With current media trends, radio is sometimes forgotten as a viable career path for media students. However, radio is alive and well in 2017.
SchoolJournalism recently had the opportunity to pick the mind of country radio DJ Rowdy Yates. Rowdy has tips for teachers and students, but who is Yates? Here is a little background information:
He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and knew from an early age he wanted a career in radio. Rowdy got his first break in radio at the age of 15 in Denton, Texas. Currently, Rowdy is on the air in the mornings on 98.5 KVOO in Tulsa, Okla. You can also listen to him host the nationally-syndicated “Original Country Gold with Rowdy Yates” on Saturday nights. This is the nation’s top-rated country music request show. Rowdy is the youngest inductee into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame and he’s a 2013 Academy of Country Music Award radio winner.
SchoolJournalism: We read in your biography that you have always wanted to be in radio. Why is that? What is it about radio that drew you in at such a young age?
Rowdy: My father. He was a broadcaster. Radio journalist of the finest kind. Award winning, hard-hitting, respected, feared and loved. So, I just followed in the footsteps of him, though I chose the DJ route versus working in a newsroom. I was instantly attracted to the excitement of it all, the immediacy and (back then) the glamour of the job.
SchoolJournalism: Currently, you are a morning host at KVOO in Tulsa. You also host the “Original Country Gold with Rowdy Yates” on Saturday nights. What advice do you have for students wishing to enter this career to help them balance a heavy workload?
Rowdy: Time management is KEY. Be prepared to measure your time off sometimes in hours instead of days. Always keep your eye on the ‘end game’ and what that will give you. Should you find yourself overwhelmed, do not be afraid to take on a trustworthy person to help you with things you no longer have time for, or (honestly) they can do better than you. Currently, I have an accountant that handles paperwork and pays the bills, and an executive producer that is ultimately responsible for the final product on the syndicated show. It allows me to take the calls, do the writing and research, and be a radio star without worrying about all the little mundane details. Does it cost me? Sure. But it is worth it.
SchoolJournalism: What do you think teachers can do to help their students who want to become a radio personality? What type of opportunities and lessons should we be teaching those students?
Rowdy: I think the big thing is to remain open minded. They may go in to the business thinking they wanted to do one thing, and find out they have an interest in other areas. They really should not be closed minded when they are offered opportunities that are NOT what they necessarily want, for it may lead them to greater rewards later. You can’t become a morning guy until you have washed the radio station van a few times. You just work your way up.
SchoolJournalism: In all reality, do you feel that in radio job security is based on being able to connect with listeners? What steps do you take to make that connection with your fans?
Rowdy: That is part of it. Clearly those who do connect well usually prosper, but that is just a part of the “new” radio. You must be able to interact on social media, have an aptitude with websites, be an amateur camera operator for video. There are many outside media elements that contribute to the success, and you have to be pretty good at all of them.
Back to the ‘personal’ side, absolutely (make a connection). I believe that the more you can actually interact (in person) with your target audience, the better. That is why it is paramount to be a part of the community you serve. Show up and smile at the county fair, judge a bar-b-q cookoff. Let folks know where the Girl Scout cookies are being sold, and align yourself with a few charities that will allow you to get in front of a LOT of people as your volunteer your emcee talents at auctions and fundraisers. It may sound like a lot of work, but I have proof that your name recognition (in time) will go through the roof.
SchoolJournalism: Last, but not least, knowing what you know now, if you had to do it all over again, what advice would you give your younger self to make your early days in radio a little smoother?
Rowdy: Listen a little more to those who have been in the business a long time. You may not think it at the time, but they do know more than you and chances are if they have been in the industry for a considerable length of time, they do know what they are doing. But, with that being said, do not be afraid to question things when your “B.S.” meter starts to beep!