I recently watched the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” and hearing the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga” struck a chord that got me thinking — especially the line, “Radio, someone still loves you.” I owe my love of radio to my Uncle, Jack Siegal.
“Radio Ga Ga” was released in January 1984. It was a commentary on television overtaking radio’s popularity — a nostalgic longing for the days when families would gather in the living room to listen to their favorite programs. While the majority of my broadcast career has been spent in television, I always hung on to my radio roots and the man behind the mic who inspired me to branch out and keep radio on my career dial, so much so that I have spent the past decade working in Talk radio, finding my voice, and listening to the ever-present whisper of my Uncle Jack. “What you’re doing has an impact.” “You can do this.” “Success comes with hard work and dedication.”
As I sit weekdays in my WLS-AM 890 studio delivering afternoon news Drive time reports and contributing to our Talk programming, I take great pride in knowing that the voice inside my head is, and will always be, a true master in the radio world. I have fond memories of my Uncle Jack that take me back to when I was a young girl visiting him in Los Angeles. He was 6 foot 2, with dark hair and the most powerful voice I had ever heard. It wasn’t just his sound, but what he had to say, that has resonated with me throughout my life. “Words matter.” “It’s your job to inform and educate the public.” “Find a different angle than your peers.” “Make a difference.” He was a radio executive at the time, owning two stations in Orange County, California. But how he got there is the real story. Uncle Jack was born and raised in Philadelphia. As a student at the University of Pennsylvania he launched WXPN radio, one of Philadelphia’s iconic stations.
After graduating he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a radio combat correspondent in the Korean War, going on dangerous missions, like reconnaissance patrols into enemy territory. Later he helped arrange radio and television coverage of the Korean War truce negotiations at Kaesong and Panmunjom. His wartime experiences helped shape his future. He went on to work as a reporter and director on Edward R Murrow’s “See It Now” on CBS, to manage IBM Radio, and to cover the Gemini and Apollo space missions. In the 1960’s he transitioned to developing television and radio stations in Vermont in an effort to engage listeners and build an audience. Ten years later he moved to Los Angeles to launch numerous radio stations including 98.7 on the FM dial, KJOI, and later a Korean language AM operation.
My Uncle Jack and I took many long walks and had many interesting and inspirational conversations. I loved hearing his reflections on the places he had visited, the people he encountered, the stories he got to tell, and what drove him to become an entrepreneur. He made me want to be a better and more dedicated journalist. He taught me that nothing comes easy in life. You have to earn it and even then you will have your successes and failures. He passed away on July 16th, 2004 and though he knew I had some radio experience while working in TV news, he never got the opportunity to see me at work in the booth, hosting hours of news talk and conducting long interviews with experts from all over the world. I hope he’d be proud to know that he’s been the voice inside my head, pushing me to do my best and never give up.
Who is the voice inside your head?