Saturday, February 05, 2011
Mitch Rosen is the program director of WSCR, The Score (670 AM)
Rick: You got your start in radio at WGN producing the overnight show by Eddie Schwartz. What did you learn about broadcasting from Eddie, and what did he mean to you personally?
Rick: You came to the Loop along with Eddie in the early 90s, and that was a strange marriage from the beginning. Now with the benefit of nearly twenty years of hindsight, do you think that move was a good one for Ed? When I interviewed Ed shortly before his death he still thought it was. He said: "It gave me a chance to re-energize myself in a new environment and to work with some great people." Do you agree with him?
Mitch: The Eddie move to the Loop was like the nerd in school that always got picked on by the cool kids suddenly being asked to join their group. At WGN, Eddie and I were kind of on an island. Don't get me wrong, it was a great station, but it was overnights, and we kind of got lost in the shuffle.
At that time the Loop was the coolest station in America, and I was thrilled that Eddie asked me to go along for the ride. The truth is I didn't know it was the Loop until the day before he announced he was going there. I really thought we were going to WLS. I never imagined for a second that The Loop was the next stop on The Eddie Tour. I can still remember his call to me when it was close to being official. (Now try to imagine this in Eddie's high pitched voice). He said: “Kid, were going to the LOOP!!” I said "Really?" He said it was going to be fun and all the big boy personalities were on board.
The bottom line is that the other on-air stars welcomed us with open arms.
Rick: After producing Ed's show, you had another high-profile producing job--producing the morning show for Kevin Matthews--a man that lampooned Eddie more than anyone. I know Kevin pretty well, and I like him a lot, but I can't even imagine what it would be like producing his show. A producer needs to get inside the host's head, and with all those voices inside there, that would be extremely difficult. How did you do it?
Rick: After working on Kevin's show, you transitioned into management. Describe how that came about.
Mitch: It was always my goal, so I worked toward that. I learned from two of the best, Larry Wert and Jimmy de Castro. They taught me how to work with talent, and more importantly, how you work talent. They also taught me you have to take care of talent. That’s an important part of the job. Over the years, I think I've accomplished that.
Rick: How would you describe your management style?
Mitch: Pretty simple, really. Honesty, integrity, smart radio sense, and try to keep all employees happy. Also, it's important to remember that you can always be fair, but sometimes you can’t always be even. By that I mean that what works for some employees might not work for others.
Rick: You're the program director at the Score right now, but you've also programmed the other sports station in town. Describe the differences between the two stations from your perspective.
Mitch: The best news is that the sports radio format in Chicago is huge. Between both sports stations in town there are well over 1.5 million listeners per week. That's really incredible if you think about it. Five years ago that was unheard of. Men especially love sports talk on the radio.
As for who built this sports talk franchise, guys like Jeff Schwartz who along with Seth Mason, Ron Gleason, and Danny Lee were guys who helped pave the way for sports talk in Chicago and nationwide.
Rick: The ratings have swung back and forth between the two sports stations over the years, but currently the Score has got a pretty commanding overall lead. What do you think is the secret to the Score's recent success?
Mitch: Again, we keep it local. We focus on Chicago sports talk, and we present it with intelligent hosts doing smart topics. We brand the station as Chicago’s Sports Radio, because that’s truly what we are.
Rick: The White Sox seem to follow you from station to station--I know you were instrumental in bringing them aboard at the Score. How have you managed to establish such a close relationship with them, and what's the key to keeping the Sox happy?
Rick: Do your air personalities have to be careful about what they say about the Sox, or does anything go?
Mitch: We only have one rule. You can give your opinion, give your thoughts, give your passion, but do not get personal. So far so good.
Rick: A manager has got to be able to handle the talent, and you've had some real challenges over the years in sports talk. Which of the sports talkers you've worked with were the easiest to deal with, and which were the most difficult?
Mitch: All personalities are different in their individual ways. All have great talent and passion or they would not be on the air in Chicago. One of the shows I’m most of proud of is how Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley have made the transition from writers to radio personalities. The ratings in AM Drive have never been higher here at the Score. The competition in AM drive is fierce and these guys along with a great EP, Dustin Rhoades have been tremendous.
I could not be more proud of our starting line-up.