A Chapter Closes…

by Russ Hill on February 22, 2011

Today marks the end of a long chapter in my life.

After more than 14 years working for one of broadcasting’s finest companies, I have announced my departure.  From Bonneville.  From radio.  From broadcasting.

Starting in my childhood I developed a deep affection for broadcasting and the news business.  I found something magical about speaking into a microphone and having thousands of people hear your voice across a city.  Combine that with the electricity of a newsroom and I was hooked.

My voice hasn’t been heard daily on radios for five years now.  But, the magic has been just as present as I’ve taken on the responsibility of formulating in my head content that could potentially attract hundreds of thousands of listeners and then turned those thoughts into successful products or shows.

I’ve spent the last 14 years at two of the finest broadcast outlets in the world working alongside some of the most talented in the industry.  I will miss greatly those daily interactions and being associated with the storied call letters of KTAR and KSL.

And, yet, I have felt for some time a strong draw to become more active in the media revolution that is transforming communication throughout our world.

Social Media

Mobile technology and social media have only begun to make their mark.  They are literally bringing down repressive government regimes as we speak.  The world is becoming a much more connected place overnight and the emerging social networks will literally affect almost all aspects of our lives.

The first time I walked into a newsroom I sensed the power that existed there.  They had the microphones, the transmitters, the huge antenna with the red blinking lights.  Everyone from the mayor to the car dealer to the crime victim needed those tools if they were to have a voice.  Not any longer.

Everyone now has their own transmitter – if you will.  All that’s needed is a phone, camera, or keyboard.  And, a Facebook account, YouTube password, or Twitter handle.

At the dawn of this historic media revolution, I have the unique opportunity to lead and build a company that will help individuals and businesses more fully grasp the implications of this sea change.  And, help them seize the opportunities.

I will do this at the new Ownd Media Group.  Our company will specialize in social marketing and digital brand development.  I’ll obviously have much more to say about this company and its vision and mission in the days to come.

I also want to share my thoughts on the future of radio.  I have some strong feelings and opinions and I’ll share them in this space tomorrow.

But, for the rest of today, I want to focus on the past.

Reliving the highlights

In the mid 90’s I stepped off a plane that finally brought me home.  I had just spent two years riding a bike across Southern California wearing a white shirt, tie, and black name tag.  Soon after arriving home I placed a call to a man who worked inside the Triad Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

That call led to a job.

That job led to a career.

Now, after a long run at Bonneville International my mind is filled with people’s faces and moments in time.  I know this will be a long list that will likely have little meaning for many of you, but allow me to relive a few of the highlights today.  I have included no names.  There are too many to mention.

  • Elizabeth Smart is alive!  And being the person who got to first declare that stunning news to the people of Utah.
  • Standing on the north beach of Sumatra Island in Indonesia where more than 100,000 people had just lost their lives in a tsunami.
  • Interviewing Ross Powers, Danny Kass, and Jarret Thomas after I watched them own the halfpipe in the 2002 Olympics.
  • The Towers.  Falling.
  • A staff that won more than a half dozen national Murrows.
  • Hosting Utah’s Noon News.
  • Getting engaged to my bride (of almost 15 years now!) live on KSL Radio.
  • Being humiliated by a staff that rated me THE worst manager in all Bonneville.  Their honesty profoundly changed me.
  • The red head who put her arm around me and helped me see my potential.
  • Sobbing as I laid my access card on the chair of a boss who had become a close friend as I left for a new opportunity.
  • Downloading the ratings on my computer a month after arriving at KTAR and panicking, wondering why I had thrown away my career.
  • A boss who sensed my fear.  Cared.  And helped me find my swagger.
  • Sitting around a conference room table high above Phoenix and deciding 20 hours of programming on KTAR had to change.  And, I had to change it.  Now.
  • Sitting at a baseball game with a man and his wife from Dallas and feeling a strong impression I needed to ask them to relocate to Phoenix.
  • Flipping the switch that moved news and talk to FM in Phoenix for the first time.
  • Listening to a sports legend announce the arrival of one of the nation’s premiere sports broadcasting brands.
  • Helping the KTAR news department discover it had the ability to cover major news events like no one else in the country could.
  • Having a gut instinct that if I put two guys on the staff together in afternoons it could produce huge ratings.  My fear as I made the move.  The new generation of listeners and enormous ratings that move generated.
  • The ASU buses.
  • Mexico.
  • Gustav.
  • The car accident.  (I still get chills.)
  • Talk the Vote.
  • It’s Your Money Workshop.
  • The Nash bandages.
  • The Super Bowl run.
  • Those evil Sterns!
  • The power of One.
  • Go big.  Or go home.
  • The ND who didn’t sleep.
  • #1 local sales revenue.
  • The blueprints for 7740 N. 16th Street.
  • The Orpheum.
  • The out-of-tune choir and the boys with the bells.
  • Top 5!
  • The phone lines crashing from the volume of donations coming in at SARRC.
  • Jasmine.  After she had to have her legs removed at PCH.
  • The ripped up goal and the hosts who willed us over $1 million.
  • Gabby.  Christina.  Dorwan.  Phyllis.  Dot.  Judge.  And, Gabe.
  • $3.6 million.
  • Kramer and his entrances (and creativity and energy).
  • The GSM who finally got his bonus!  And will soon finally get to start that family.
  • The guy in the corner office who treats people in a manner his dad must be proud of.
  • The executive who surprised and impressed me with compassion in a challenging hour.
  • The CEO who is the type of leader who would dare display emotion when the company he built, HIS baby, was split.
  • The cross-dresser, ambassador, legend, guide, and more importantly, friend.
  • The nun who walked out of the convent for a holier calling of mom.  To so many.

I’ve learned so much over the last 14 years.

I’ve failed so often.

I’ve made so many bad decisions.

And, yet, I am So Proud.

Proud of people.  Proud of what they’ve accomplished.  Proud of what they’ve overcome.

And, grateful.

Grateful I got to witness it all.

A wise man once told me:

The journey is the reward.


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