Kent Sterling Fired From The Fan and WIBC as Program Director – Part Four by kentsterling
February 11, 2010, 3:32 pm
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Oddly, the phrase, “Kent Sterling Fired” is still showing up as a source from Google to generate traffic to this website.  As long as there is some twisted need for people to check on my unfortunate professional turn of fortune, I will let people know how I’m doing.  I am the world’s foremost expert on my own life, and although I don’t find it too fascinating, I can fart a 500 word post on my own life.

I am curious whether people google “Kent Sterling Fired” because they hope that I have been, or heard that I was fired and wonder why.  I’m hoping that the split is 50/50.

I met with an accountant this week about taxes, and he told me that there is a burgeoning group of a similarly displaced workforce out there determined to work for themselves.  The corporate mentality just doesn’t seem as attractive when you spend a lot of time busting your ass to bring wealth to others, and then get your walking papers. 

My accountant is great guy and taxman-to-the-stars Kirk Fosnaugh, and he came with some information about self-employment and small business ownership that was interesting and a little subduing.  It’s seems the government wants more than their share of the money we make, and when you are just starting something and the message the government wants to convey first is that for every buck you make Uncle Sam is going to take roughly half.  Ouch.  For what?  The interstate highway system?  I’m good with that.  That doesn’t cost half of my money though.  Medicare?  Social Security? $2-billion bombers?  Keep ’em.  Let me fuel the economy with my own reckless spending.

Rob Nichols, another Emmis expatriate and I, are starting a business where we will serve as partners in an initial small effort to help high school sophomores and junior student/athletes find a college home where they can find a home for both sets of talents.  Do what you love, is my mantra as it always has been.  Helping kids was tremendous fun when my son was in high school, and I think Rob and I can help.

This website is endless fun, and I added three writers last week to bring some more heft to the process of sharing unique perspective.  The more this site is updated, the better the audience is served.  And that will free me up to go out and talk to people.  I like interviewing folks, so that will be the next step for the site.  As time goes on, I’ll figure out how to sell it too.

The third thing I’m doing is writing a book about fatherhood.  I’m into the fourth chapter, and that’s alternately fun and difficult.  The good memories and times when I was a really good dad make it fun.  Recounting those instances when my choices were a little bit selfish make for tough writing.  That’s life I guess.  Good times.  Bad times.  What I want is an honest account of being my Dad’s kid and my kid’s Dad.  Dad was a great character, and Ryan is an incredibly fine young man. 

I always wanted to do these things, so that’s what I’m doing. 

I’m feeling really good.  Not worrying about two radio stations 24/7 is a very positive step toward sanity.  If I ever go back to radio, I’ll do it in a much smarter way.  Delegation is key, and I always maintained enough responsibility of the day-to-day process of running the stations that it drove me unwittingly crazy.  The thing I loved the most is helping the talent, and hearing them get better at what they do.  That’s what I’ll do next time – if I choose to do it again.

My wife is happy.  I’m happy.  Being off the radio career hamster wheel is an excellent psychological salve.  There are so many extensions of the lessons taught to me during my 17 years at Emmis and three years at WGN and WMAQ in Chicago that I feel like it was an excellent training ground for what’s next – whether that next thing is managing these three enterprises, or having something else find me.

This will be a fun time that allows me to eat what I kill, and continue to work on being a better human being.  

To those with whom I’ve worked, keep calling anytime.  I’m not at Emmis anymore, but I count you as friends.  Keep the faith.  Newstalk and Sportstalk Radio are formats that can create great results for clients, and as long as that is the case, producing informative, entertaining and unique content will be critical.  If the powers that be decide that you don’t fit, don’t sweat that.  The world is bigger than radio, and you are all very talented people.

In the first paragraph, I wrote that I could fart a 500-word post on myself.  I was wrong.  I can fart an 816-word post on myself.

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Kent Sterling Fired as Emmis Indy Program Director – Part Three by kentsterling
January 31, 2010, 11:34 am
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Being told to leave a place filled with people you care about is interesting.  The work was relentless and the concern unending, but the people made all the sacrifice worthwhile, at least to the day I was canned.  Had my wife taken a powder, as she was considering, that would have been an attention getter and I would have been challenged to change my obsession with helping the stations succeed.

My initial feeling was guilt over not being smart enough to get my bosses to allow me to continue to help WIBC and The Fan succeed.  Yeah, I know that’s crazy.  I dream about trying to help.  I’m at work, hiding in the shadows trying not to get caught working.  Very odd.  The staff knows I don’t work there anymore, and they all tell me things will be okay.  I know that, and tell them I’m fine.  My concern in the dream is for them. 

In real life, my focus is different.  When I’m awake, I’m trying to figure out three business things, and how to live a little bit better balanced a life.  Being responsible for the success or failure of a product that employs 50 people requires a best effort.  Being a good husband and father also requires a best effort.  That is the definition of a conundrum.  The loser in my case was to choose away from where I was most secure. 

All of that was good when Tom Severino was the boss.  Tom, from my perspective, was the master of balance.  He encouraged all of us to spend time with family and friends.  When Tom died in July, those at Emmis he left behind tried to serve two masters.  The first was to try to continue as Tom encouraged us to.  Follow the righteous path of building strong and profitable radio brands while maintaining our humanity and a sense of fun.  The other was to try to keep our jobs in a tough economy.  For me, those two focuses were proven mutually exclusive.

Now, I get to do things I like, and build them the way I want to with the people I like and respect.  And I get to spend time with my wife where I’m actually there, listening to what she has to say about things.  A good program director spends a lot of time trying to get the hosts and producers mentally right, so that when they walk into the studio, they feel good about their performance.  Talking into a microphone for three or four hours at a time without any feedback from the people you’re talking to is an unnatural act.  At the end of the day, I was about up to my eyes in listening – my daily quota for external input had been exceeded by the time I got home.

Now, I get to listen.  I look forward to seeing Julie and hearing about her day.  This is the way life is supposed to be, I think.  While I still feel terrible about no longer being allowed to help at the stations, I’m very happy that I get to try to move into a balanced life. 

I hope that my friends at Emmis get to continue to work toward the success we all know is possible there.  The Fall Rating Book was great for both WIBC and The Fan, and hopefully the best is yet to come from a ratings and revenue perspective.  What I genuinely hope for them is a little peace and balance.  The last two-and-a-half years have been filled with changes that have put people there in a state of discomfort.  We have said goodbye to a number of friends who were fired, quit, or died.  And the work continues regardless.  A talk radio station is a beast that requires feeding 24/7, and it never stops.

That cycle makes balance hard for everyone involved.  Shows are either being performed or prepared – all the time.  Add the chaos of change, and the people in that building are uniquely passionate or they would have turned their backs on the medium years ago.  Emmis is a passionate company that attracts passionate people. 

There is a life outside of radio.  It’s good out here, and the lessons I’m learning everyday out here will be helpful should I ever decide to get back in.

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