Posts Tagged ‘don wadewitz’

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Welcome to another interview here on PBP Stories and thank you so much for reading the blog. If there’s someone you’d like to see interviewed please tweet me @michaelhirnpbp and I’ll see if I can get them on for an interview. Today I am thrilled to bring to you an interview with someone I have an immense amount of respect for, and a guy who has taught me a lot in broadcasting and a man I’m luck to call a friend in Wisconsin based broadcaster Don Wadewitz.

How long have you been in broadcasting?

In total, about 23 years! Yikes. In case you care, here’s the long story…

I started out in high school working afternoons at WHKQ in Racine, Wis. They had just gone to an automated system and needed someone to monitor the system from about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and some on weekends. It was an easy listening station so it was easy to get homework done. I did a bunch of odd jobs around the station too, including mowing the lawn and serving as a “security guard” for a money game they did for remotes.

Then, after I switched from print journalism to broadcast journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee, I started hosting a local music radio show called the Wisconsin Jukebox Radio Show. I got into local music thanks to my supervisor at my student job who was a member of The Gufs, who eventually got signed by Atlantic Records.

I was the first radio show to have a website…I even had a website before our station started one. I had bands from around the state come in studio for an interview and then they’d play live music on my show. For our station, this was really cutting edge stuff and I was honored to be the first recipient of the Don & Kay McNeill Award for Cretive Efforts in Student Broadcasting. Danny Pudi, star of the NBC show Community, received the Chris Farley Scholarship at the same awards ceremony. We see who’s career took off more thus far!

I did very little sports broadcasting while at Marquette but hooked up with the Racine Raiders, an adult amateur football team from my hometown, after graduation. They had just lost their broadcaster of several decades and were looking for a backup for the new two-man team. After filling in in 2002, they added a sideline reporter role that I would do when all three members of the broadcast team were available for a game. I took over the main broadcast duties during the 2011 season, becoming just the third regular broadcaster for the team in 50 years.

The Raiders gig led to opportunities to do high school sports on WRJN, the sister station of WHKQ (now WEZY) where I got my start in the broadcasting business. The connections I’ve made through adult amateur football then led to a position as the voice of a now defunct professional indoor team and my current position broadcasting high school and college sports in the Whitewater, Wis. area.

 
When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?
My dad has a letter I sent him when I was about ten years old that says, “Hold on to this card because it’s going to be worth something one day when I’m on Monday Night Football” or something close to that. I used to read the newspaper to my grandparents at an even younger age so, while I didn’t KNOW it, I’ve known I wanted to do this for most of my life.

How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?
I went to a talk with Dick Enberg last year and my wife came with me. Enberg said he spends three hours of prep for every hour he’s on the air. My wife not so subtly elbowed me and said, “Don’t even think about it.”

So, to balance one passion, my wife, and another passion, my sports broadcasting, I probably spend about four to six hours prepping for each game, a little under the three hours I got elbowed about.

Enberg also said his first radio job paid him $1 an hour. I recently figured out what I get paid for most of my broadcasts. When you figure in my travel to my full-time job (an hour-plus), the parking in downtown Madison, the minimum 30 minute drive to a broadcast and the hour or so drive home from a broadcast, I net about $.37 an hour on the conservative end. Enberg had it good.

What sports do you currently broadcast?
I currently broadcast football (high school and adult amateur), basketball (high school and college), baseball and softball. I’ve also done a little lacrosse, which is by far the most difficult sport I’ve ever done.

Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting?
I look up to anyone who is trying their best to make it in this crazy profession. Everyone in this business has something they can teach me.

Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?
I wouldn’t say I emulate anyone but I think you’ll notice a little bit of Matt Lepay (Wisconsin Badgers) and Wayne Larivee (Green Bay Packers) in my football calls and Ted Davis (Milwaukee Bucks) in my basketball calls. Still, I have my own style and I cherry-pick good things I hear people doing, regardless of what level they’re at currently.

What Was Your Most Challenging Assignment?
A friend was the head coach of a local college lacrosse team and they wanted to try broadcasting their games online. He asked me if I could help them get online broadcasts going and do a couple just as a trial. I never turn down an opportunity so I said I’d be glad to. Then he hit me with the news. The next game was just a few days away. I barely knew what lacrosse was at the time so I started looking online for as much information as I could find. I picked his brain, I spent hours on the Internet and, lucky for me, ESPN was doing wall-to-wall lacrosse all weekend so I got a lot of opportunities to listen to a lacrosse broadcast, even if it was a television broadcast. Luckily, he teamed me up with a guy who ended up being a great commentator and the broadcast went well.

What is your favorite on air story you can share with us?
The Racine Raiders made a bowl game and the game was played in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Needless to say, we were ecstatic to have a chance to broadcast a game from a current NFL stadium (all of the Raiders home broadcasts are from a former NFL stadium!), even if it’s not the most modern facility. At the time, we were still using a large bag, analog cellphone. This was right as the digital conversion was starting to take place.

Little did we know, the Twin Cities area had just gone all digital. To get analog service, you had to pay extra, basically like a roaming charge. We call in to the radio station and it asks for credit card information. We figured we’d have to do this once and then we’d submit the credit card bill noting the charge and get reimbursed. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Basically, every 30 minutes or so, we had to hang up, dial in again and enter the credit card info. Well, after doing this a couple of time on a card, the credit card company marked the card as possibly being used frauduently. We entered another card number. After the second time doing this, it got marked and was unusable. We ended up going through about eight credit cards and were actually out of cards to use and having to ask other staff members to use their credit cards just to keep the game on the air.

When all the dust settled, we got the game broadcast without losing much of the action as we were dialing in. When we figured out all of the bills on the credit cards, we paid nearly $300 to put that broadcast on the air. We lost a little money on that one.

If there is anything else or any stories you really want to share please feel free to do so.
I’ve been surprised by how willing people are to help you out in this business. For how cut throat it can appear and is, it’s refreshing to know that people are looking out for one another and generally happy for someone that is able to make it to the top through hard work and perseverance. There’s a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” in this business and it’s easy to see the cup as half empty rather than half full. It’s important to surround yourself with other peers in the industry that know when you need a kick-in-the-rear or a pick me up. It’s also good to surround yourself with others in the industry who are going to challenge you. I get motivated when I read friend’s social media postings and they’ve got a gig that night and I don’t. At that moment, I typically ask myself, “What are you going to do so that doesn’t happen tomorrow?” Then I go out and do something, anything, that is going to help me achieve more, even if it’s just listening to my latest broadcast and identifying where I can get better or sending an email to a contact just to touch base.

Make sure to check out Don’s website at www.donwadewitz.com and on twitter @DonWadewitz