The Arizona Broadcasters Association has selected four to be inducted into ABA’s 26th Annual Hall of Fame class. The 2015 inductees, chosen based on their contributions to broadcast journalism, are Bill Buckmaster, Tom Dillon (who is being inducted posthumously), Maurie Helle and Barry Young.
Radio World recently caught up with Buckmaster, Helle and Young, who remembered career highlights and gave some advice for those just starting out.
Radio World: What has been the highlight of your broadcast career?
Bill Buckmaster: Starting my own communications business (Bill Buckmaster Communications LLC) five years ago and getting back into radio. Radio is where I started by career as a broadcast intern at WIND(AM) Chicago in the summer of 1967. After working for other people for decades, it is great to be your own boss. The Buckmaster radio show is the love of my life!
Maurie Helle: I would be surprised if all three of us did not answer that the recognition by our peers in the Arizona Broadcasters Hall of Fame shines above anything else. Second for me would be the Gold Circle Award for 50 years in television production.
Barry Young: Over a span of 47 years, there is no one, single highlight. Talk radio is an active listening experience. It’s not something that’s played in the background. So it’s humbling and rewarding to realize that, over all that time, listeners — a lot of them — believed in me enough (and the product that I was creating each day) to actually listen to what I had to say. And so, perhaps, the entire four and a half decades has been a highlight.
RW: What do you value most about your ABA membership?
Buckmaster: Being with other people in the business and keeping up to date with the latest trends in the industry.
Helle: What I value most is that Hall of Fame recognition was awarded by the very best that Arizona broadcasters have. And that when you are over-the-hill, it is nice to know you reached the summit. You would be amazed at the people who nominated me. Consider how rare it is that a producer-director received this recognition; usually it goes to talent and/or management.
RW: What advice would you give young professionals who hope to also make a career in this industry?
Buckmaster: Keep at it! It can be very frustrating trying to get ahead in this very competitive industry. A great work attitude will pay off!
Helle: I have mentored several people who are now successful broadcasters. I tell them: “Use the passion you have for broadcasting to help you handle the pitfalls and disappointments that may occur during your career. If you don’t understand that passion, pick a different career.”
Young: And I thought it was hard breaking into this business back in 1966! It’s harder now. You have to begin small where you can learn from mistakes without costing the company a fatal ratings blow and costing yourself a job. Go to a small town. Get a job in radio or television. Lay aside grandiose dreams of instant celebrity. Far too many young “wanna-be” broadcasters have somehow come to believe that they can simply begin their careers in large markets, in large-station environments. Clearly, you cannot. Letterman didn’t. Neither did Carson, Limbaugh, Steve Allen, Howard Stern or anyone else. Want to be in theater? Go to a small town and join a community theater. Work hard. Learn all you can. Always look for the next thing to come. What to be in radio or TV? Go to the smallest stations in the smallest towns and put yourself out there. Do virtually any job in the business you can find. Learn everything from everybody. A broadcast degree is good. But nothing is better than actually working with experienced broadcasters in as many markets as you can. Resist conformity. Find your own style and voice. No one ever made it by being just like Rush Limbaugh or just like Don Imus. Find your unique self and do not settle for anything less. One more thing: If you want to be successful in this business, or any other (but especially this business) you must want it more than anything else in your life. You have to live it and breathe it and think it and dream it every hour of everyday. Do anything less, and you will fail. Remember that life is hard. But radio is harder.