Saturday, September 25, 2010
Rick: WGN has been getting a lot of criticism lately, but I think your show (ChicagoNow Radio) is a nice addition to the Saturday lineup. For those that haven't tuned in yet, how would you describe the show?
Rick: When I heard that you were going to host the show, I figured, OK--that makes sense. You're a writer for ChicagoNow, you've got the radio background, and you did a lot of interviews at Q-101. But this is a whole different ballgame, isn't it? How do you like the challenge of doing a full-fledged talk show?
Alex: Man, you ain't kidding. There's no rollin' in ten minutes before showtime and winging it. (Well, I guess you could, but it's glaringly obvious if you did. And bad.) I love it. I also appreciate the freedom that Dan and Kevin have given us, formatically. The challenge also is eased when you have a solid producer. Matt Mattucci and Kristin Decker both do great work for us. The show wouldn't be anything without their work.
Rick: WGN is a Chicago institution, obviously. What does it mean to you to be broadcasting from those iconic studios on Michigan Avenue?
Rick: I met your co-host Amy Guth at one of her Reading Under the Influence events at Sheffield's (when I read--under the influence--from one of my books). She's a natural on the air. Has she done radio before this?
Rick: Now I see you've also added a Friday night football show to your list of duties. Tell me more about that show.
Alex: Preps Plus Chicago is our way of leveraging our excellent resources within the Tribune's Preps Plus section. They've got a fleet of reporters out across Chicagoland every Friday night; we put 'em on the air live to give their first-hand accounts of the best games on the slate. It's fast-paced, rapid-fire, instant results and analysis. (Executive producer Justin Weiner has some of the fastest dialing fingers in the radio biz.) It starts at 10:30pm every Friday night, barring any Cubs/Blackhawks/Wildcats preemption. And if the first show is any example...we'll be out of breath by 11:00:01 every Friday night this season.
Rick: You and I actually have a lot in common. For one thing, we share an alma mater (University of Illinois). For another thing, we both got our radio start there (although mine, sadly, was about fifteen years earlier). My mom hates when I say this, but I learned more valuable information from my stint at WPGU (I was the PD too--like you) than I did in my journalism classes. How did your stint at that radio station help you in your career?
On a more serious note, joining the unofficial fraternity of WPGU alums has been a lifelong comfort. Most of my best friends today are people I met there and fought alongside in the radio trenches.
Rick: You were at Q-101 off and on for most of the 00s (have we come up with a name for that decade yet)? What are some of your favorite moments from those years?
More recently, I got to host Corey Taylor's station takeover (photo) and interview Kirk Hammett. Easily two of the best rock stars I ever met through the job. I'm very grateful to Marc Young for giving me the call on those.
Rick: I know you grew up in Belvidere. Who did you listen to when you were growing up? And who are your biggest radio influences?
Alex: Sports-wise, I slept with the radio under the pillow for many Bulls and Cubs games. I also remember turning down the TV for Bears games and turning up Larrivee and Arkush because they were just better than the national crew. On the FM side, the two I distinctly remember are Jeff Wicker at WZOK and Pete McMurray on WXRX. First time I met Pete in the lunchroom at Emmis, I said something to the effect of "Pete, I used to listen to you all the time when I was growing up!" He looked at me sideways...I later realized that it may have come off like I was calling him "old". Pete is not old. In fact, he's in ten times better shape than I am and could probably lift a tour bus if needed.
Rick: You're also a writer/blogger for the Tribune (ChicagoNow and the Red Eye). What do you prefer--radio or writing--and why? And which direction do you see your career heading in the future?