March SanDiegoRadio Spotlight - The Radio Edition

By Joe Nelson
SanDiegoRadio Spotlight - The Radio Edition

March 2016

Ryan Hunter

Editor's Note: While this is an unusual Spotlight only due to the fact that Ryan is leaving San Diego as he has accepted a position in AZ, I promised him a Spotlight, and I always keep my word. 

What is your current position? 
Well, that depends on what day of the week it is... Like most people in modern radio I wear a number of hats, but I've always been happy to take on anything the cluster needs. Lately I've been spending most of my time hosting the morning show on Easy 98.1. Sometimes it's Traffic Reporter & Producer when the amazing Kelly Danek is unavailable, behind the scenes it's Production Assistant and editor of David Boylan's Lick the Plate which came to Entercom after KPRI flipped. I've had a few other titles over the past six years, most notably the afternoon host on "Smooth 98.1" in 2012 after the station flipped from smooth jazz and Intern Director which is one of the things I'm most proud of. I only took on one or two students at a time which allowed me to focus on mentoring then on a much more personal level. Here soon though it will be Promotions Manager and Mid Day Host for a country station in Flagstaff Arizona.

How are things with you right now? 
Life, work….. I'm not gonna say life is perfect but I'm also not in a position to complain either. I've got a roof over my head, I have loving and supportive people all around me, and I'm about to start a whole new chapter in my career. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I've made good on some promises I made to my mom last July before she lost her year long battle with cancer. I really wasn't sure if I was going to continue my radio career hen she died, as silly as this sounds now I didn't think I could do a show without getting that text message after my last break saying "Excellent Show! I love you!" The amount of love and support that came from radio family during that time meant more than I can ever explain, such an amazing group of folks.

San Diego… What is your favorite place to visit?
I have a quite a few spots I love to visit in the county, most importantly is Tamarack State Beach in Carlsbad which is what sparked us to move here in 2010. My wife and I were married on that beach in 2008, my moms ashes are a mile out from there, it's an emotional and sacred place to me. Some of my other favorite spots are the beautiful and historic Missions in Oceanside and San Diego, I love going to games at Petco Park, the free Tuesdays at the museums in Balboa Park, all the little pubs on PCH in South Oceanisde... There's lot of places I love in San Diego County, certainly no shortage of awesome stuff to do in San Diego. I wish I would've had more free time to enjoy it all but like many people here I had multiple jobs and days off frequently were dedicated to sleeping or catching up on bills or laundry. Living in Paradise doesn't come cheap.

Is your job still as exciting like it was day one?

Oh hell yes. But I'm also fairly nuts and genuinely enjoy just about every aspect of radio. Even the mundane stuff like dubbing in barters or playing board op. It's the knowledge that what you are doing will go out to the masses, that spot you in ingest is possibly going to influence someone, if you screw up while board oping thousands of people might hear your screw up. Plus it's been my only dream since I can remember, had you interviewed me at 8 years old I'd have told you I wanted to be a DJ when I grew up, I'm almost 35 now and I still feel just as passionate about radio.

Where is your favorite place to go out and eat?
People are going to laugh at me for this but it's Del Taco. Don't get me wrong, I love real, authentic, Mexican food and I give a good portion of my paycheck to Robertos, but if it's just about guilty pleasure and my favorite place to eat than it's all about Del Taco... Im at the one in Mission Valley often enough that I'm on a first name basis with the overnight people. Roy and Hortencia, thanks for making my burritos! By the way, both of them work way harder than I ever have. If anyone reading this has a restaurant you should go grab these two and give them better jobs.

What are some facts about you that maybe no one knows, but could be interesting?
I have a serious obsession with ceramic chickens. I've been an ordained minister since 2007 and officiated a wedding as recently as December 2015. I had a old Shure school microphone tattooed on my arm immediately after my very first shift on the radio. Before I worked in broadcasting I had a career with animals and once made my living teaching exotic birds to speak and do tricks. I'm a pretty skilled baker, if I left radio I'd probably do it for a living. Want a homemade NY style cheesecake? Just give me an hour in the kitchen and another 20 to make sure it cooled and set properly. My grandma and great grandma taught me almost everything I know in the kitchen, if it isn't from scratch I didn't really make it.

