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Lincoln Financial Media CEO Don Benson

1-11-2-13

I honestly cant remember the first time I met Don Benson, but it's like Ive known him forever. Hes hard to miss, with his warm smile and charismatic style. A soft-spoken Southern gentleman who never takes himself too seriously, but everything he does professionally is serious business. His leadership is evident by the enormous effort he puts forth on behalf of the NAB, RAB, and Arbitron Advisory Council, along with the stations he heads up for Lincoln Financial Media. Don is not one to brag, boast, or rave about himself, which makes him the perfect leader for a heritage ownership.
 
Don took over the reins of Lincoln Financial Media as President in 2005 and as CEO several years later, and in doing so he held up the great leadership that ran its predecessors Jefferson Pilot and Pacific and Southern. Today, Don leads a group of famous call letters and formats that live in the history of radio as icons and continue under his guidance as juggernauts of our industry. If you dont know Don, you are missing one of radios most caring, competent and trustworthy dignitaries.  

Here's Don in his own words....

I grew up in Nashville and on weekends would often come to work with my father, who owned a printing company. Several of the local radio stations were located near his office downtown, including 50,000 watt WLAC and long-time Top 40 WMAK. Id go by both stations and just hang out in the lobbies, fascinated with the whole business. My parents gave me a reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was 12, and Id sit at home and record commercials, imitating ones Id heard locally, convinced that Id one day do spots for many of the citys largest advertisers. It never occurred to me that my voice was still an alto-soprano. (Many say it still is.) Ignoring that, I continued to practice and envision myself as the next great DJ in my hometown.  
 
As a teen, I constantly listened to WMAK, trying to win contests and any prizes the station was giving away, including portable transistor radios, which the station awarded each week to a listener for The Best News Tip of the Week. I listened to other radio stations, police scanners, and anything else that gave me an edge. One night, I heard on a police scanner of a fire at the original Maxwell House Hotel. This was the building that housed WMAK.  So, I dialed the stations news line and spoke with Noel Ball, the big night DJ on the air. When I told him the building was on fire, he calmly said that hed been told it was a false alarm and that the trucks had been recalled.  All of that was true. But so was the fire. And the hotel burned to the ground. I still didnt win the transistor radio. 

It was several years later, in the late 60s, that WMAK, now located in the Exchange Building, had hired a new evening DJ who came from Memphis named Super Shan. Somehow, my years of hanging around WMAK finally led to a job as a request line gopher, and I got to work with this new, high-energy night guy. We hit it off immediately, Scott called me Wonder Frog and I called him Mr. Shannon. I was the luckiest guy in the world, working in radio, sometimes even getting on the air, with the biggest talent in town. 

Scott later became PD of WMAK. And while working as Don Roberts on the Vanderbilt campus radio station, I received a call from him to work part-time on air at WMAK. After I graduated later that year, Scott gave me the break of a lifetime, asking me to join him and Coyote McCloud to go to WQXI AM/FM in Atlanta. Scott had accepted a job as the new PD there, and I went as his programming assistant. Less than three years later, I became the PD of WQXI-FM.

Reach out to Don directly about how he got into radio don.benson@lincolnfinancialmedia.com


Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at Lisa@millerbroadcast.com or 312-454-1111.
So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.


 



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