His story comes from all corners, including Atlanta and Memphis (Collierville to be exact), but Stone Mountain, Georgia native Ryan McLaughin has now found a home in Birmingham. Trying his hand at managing UAB’s college radio station led to a job hosting at sports radio staple WJOX. He also writes about music & lifestyle for several sites. He talked with BHAMFM about the local sports radio fanbase, wild interviews with celebrities & what it’s like having a real job in media in the new millenium.
BHAMFM: How did you first get involved in radio?
Ryan: Going back a little bit here, but I first got intrigued with the idea of a media career back in High School. My school offered a TV Production course that I loved. We made intros for our school’s morning news show, music videos,a music-themed TV show and more. Fastforward to college and I decided to give BlazeRadio a try (even though I was an Exercise Science major).
BHAMFM: How long were you at BlazeRadio and how was your experience running the station?
Ryan: I actually started at BlazeRadio during my senior year. Again, just something I decided I’d try out. At first my shows were relatively simple and had a small audience (read: family). I did three shows a week: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all two hours a piece. I eventually traded between countdowns and music-based talk formats, similar to what you hear on Urban FM stations. Running the station was probably the best experience I had out of my whole tenure with the station. Got to learn my management style and learn just how difficult it was to manage 30 different personalities! It got a little crazy, but having well-balanced people assist me throughout made it definitely worthwhile and a whole lot less stressful. I feel as if the roster we had allowed us to be dynamic in how we were presented on campus!
BHAMFM: What was your favorite show to host there (sports or music) and who else hosted?
Ryan: Whew, I had a TON of different shows while on there. As far as my own shows were concerned, it was a tie between the BlazeRadio 15 and The Sports Forum. The BlazeRadio 15 went from a countdown to more of a news-based show, but it focused on odd stories rather than standard news fare. My co-hosts rotated from LeBaron (known as Baron Amato), Haruskii, Cam, KeeKee, Lauren Woods (now a News Producer in Arkansas), Mimi Turner, Conrad Atkins and more, all good friends of mine! The Sports Forum was hosted by myself, Daniel Seahorn (Asst. Coach at Tyler Community College) and Chris Sturdivant (does something at 95.7 JAMZ). As far as other shows I loved being part of? LB’s “The Butter”, “The Chris Sturdivant Show”, “Roxie’s Rock Hour” and so many more.
BHAMFM: What did you do right after graduating?
Ryan: I somehow backed into a job with Citadel Broadcasting (now Cumulus Media), their Birmingham offices broadcast WJOX 94.5FM, HOT 107.7FM, 100WAPI (now 1070WAPI), 99.5 The Vibe (formerly Rock99) and more. I had actually interned with the guys of The Roundtable, JOX’s midday program, and due to great references from SaBerre and Rockstar, was hired as a Promotions Tech. I was basically one of the guys who help setup for different events that the station would host/broadcast, but being that I was the new guy, I mainly watched Orlando and Brian (two great guys who helped me through a lot at the time) do the job while occasionally given my own tasks. After about 5 months, I was asked to fill-in as Richard Dixon (Afternoon host on 100/1070WAPI)’s Board Op due to the unfortunate and unexpected passing of his then producer, Christopher Kane. I learned a lot during that timeframe, Dixon has worked in the industry for a long time and even though I was very stubborn coming out of college, some of the knowledge he passed on to me did stick. I was lucky to hang around as long as I did. Even got to do some odd-jobs around the building as far as production was concerned, and leeched my way onto JOX.
BHAMFM: What was your first job at JOX like and how does it compare to what you do now?
Ryan: I started off as a board operator for any Alabama or NFL games that came on so I could make some extra cash. Eventually David Sears and John SaBerre asked me if I could run the board for their Friday Night Football show, I accepted and was able to spend some of my actual work time talking sports rather than politics…or food, which Dixon and I got into a LOT. Eventually the three of us earned a spot on the Saturday Late-Morning slot with “JOX Gameday Overtime”, transitioning into the hosts “JOX Gameday” itself. We later added Joe Hunk to the mix. I was amazed by how many people love College Football so much that they would willingly listen to (then) three (now four) dweebs babble on about it with little to no coherency to the program whatsoever. As time went on, we grew more confident in our abilities and knowledge and now have a solid show with a solid audience. I still work with them part time, even though I do not work in radio full-time at the moment (I work with UAB).
BHAMFM: Spoooooorts question. What are your favorite teams, pro or otherwise?
Ryan: My family is full of Oakland Raiders fans since my Mom is from LA (and of course there was a time when they were the LA Raiders), she convinced to follow this path as well. My Pops is an Eagles fan because he grew up with one of their all-time great players, Harold Carmichael. I grew up in Atlanta and became a Falcons fan, it was solidified when Michael Vick was drafted back in 01.
BHAMFM: Who are your favorite Birmingham artists?
Ryan: I don’t have one per se, Haruskii (who’s gone by several aliases) is one of my favorites… and he’s a good friend of mine. Big fan of The Nu Nation and GA Band “All The Locals”…..not all of those are Birmingham folks, but yeah….
BHAMFM: What was your craziest interview ever?
Ryan: Not sure if I had a CRAZY one, but I have had some odd ones. When I worked for WAPI, Chris Kattan (of Roxbury, SNL fame) came to the studio and gave one of the most awkward interviews I’ve ever bared witness to. It wasn’t even like watching a trainwreck; it was something much more intriguing. Most interesting interview I have conducted probably goes to the guys of MyWayEntertainment, back when the Juggernaut/X-Men parody was going viral.
BHAMFM: On that same note, how is it dealing with regular sports radio callers? It can get crazy in Birmingham.
Ryan: It’s….interesting to say the least. I didn’t grow up a college football fan, but I certainly enjoy it since I consider myself a football junkie. It’s fun conversing with people who feel as passionate about a sport as you do, even if you don’t focus on the same levels. It’s easy to go and call some of the people that we interact with every Saturday “crazy”, because they can be overzealous, but it all comes from a passion that they share. In Georgia, I grew up a Falcons fan, living for every Sunday, in Alabama they grow up Alabama/Auburn fans, and live for every Saturday. Same idea, different day.
BHAMFM: Do you have a 5 or 10 year plan for what you want to do in radio? What do you ultimately want to end up doing?
Ryan: You know, I’ve worked and reworked various ideas in my head and I’m at the point where I’m letting life take me where it needs to take me. Before I make decisions now, I try and ask myself “do I NEED to do this? How does it benefit me in the long run?”. I’m enjoying myself and what life has to offer, and a woman that I love and care for dearly, so I really can’t just up and make decisions without thinking things through anymore. I’m writing part-time, so we’ll see how that develops over time, and I would love to find myself on the other side of the glass in the near future, but I have to work on my craft and make myself and my personality an entity that a company would want representing them. Right now I’m working in higher-ed, and loving it, since it’s in a department I never would have thought about working in, and again, if the right opportunity arose, I would probably stay in it, it definitely has its perks!
BTW, Ryan’s show is JOX Gameday. It airs Saturdays from 8am to 11am on JOX 94.5FM, it can be found online at joxfm.com or iheartradio.com. He’s also now writing on occasion for From The Rafters at fromtherafters.com