How do you view radio now, compared to the past, then looking to the future?
It's a completely different thing than it was 10 or even 15 years ago and if you don't change with it you're not going to survive. We already live in an era where 75% of radio is voice tracked. The days of being able to make a living as just a jock are long dead and currently we are still in this awkward, traditional phase. If you listen to the radio 25 years ago everyone sounded like an announcer, today anyone with that delivery just sounds sad and outdated. I don't envy anyone in school for broadcasting right now, it's going to take some years before what's being taught in classroom to catch up to with what will get you hired in the real world. The reason that happens is many of the folks teaching it are from a previous generation that is no longer marketable. If I were coming in now I'd focus more on social networking and web content than inflection or worry about how smooth your voice is. One thing that scares me about the future of radio is the lack of part time, entry level, on air positions. I really think radio has shot itself in the foot in that regard, part timers are future full timers. With fewer and fewer entry level part time gigs I don't see how younger folks coming into the game will polish their craft or how stations will fill spots as people retire or move on to other things.

With Social Media being so prevalent, tell me the advantages of using FB, Instagram, Twitter to connect with your listeners...
The benefits outweigh the negatives for sure, but there is a ton of pressure on jocks to be automatically Facebook stars. I think there is an assumption that if a jock is great on air they'll have the same reception on Facebook which isn't always the case. But like it or not social networking is here to stay and you have to embrace it if you want to succeed, it's been a lot on easier on the younger folks in radio. Well, except for one of my radio heroes Nick Upton, he could run circles around my 12 year old nephew when it comes to that stuff. I've really been enjoying making videos for our Facebook page, I worked behind the scenes in television for more than ten years so it feels good to put a little bit of that experience to use. 

Kelly Danek & Ryan

How vital is the connection between an on-air personality and the listener?
Connecting to the listener is everything, it's why I chose this crazy career path in the first place. I was an only child raised by a single mom, I was shy, overweight, and got picked on bad enough where my mom put me in independent study or home school. From 7th grade on most of my childhood was spent listening to the radio, I remember waiting on the phone or calling over and over again to put in my vote for the most requested song that night, the excitement I felt when the DJ would play my call back on the radio. I've established some real friendships with listeners, answering the phones is one of my favorite parts of the job because a conversation is still the best way to communicate, the world would improve if all did more it actually. I am grateful it was still mostly live radio back in the 90's when I was a kid, that's why I try really hard to answer every call, I'm paying it forward... or t least trying to.

What is your favorite movie?
I have two, first one is a move most people haven't heard of called "Wrist Cutters - A Love Story". It's a beautiful, dark, almost comedy maybe. Struggling with anxiety and depression my entire life it really spoke to me, plus Tom Waits plays God so what else do you need? And second is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I've been obsessed wth Hunter S Thompson since I was about 16, I've read damn near every word the man ever wrote and Fear and Loathing is easily my favorite of his works. I feared the adaption would butcher the pictures in my mind but it was quite the opposite.

What is your favorite radio moment?
I've got so many great memories in radio it's hard to narrow it down to just one. One of my earliest moments was back in 2008 or 2009 in Las Vegas, I'd just started dating my wife Rachel and she came with me to introduce Heidi Newfield from Trick Pony on Fremont Street. I was crazy in love, I was seeing my radio dreams become reality, and I was in that magical new love haze. As soon as I walked out on stage I noticed my ex girlfriend right up front in the crowd, this is the same woman who once convinced me to give up pursuing my radio dreams to take a job delivering furniture. She always told me I didn't have the voice and for whatever reason I believed her, the look on her face when I was on stage was unforgettable... I truly believe that people come in and out of your life for a reason, I wonder sometimes if I'd have worked so hard for it without that drive to prove her wrong. Another weird day in radio was playing board operator for Rev. Jesse Jackson once in Vegas. He was in town for whatever reason and used our studios for a broadcast back East, he was one the most friendly and approachable famous people I've ever met.

How long have you been in radio?
My first paid shift in radio was Christmas Eve of 2005 with Sunny 106.5 in Las Vegas. I had played intern for well over a year at that point and was disappointed that no positions were available there with Clear Channel. Suddenly a board op quit with no notice because he had asked for the holiday off but didn't get it. Even though mom had already bought me a plane ticket home I knew it was a rare chance and I had to jump on it. Just six months later I was on the air with the sister station playing country everySaturday night, all these years later I still play country on the weekends but now it's for KSON. On a side note to younger people coming in the game, don't expect weekends or holidays off and try like to never say no when opportunity comes your way.

