Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kathy Voltmer

Kathy has been a member of the Chicago radio community for twenty years now. She is currently the news and traffic anchor of the morning show at WDRV. For those of you, who aren't familiar with her, I asked for her complete radio-ography.

Kathy: I started my career in 1984 doing news at the University of Illinois’ commercial rock station WPGU. I got a summer internship at B96 in 1986, where I was offered a job when I graduated in 1987. I was at B96 as a Reporter & Public Affairs host until March of 1988, when I took a gig as Afternoon News Anchor/Reporter at Q101. Emmis soon bought the station, though, and decided Afternoon News wasn’t necessary, so I left in May of 1989 to take a job with WBBM-AM as Traffic Reporter and News Writer. I was thrilled to get back to doing news in 1992, when I landed a job at Shadow Broadcast Services. Under Shadow’s umbrella, I worked at WLUP-AM as a News Anchor for The Eddie Schwartz Show for just over a year, then the Kevin Matthews Morning Show for about a year and a half. My tenure with Kevin Matthews was nothing if not interesting, challenging and occasionally rewarding, but when WXRT beckoned in 1995, it was time to move on. I was ‘XRT’s Morning News Anchor/Sidekick with Lin Brehmer until Spring of 1998, when WMVP-AM approached me about hosting a talk show with Richard Roeper of the Sun Times and the Tribune’s Rick Kogan. “Media Creatures” was a critical success, but fell victim to a format change, and I ended up taking a job as Midday Co-Host on Chicago’s oldest radio station, WMAQ-AM in early 1999. The legendary WMAQ signed off for good on August 1, 2000. I dabbled in television as a Contributing Correspondent for “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW until I was offered the Morning News Anchor/Public Affairs Director job at my current station, WDRV in Spring of 2001! It’s been tremendously exciting to be part of this pioneering Baby Boom rocker since its beginning.

Rick: I know you're a Chicago-area native. Who were your radio heroes?

Kathy: In high school, I always loved listening to Chicago’s female news anchors like Maggie Brock, Catherine Johns and Karen Hand. I always thought they had such fun jobs. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that I grew up to do the same thing for a living. Karen Hand has since become a great friend and a tremendous mentor of mine. I approached her at a radio convention in the mid-80s…she offered me an internship at B96, then a job there, influencing the direction of my life from that day forward!

Rick: Is there any one thing about living and working in Chicago that you love the most? What's your favorite thing?

Kathy: I can’t name just one thing – I love it all. First of all, it’s visually and architecturally spectacular…it takes my breath away almost every morning I drive down Lake Shore Drive to work. I love the lake…and try to use it as much as possible in summer to take my dog to the beach. I love the neighborhoods…the city is an amazingly diverse melting pot which we’re lucky to have at our fingertips. I love the food – everything from Indian, to Thai, to fine dining like Alinea, to joints like Mr. Beef. I love the sports teams – even though the Cubs always disappoint, there’s nothing better than a summer afternoon at Wrigley. And how about our live theater scene, music scene, or Millennium Park? I feel lucky to live here each and every day.

Rick: In your job you've met just about everyone. Who would you say was your most memorable brush with greatness?

Kathy: This profession has enabled me to meet a lot of famous people, but I was most impressed by meeting a music business hero of mine – legendary rock singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. She’s famous for not loving the spotlight, but I approached her at a party while I was covering the first Farm Aid in Champaign and she and I had a lovely conversation for about 40 minutes –covering things like childhood, growing up in Canada versus growing up in the Midwest, spirituality, the music/radio business, etc. Her music’s always made a major impression on me and it was so rewarding to have a “real” conversation with a music business legend, instead of the typical “meet and greet” that we often experience in this business.

Rick: What is the most rewarding thing about working in radio?

Kathy: At the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up….it’s been amazing to work at a station like The Drive where I feel as if everything is being done right & the airstaff gets respect from management each and every day. They recognize we’re all pros and they let us do our jobs accordingly. I feel as if this is my karmic reward for all of the professional volatility I’ve been through since I started in this wonderful, often frustrating, and crazy business.

Rick: That's the good side of this business. Let's talk about the bad side. What is the worst advice given to you by radio management?

Years ago (long before I worked at the Drive), I was asked to lie about the weather forecast because the station was sponsoring a big outdoor promotion and rain was expected!!!! When I didn’t do it I was screamed at and accused of trying to single handedly bring down the entire promotion! By telling the truth about the weather. It’s hilarious in retrospect.