We met not for coffee, but for soda and water at The Highlander one overcast evening. He and I had known each other previously as acquaintances, but were taking the opportunity this blog provides to get to know one another better. The meeting started with the bad news about losing his job.
As an on-air host for a heritage radio station, Tony loved his work. He was dedicated to keeping his fans engaged and over the past 25 years he often took the initiative to create unique videos and content for them to enjoy both on and off the airwaves.
In fact, he’d been saving his pay for 2 years to purchase a unique video camera and equipment that would allow him to develop even higher quality content for his audience. But, as a family man, things with his kids just kept coming up so the money he saved would dwindle. One day he finally had what he needed and his wife urged him to buy it before another financial obligation could arise.
He did. “I just love that camera to death,” he passionately proclaimed, toying with the straw in his drink. Immediately he began using it to record himself while he was on-air so his listeners could see what happened behind the scenes. Additionally, Tony used his new equipment to create YouTube videos with a few of his other radio personality friends.
One friend lives in Washington, D.C. but hosts a radio program in New York. The other hosts the night show on Howard University radio and fills in on a CBS news station. Together the 3 of them created two popular vlogs, Men On Scandal where they recap every episode of Scandal from a male perspective, and Men On Everything where they discuss anything including news items.
25 Years of Faithful Service For Nothing?
Tony’s life changed dramatically, however, on May 16th. He wrapped up his usual show, was escorted to management and told “that’s it”. After 25 years of faithful service, he was told he would receive 2 weeks of insurance, his things would be mailed to him, and he was escorted out of the building.
He understands the entertainment industry, so while Tony was upset, he mostly understood. The thing that did bother him? No explanation. “I’ve been in this business long enough to know… it’s almost like a line in The Godfather, ‘this is the business we have chosen’. You can be executed at any time, so that’s what happened to me.”
The impact on Tony’s family was harder. His wife cried, his kids were scared, but he told them they’d be fine, but… “It’s been tough.” When we met he was burning through his retirement and working a part time hourly job filling in at another local radio station. “It keeps food in the house, but as far as keeping the house… that’s a whole different story.” At the time, Tony was looking for another on-air position and was willing to accept something in a different state. His challenge was “there aren’t many radio announcer jobs for 54 year old men”.
To top it off, Tony felt obligated to sell his hard-earned camera and equipment that he’d purchased just months prior to being let go. But, despite family concerns, Tony’s wife wouldn’t hear it. According to him, her response was something along the lines of, “No, if we sell it, it will be way down the road when we have nothing else left to sell because you worked very hard for it.”
More Than One Basket
In retrospect, Tony wishes he hadn’t placed all his eggs in one basket and that he should have been creating another stream of income. But based on our conversation, it sounds like he tried.
Several years before he created his own personal website. It was pretty simple as far as websites go, it only cost him $20 and he certainly wasn’t making any money on it. But, one day he was surprised when his former boss pulled him into the office with the company attorney and told him to shut it down. Though, after some conversation, it was decided that his personal website would re-direct visitors to his radio station page.
Knowing he signed a contract, Tony agreed. But the proposed solution was never implemented. He had handed over the keys to his website and it went nowhere. “I’d been building all this momentum and it was just shut down.”
In October of last year, he also created a show called iTonyTech. He covered basic tech news and occasionally just random videos. It took off fast and he now gets hundreds, sometimes thousands, of views. Overwhelmed by the support of his fans, he told me, “It’s just blowing me away how nice people have been to me.”
“I’m going to be homeless, literally homeless, if I don’t figure something out in 5 months. I pray and talk to a lot of people and hopefully… hopefully....” Tony was actively seeking a new position when we met quite a while ago. He told me he loved everything new media and would be perfectly content to make a living with vlogs and podcasts if possible.
“The radio business model is old and busted. Deregulation took the wind out of everything years ago. One company has a monopoly and it’s owned by a bank so they really don’t care about anything but the money.”
But despite it all, “I’ve been in love with radio since I was a kid.” And that’s a good thing because not long after we met Tony found gainful employment with Dallas radio station KRBN. So, he continues to work in the industry he loves.