Is there anything in particular you like about the San Diego market vs other markets you’ve worked in?
There's no other market quite like San Diego, the thing I like most about it is the same thing that I like the least about it, nobody ever wants to leave. I've never met so many radio people who have stayed here long term, to have jocks in the same position for 15, 20 years or more is almost unheard of anywhere else. It's also odd how talent seems to rotate around town from station to station, I know people who've worked for damn near every group in town. I've always been pretty happy at KSON & Easy so I've never really tried to go elsewhere within the market.
That full time radio will never happen for me in San Diego. I've spent six years working towards one single goal, a full time position. I don't think there's many people who worked with me that would say I didn't give it everything I had. I worked as many as four jobs to keep the dream alive, I worked 48 hours back to back every weekend between them the first few years in town. I lived in my car at times, lost friendships, missed every holiday, I have family that won't speak to me for not showing up for a funeral or wedding... If anything pisses me off more than anything it's this one old hold out from the so called "golden days" in radio that run into every so often. Every time I saw this guy he'd remind that no matter how much experience I have, no matter how good I was on the air, no matter how many awesome ratings books I gave them, that they would never give a part time jock a full time job. I hate that he was right. Another thing that makes me just straight up angry is when one of those lucky few who have a full time job complain about how much they don't like what I'd give everything for. I know mostly industry folks read this so if you have a full time gig here and you are miserable please move on, there's someone who'd love and appreciate your job and probably do it for half what you get it paid.

What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I almost feel bad saying this but it's broadcasting, it's a toss up between my first job at 14 taking care of animals for a small farm and dog boarder and bird trainer. At the farm I learned how to tell if a dog was going to bite me or not when I approached, I learned how to care for goats, chickens, cows, and even a dozen or so desert tortoises because the place was a state licensed rescue center for the awesome creatures. I stayed working with animals for a long time, that ended was about 19 or 20 when I was fired from a bird trainer position with Rain Forest Cafe in Las Vegas. I got the boot for a uniform violation, my tongue ring. I sure was an idiot back during the age I knew everything.

What broadcasters do you look up to?
There's a bunch of them and right on top of the list is Brooks O'Brian. Not only did she give me a chance on KSON, she was also the PD of KWNR in Las Vegas and is the woman who gave me a chance to go from board op to part time jock. She's also the one who let me fill in on the morning shift for the past few months. If not for that one ratings book I'd probably not have got this new opportunity in Arizona. Nick Upton has been one of radio heroes since I was kid, I'd always listen to him on the mid days on family trips to the beach. Kimo Jensen is another one who made me want to do this for a career, Steve West as well, those three especially still kinda make a bit star struck. I have a lot of respect for Mookie, Tim Pyles, From my early days in Vegas a shout out to my mentor Tom Chase. Here in town other folks I look up include Tommy Hough, Tayari Howard, JR Rogers, Rick Jackson, Kelly Cole, Steve Woods, Debbie Cruz, Dawne Davis, Mike Hansen, Hilary Chambers, Lenny B., Kelly Danek, and so many others. There's so many wonderful people have been so kind to me in my time here and I've learned a lot from them all. Special mention of KSON PD Kevin Callahan for always being helpful, honest, and straight forward and Entercom Chief Engineer Bill Eisenhamer for building the most beautiful and functional studios I've ever had the chance to work in.

If you could go back in time and work during any era of radio for a few days - which would you choose?
Somewhere between the late 1930's to the mid 1950's but as an actor instead of a jock. I would love to go back in time and have a role on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar or Dragnet, especially as a bad guy. That was a time when radio stars had the type of fame movie and TV stars have today. Look up Greg Bell Media if you're into that stuff, the guy has best collection around.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, thank you to you, Mr. Joe Nelson for this website, for your support, and friendship. When I first came to San Diego this site was an awesome bit of insight entering the market. I appreciate your work very much and I only wish there was a site like in the market I'm heading to next. I've got more than deep ties to San Diego, I have roots going back generations, my departure is merely a temporary side step, a needed notch in my belt to be able to come back and land a full time job in town. To be able to support my family in San Diego remains my long term goal. 

Thanks Ryan, best wishes on your new adventure and if anyone asks me who may fill a full time role here, You know I will be saying your name!  


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