who we are in our eyes and the eyes of others. Many of us have an identity because of our careers.

Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media recently shared research in his daily blog as to “Why” people go on-air. The Top-3 were “It’s Fun, It’s Entertaining, It’s Emotionally Fulfilling.” It’s about the music was a little more than a third of the sample in his research. Way down the list. Jacobs research project interviewed 750 members of the air talent/producer community, including some who were unemployed, as a part of their AQ4 study of radio personalities.

The annual survey is conducted in collaboration with Morning Show Bootcamp.

It’s this love for radio that drives us. It’s why some pass up better paying opportunities outside of the business. It is why others tolerate work cultures that shouldn’t be tolerated. The drive that exists in many is fed by the fun that is experienced on the job. When that fun goes away, one of the most important reasons for working is diminished. My advice though, would be to go in search of finding the next “fun” and do not stew in self-pity. There are other jobs to be had, but few that feed the need that radio does.

Want to keep the romance in radio alive? Pay attention to your team members and feed their drive. Their passion for the business should be embraced, encouraged and never stifled. Create a culture that includes FUN. Want to stay in radio? Make your own fun and share it with others. If there’s no fun to be had where you are … find some. Life’s too short.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected].


  1. Mike,
    I read your column about the heartbreak many of us feel about the challenges of Radio careers. Today, I read that A.C. McCullough passed away. A.C. was an exception to the rule. He worked in Youngstown, at WHOT, for 52 years. As I kid, I would sit in the parking lot of WHOT in Campbell, pretending to be a disc jockey.

    Somehow, this kid was blessed to have his dream come true. I feel for my compatriots in radio. In Youngstown, it once was a dream to be on the radio. I pray that dream may live still for others.

  2. Another insightful, great article from the legend himself I will say this radio is finicky, but you have to enjoy every moment. If you’re not having fun and making your own waves, you’re just waiting to be a casualty it might be a right of passage to get fired, but in a world starving for contact if you’re not a 24 seven Contant creator, you’re never going to get ahead.

  3. I always felt that one of my top accountabilities was also to develop people and send them to bigger markets or help them get to a place where they were prosperous and content, doing meaningful work. The ratings, the money, pretty well came with that, but that said I was fired twice 20 years apart, both times because of the fact that I had an amazing share but was too expensive. “The music is the star!” uh huh…I never missed a paycheck! Your security in show business is your talent, skill, knowledge, and your intellectual vacuity. MY satisfaction was sharing the joy, teaching, coaching, and also going on the air and doing it right. GREAT companies understand it and “get it”. BAD operators usually fire themselves! Great article, Mike. VERY well to the point! As Hot Rod Hundley used to say, “Ya gotta love it, baby!”. If you do, you will never miss a paycheck! It shows!

  4. This is brilliant, Mike. Yes, I appreciate you “quoting” AQ4 – that’s why we do it. But more importantly, this is a heartfelt look at radio careers, perfectly told around the holiday where we think about hearts, flowers, candy – and LOVE. Your observations are empathetic and spot-on. Thanks for saying it.


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