Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, October 5, 2012.
Permit me to relate the first presidential debate of 2012 to a personal story.
In 1977 I was young and ambitious as all hell and a fairly recent hire at WFAA Radio in Dallas, the station at which I left being on the air as a disc jockey and became, instead, an advertising salesman.
A mentor convinced me that in the radio broadcasting business, the road to management and the carpeted offices and the nice cars runs through the sales department. I was determined to succeed.
It turned out I had a knack for it. I believed in the medium. Having been on the air, I had experienced the nearly visceral jolt of opening a mic, saying something on the air, and getting instant audience reaction. I was then, and am now, a real fan of radio as a way to communicate one-on-one, yet on a mass basis.
Not long after my arrival at WFAA the station abandoned music programming for the then almost entirely new genre of fulltime talk radio. Sales prospects would ask me, “What kind of music do you play?” and I’d have to explain that we played no music at all. It was not always an easy sell. Being first at something is often a hard slog.
As a result, revenues for the all new talk format were coming very slowly.
Which led to a sales meeting at which the station manager presented the following bright idea. The National Association of Home Builders is holding its annual convention in Dallas in a month. It’s a big, big gathering. We’re going to declare WFAA as the “Official Station of the Homebuilders Show.” All of these thousands of homebuilding industry people will be in town and will be listening to the station. This is a great chance to get out and call on restaurants and bars and entertainment venues and sell them an “Official Home Builders Association Convention Advertising Package.”
I will concede that it was a pretty safe bet that the visiting home builders would be hitting the restaurants and the bars. Especially the bars. But it was unlikely in the extreme that any such patronage would occur as a result of any of them having heard a radio commercial on WFAA. Think about the last convention you attended. Did you, first thing, sit with the clock radio in your hotel room and find a radio station you liked?
Or did you just go find the bar?
I thought the whole proposition was preposterous. I hated the home builders package. I hated being forced to sell it. I thought that if I did convince some poor restaurant owner to buy it, I would be party to a fraud. (I did, in fact, sell a couple of the packages just to keep the management off of me; one to a Greek restaurant in Dallas that’s still there. That the business survives is a balm to my guilty conscience.)
The homebuilders package wasn’t a big seller. None who bought it ever became regular advertisers on WFAA.
Because it wasn’t selling, we had daily sales meetings to report our progress. I hated the meetings most of all. I couldn’t wait for the homebuilders convention to come and go so that it would all be over. I was beginning to wonder if radio sales was right career choice after all. At one point in one such meeting, the sales manager asked me, “Why do you keep looking down?”
The analogy is not exact but I was nonetheless reminded of myself and the awful homebuilders package as I watched President Obama at the debate with his head down all night.
He hated being there. He wants it all to be over.
And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that just as I was questioning my career choice during the homebuilders package debacle, so too is Obama questioning if he really wants to be president for another four years.
Obama’s lack of enthusiasm for the exchange with Romney was palpable. I think President Obama likes the title but now hates the job.
What I saw Wednesday night was the face of a man who dreads going to work.
And to his right he saw a man with the potential to address that problem on November 6.