Zara Caletti and the Future of Radio


(By James Bahm) I’ll share more lessons from Solitaire in my next column, but this week I’m taking a break from that to promote someone I met recently who deserves the spotlight.

I recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise, and while waiting to embark in Barcelona I had the pleasure to meet a family from Toronto. I mentioned my experiences in broadcasting and quickly learned that the young lady standing beside me has a radio show in the Toronto, Ontario area – at 11 years old.

I sat down with Zara Caletti, co-host of Sports Spotlight on Northumberland 89.7 (CFWN), onboard so I could shine a spotlight on her – and hopefully encourage and inspire others to pursue their passions, regardless of age.

What got you into radio?

I started when my teammate and I went on the radio because of our regional and provincial wins with our hockey team. Jeff Gard, who hosts the show, interviewed us and he thought I did a really great job. I started to come more often, and he asked if I could be his permanent co-host.  I said yes because I thought it’d be cool to do interviews.

Who are some of the athletes you’ve interviewed?

Natalie Spooner (a PWHL hockey player and three-time Olympian), Justin Williams (NHL player inducted in the Carolina Hurricanes Hall of Fame), Pinball Clemons (Manager – Head Coach – of the Toronto Argonauts), Ron MacLean (Canadian Sportscaster for CBC and Rogers Media), and Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning.

When I first started in college radio, I wish someone would have told me to make sure my mic was off before I decided to talk with a classmate about homework. What is something you wish you were told about having a show before you started that you had to learn? 

How much research goes into interviewing someone, and how to pronounce words phonetically and separate my words – especially when recording promos and how to voice them better.

If there is another 11-year-old girl who wants to do what you do, what would you tell her? What advice would you give another girl who wants to do what you do?

Zara Caletti
Zara in studio

I’d say, on the radio, you’d think I’d be nervous to talk to people, but it feels like having a conversation. Also, it’s about talking about them and learning about a bunch of different people. I also got to go to a wrestling show, learned how to curl, and go bowling – you get to do a bunch of fun stuff. Also, if you’re too nervous, don’t worry about it because most of the time I’m not too prepared anyways! I was nervous the first time, but once I got into it, I stopped being nervous. Also, the people there are going to make you talk and they’ll help you in that sense.

What would you like to learn that you haven’t experienced yet?

Probably learn about golf. Most of my friends who play hockey also play golf, and it’s supposed to help with your shot, apparently! I’ve never tried it before because I always thought it was boring!

Is there a sport you’d like to go to and report on for your show?

PWHL – Professional Women’s Hockey League – it was just recently they had that and it’s nice that women can play and earn money. Plus, a lot of people say it’s better than men’s hockey. I’d love to go see one of those and report back on it.

Let me shine the spotlight on you.  What else would you like to say about radio in Canada, what you do, or anything else you’d like to say?

It’s really great to support small-town radio because you get to interview local athletes and you get to see their point of view. When I interviewed Justin Williams, I learned he came from a small town and made it big and how he evolved into what he is now. I love to hear from some of the younger kids who want to interview some of the professional athletes. I just love interviewing anybody! One thing I’m learning is that when I’m interviewing someone I really need to listen and elaborate on my question.

If I ask them something, their answer may build up to another question.


I was impressed by what Zara said during our conversation and thought it was profound: You get to know somebody by asking questions. To hear her say this in our conversation really impressed me. I’ve worked with individuals who’ve been in radio for decades who do not have one-fifth of Zara’s insight and professionalism when it comes to getting to know someone and asking questions.

This is a skill you can use anywhere, in any industry/profession, be it on the radio, at school, in an office, or at home (and everywhere in between). You learn by asking.  As I say in my book: always listen to understand, never listen to respond.

There is another young girl somewhere – maybe in your home – who’s saying, “I want to do what she does. I want to be like her and do interviews and report back on big sporting events.”

I challenge you to encourage them, support their dreams, and shine the light on youth you know because you never know if the next PWHL superstar is listening – or hitting golf balls next to you. You might be interviewing them in a few years only to learn that the reason they are where they are is because they heard your show.

It can happen and I hope it does for Zara and any other girl with dreams that take them to a bigger and brighter stage than they could’ve dreamt about. Thursday, April 25 is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Take them with you.

Bottom Line:  The dreams and inspiration ignited by a tiny spark of encouragement can reach far beyond anything you can imagine.

You can find Zara’s show here where you can also listen to previous episodes

James Bahm has over 30 years of experience in broadcasting, sales and marketing, and recruiting and hiring and is currently working on the follow-up to Don’t Yuck My Yum! and can be reached via email: [email protected]. Read James’ Radio Ink archives here.


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