Early in my career, just as I was leaving college, a radio program director told me to quit radio, and never look back.
“Your voice,” she said, looking to the side. “It’s just not…you should do something else. Radio’s not for you.”
When I listen back to my early tapes, it’s true I sound different than I do now. I sounded like I was early in my career, maybe just leaving college, ready for my first big challenge in media.
Mentors over the years encouraged me to find my own voice, and settle into my uniqueness.
It was rocky at first, and a process that doesn’t truly end.
What do I sound like, really? What am I trying to sound like? Why is it so hard to sound natural while just talking?
Being in public media helped that journey, because it has traditionally been a little more accepting of “untraditional” broadcast voices and accents.
But it’s not a given that you can find enough mentors, coaches, and advocates along the way to affirm you along your journey from unpolished to smooth.
Believe in yourself enough to keep going
I’ve been fortunate to have reported and hosted radio programs in the US and Europe for the better part of 16 years, trying to build relationships with people whose expertise and empathy helped me become–hopefully–an authentic and trustworthy advocate for my audiences.
Over that time, I’ve also had to closely evaluate criticism, but sometimes dismiss bad faith actors who like only to tear down.
As I wrote in this piece:
Your drive to grow and exceed expectations may not be in other people’s best interest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow.
You have to be willing to bet on yourself when others won’t or can’t.
You also have to know your values, and believe in them enough to follow-through on a vision.
I came to Cleveland after years in Switzerland, as a correspondent and afternoon newscaster.
I was hired by a program director and editor who believed in my vision that a good program host can and should think like an anchor, reporter, programmer, producer, and, perhaps most importantly, like a listener.
Even in a darkened studio, alone but for the talented technical producer nearby (in my case in recent years with the esteemed Barbara Whitlow), the best product comes from this multidimensional thinking.
I’m thankful for the mentors through the years who have affirmed and actively supported my journey as a host, moderator, correspondent, producer, editor, and listener.
And I guess I’m thankful for the program director who told me to quit, because today I can tell you: