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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

Sr. VP of Programming Entercom Pat Paxton

4-19-2013

Introduction
Pat has always reminded me of someone who could have lived in the '50s. He is a suave and debonair charmer who walks through the room as if he was accompanied by Frank and Dean. But as the head of programming for Entercom, he is always working well into the future. Pat is unique in that he is very serious about his business, yet he has a wonderful sense of humor. There is not a time that I dont find myself laughing and having a good time when in his company. Pats passion for the business of radio, and his ability to look at things with a global perspective, makes him not only an asset to Entercom, but to the radio community as a whole.

Now, Sr. VP of  Programming Entercom, Pat Paxton will tell us how he got into radio...

In 3rd grade, Mrs. McGee caught me with my portable radio tucked into my pants with headphones snaked up my shirt into my ears. I was listening to WCFL in Chicago where I grew up. WCFL was the original home of Larry Lujack, John Landecker, and the rest of the crew before they all migrated to WLS. Since this was a Catholic grade school, Im sure there was some type of corporal punishment involved, but I prefer to block these types of events from my memory.

My fascination with these personalities and this brand is how my love of radio began. Years later, when my family moved from Chicago to Rapid City, SD, I discovered KKLS. I also discovered that if I tried hard enough, I could win a lot of prizesprimarily albums (33 1/3 rpm, not CDs). The jocks knew me by name. Most disliked me because I was what some refer to now as a prize pig. PPM has taught us that these prize pigs are now our heaviest P1s and our most important listeners. But, there was one jock named Jack Daniels (Im sure that was his real name) who was always nice to me. He was a good guy and a great jock. I was young but I remember him and the impression he made on me just by being a nice guy in a place where everyone was not so nice. Think there is a lesson there?

I went to college at the renowned educational pillar called the University of South Dakota. I started working at the university radio station doing an occasional night shift playing anything I wanted. One night, the AP machine (does anyone under 40 even know what an AP machine is?) started ringing loudly. This is like my 2nd or 3rd shift of my life, but I knew that the AP machine making this much noise meant an important alert was being delivered. I ran to the machine, tore the story from the printer, and stood there breathless. John Lennon had just been shot outside the Dakota apartments in NYC. I was stunned. I had no idea what to do. So, rather than think, I acted. I ran to the board, potted down (remember what "potted down" means?) the song that was playing and announced to what was surely an audience no larger than my total number of fingers (all friends) that John Lennon had been shot.
I decided I needed to play John Lennon and Beatles songs. Next thing I knew, my phone was ringingand it kept ringing all night long. People were crying, sharing, reaching out. People wanted to be part of a community that night and because I was on the radio, I got to be a facilitator of that community. Thats when I first saw the power of our medium. I knew I loved it because people made me laugh, seemed bigger than life, and the music was great. But I never knew how our medium could touch people, could be the conduit for emotion, discussion, engagement, and community.

My first commercial job came a year later. This was also the first job I was fired from. Without getting into detail, the manager of the station in Vermillion, SD, did not appreciate the fact that I played the long version of "Roll Over Beethoven" by ELO. He would have preferred I played the edit. He stormed into the studio to share his thoughts. I disagreed. Things escalated. I was unceremoniously dismissed. Oh well. A 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon later I was fine.

My first job out of college was weekends, overnights, bathroom cleaner, snow shoveler at KWSL and KGLI in Sioux City, IA. After a few years I ascended to PD and OM of the company's stations. During that time, I also did weather at the ABC television affiliate. TV was okay, but it was so formatted, rigid, void of all personality. Radio was freedom, fun, improvisation, theater of the mind. A TV consultant flew in from LA one day. He said I had a great future in TV, but that I had to give up radio or they would replace me. I told him to replace me. Ive never regretted that decision.
 
From Sioux City I went to LaCrosse, WI, Huntington, WV, Orlando, FL, Houston, TX, and Boston, MA. Ive been senior VP of programming for Entercom for 13 years. Its amazing that Ive had such a great job for such a great company for this many years. I am as enthusiastic about our medium as I was sitting in Mrs. McGees 3rd grade class.

This is not a cocky statement. Its what I believe. I do what I do well. I came up through the small markets and did every job imaginable. I know what its like to do any job in a radio station because Ive done them all. These experiences shaped me and made me who I am today. Among those who helped develop me are Ted Mann, Mike Schott, Mickey Franco, Guy Zapoleon, Dave Robbins and, most importantly, (not only because he signs my checks), David Field. Without these mentors, I would not be who I am today. I would also not be who I am today if I didnt have an incredibly loving and supportive family. My wife Sue and my kids, Patrick, Chad, and Ella have given me more than I can ever repay.

Ive always told people that I consider myself extremely lucky that I dont have to work for a living. I get to wake up every morning and do what I love to do. That is something we all need to remind ourselves of from time to time. No one is luckier than us.

Reach out to Pat Paxton PPAXTON@entercom.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.

Read more of her features HERE




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