Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's September interview with Andie Summers
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Background check: (quick recap of your career) I started in radio when I was a Mass Communications student at Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania. I took a part time job at a small mom-and-pop station to earn some extra money and I never left the industry. I was hired full time after graduation and stayed for about half a year before moving to mornings at WGGY in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, and after three years I moved on to WXTU in Philly where I've been since 1999.
When did you first know you wanted to be on the radio?
I never really knew radio is what I wanted to do with my life, but by the time I was in fourth grade I was reading the newspaper aloud into my tape recorder. What's funny is, right around that same time, I was in Girl Scouts and we took a tour of a local radio station. I was the only one who wouldn't go into the studio because I was freaked out. The studio was dark, smoky and smelled funky and the DJ looked like he nourished himself with nothing but cigarettes. Little did I know 12 years later I'd be working in the studio next to that guy!
Do you remember your first day on the air?
I hated country music, but I needed the money, so I showed up to this little 6,000 watt station with my shiny new headphones and a swarm of butterflies in my belly. I was led upstairs to the studio where I studied the jock who had the shift before me. I learned how to run the board and I was ready! Then, just before my first talk break, my MD walked in and said, "Oh! I almost forgot! You can't use your real name, introduce yourself as Frosty O'Brien." I cried, and never got to talk on the radio that day.
And if you hadn't gotten into a control room, what would Andie most likely be doing today?
If it weren't for radio I would be a receptionist -- or a speech writer
this one. Apparently, she and my dad always thought I would do something with writing but I didn't exactly have a strong work ethic, so maybe I would have talked about being a speech writer to people who called the business I was a receptionist for. I have always liked to talk.
Over the years at 'XTU you've gone through some partner changes, but you've held steady and the show continues to do well. What's been your secret to keeping the show on track?
I think my situation is unique. I'm lucky enough to have worked with the best -- and smart enough to realize it. Over the years I absorbed as much as I could from amazing talents like Scott Evans and Steve Harmon. Harmon taught me how to keep things fresh and think outside the box. And for 10 years I watched Scott conduct the most interesting interviews you've ever heard. I didn't realize how much I learned from him until I started doing interviews without him, and the conversations just seem to flow. After working with guys like that it just doesn't make sense to reinvent the wheel.
What's the hardest part of working with someone new?
Reading each other's mind. It is the thing I find most frustrating about this job. We are in the communications business, yet tend to communicate so poorly.
Have you ever thrown anything at another host? Hit or miss?
Ahhhh, I wish! But I was on the receiving end. My first morning show gig was at that small station in Bloomsburg. I was in my early 20s and paired up with an old talk veteran in his 70s. God bless that man. He thought he was God's gift to the world, except his hearing hadn't kept up with his career and his headphones would feed back through the microphone. Apparently, he thought it was my fault and one day threw his headphones at me! That's one of the good things about being a woman in radio -- when my bosses saw what happened they protected me like their daughter. That was his last day on the air.
Okay, the "women in radio questions:" You're a female anchor in a major market. There are certainly others. For instance, Tiffany who's in
Oh, I hate this subject. I think there is a fundamental difference between men and women. Maybe it has to do with testosterone. It definitely has to do with ego. But the bottom line is this -- if a woman wants to anchor a show she will. It's not about your audience wanting to hear a man more than a woman -- your audience wants a good show and if you're good they won't care what your gender is.
Do you think as a female personality that what you say on the air is more scrutinized that what guys say?
I cannot think of an instance when that has been the case, but listen, men and women are different, we're not just perceived that way. Personally, I don't want to hear a woman tell a dick joke, but that doesn't mean I think a woman's role is in the background laughing at it.
Knowledge is power. You have to know your audience and what it wants and fulfill it. It's not rocket science! I get so sick of hearing women talk about how frustrated they are because they feel like they're being held back. If you're letting your male partner determine the talent you are, then yeah, he's going to hold you back - but you're letting him. By no means am I suggesting that you go into work tomorrow morning and change the dynamics of the show - that's the worst thing you can do. But you do have to decide what's right for you and for the show. If they are not the same, it's time to move on.
We're all in marriages with people that we're not in love with (well, most of us) - it's hard! But you have to figure out what's right. I wasn't always happy being the number two, but being the number two for a talented number 1 made me better, so it was worth the frustration.
To the woman reading this who secretly wants to strangle her partner, but is afraid of saying anything because she doesn't want to lose her gig, what would you advise?
I think I can speak for the men who have worked with me when I say that the feeling is probably mutual! My advice: stop being the victim and start taking responsibility. It all goes back to communication. It's rarely easy to hash out these differences, but you'll be better off and so will your show.
Philadelphia was one of the first markets to get PPM. How did it effect your show?
At first, we completely over-analyzed the data. If you're not a PPM market yet, let me explain. PPM allows you to see who is listening when - right down to the minute. But just because you lost a meter when you did a bit doesn't mean the bit was bad. Life happens. People go to the bathroom, they answer the phone, they to go to work. It's easy to get caught up in the minutia, but now I think we've found a groove.
What things are you doing differently now as a result of PPM?
We plan our breaks, not just what they're about, but who will take what side and how we're getting in and out. We play a little more music, tease contests and bits a lot more effectively, and keep everything tight. We do what we should have been doing all along, and were! We're just more diligent about it now because we can actually see what happens when we're not.
Are you one of those morning hosts who reads ratings data cover to cover?
Hell, no. I don't have time to figure out all those numbers -- I was a communications major, remember? That's what my PD is for. He gives me the info and we talk about how to use it. It's a team effort.
Let's talk about the show: Give us some of your most memorable moments on the air in Philly?
As I'm answering these questions I'm also preparing for our 9/11 show, so the first thing that comes to mind is my trip to Germany with the Air Force Reserve. I think it was the fifth anniversary of the attacks when I went on a refueling mission with reservists. We flew a tanker across the Atlantic Ocean, refueling fighter jets along the way, and landed in Landstuhl, Germany where I was able to visit with and interview some of the troops from the Philadelphia Area who were hospitalized after fighting in "the sandbox." Talk about getting real. Knowing we cared made them feel good - and their families left behind.
Go ahead and say it: which Country artist(s) hit on you in the studio?
Ah, yes. Let's talk about Jamey Johnson. (I feel pretty pathetic that this is the story I have for you.) Jamey was in the studio with us one morning and while we were closing the show and thanking him for performing, he said, "I just wanna say - Andie is one tall drink of water and I'd like to sip me some." I'm still trying to wash that icky feeling away.
Where do you get most of your ideas?
Most of my ideas come from life. Mine, my friends, my Facebook friends. Facebook has become one of my best sources for show prep. I read the news feeds to find out what my listeners are watching, listening to and doing with their kids - and that's what we talk about. Facebook and Twitter have also become great resources to try out phoners before we put them on the air.
If we get some good responses we go with it -- and contact some of the responders before-hand so we have some good calls in the can before we even get going.
Unusual fact about Andie that you've never shared with anyone prior to this interview.
When I grow up I want to be an Iron Chef. I know I said that if I never set foot in a studio I would probably be a receptionist, but if it were to all go away tomorrow, I'd probably go to culinary school and open a restaurant -- and answer my own phone.