Few deny T.D. Mischke is one of radio’s few original talents, but does he have a future in broadcasting? In Part Two of our interview, Tommy talks about “the second half of my life,” and what he foresees for AM1500 and the medium that made him an unlikely folk hero.
Part One, which deals with why he was fired Dec. 5, is here.
Q: A personal question for fans and friends: How are you taking this? You made light of your bouts with depression in that great video with Mark Moeller, but you’ve had some time to reflect. How are you feeling these days?
A: It’s harder with a family than it would be otherwise. My wife’s in school so we have been living off my income for quite a while. Having the money dry up abruptly is tough in that type of situation.I think my kids are a little freaked out. The Christmastime thing makes it weirder, too.
But when I’m by myself, away from them, I realize to a large degree I was always odd man out at KSTP. My bosses over there will tell you that I often struggled to figure out how I fit in. It’s mainly a conservative political radio station with a smattering of sports. I was the misfit for so many years.
When I think about this for any length of time, I tell myself, maybe what happened should have happened a long, long time ago.
Q: Now that you’re talking, are you going to talk more directly to your fans? Judging from the message boards I’ve looked at, they’re a little distraught.
A: I don’t have a way to address them right now other than slowly returning the individual emails I’ve been sent.
I hope they know how aware I am that the talk host/listener relationship is a unique one, and I never took it for granted. I tried to return every email I was ever sent and to help out any listener who ever asked for it.
I will miss them. It’s very difficult to articulate what happens to a person, over the years, as he travels each day to a little room to be with folks he can’t see, but who he has a feel for. I don’t know that I’ve ever adequately written about it or explained it to others. There is something very personal that goes on in that studio, and it is known by me, and it is known to some degree by certain long time listeners. I carry 17 years of the memory of that feeling with me now.
Q: What do you see as the next professional step? Have other radio stations contacted you? What about alternatives like the Internet?
A: Two different radio stations have called, but I think the key for me is to not get into the same situation I was in, where I’m the square peg trying to fit in the round hole.
In the second half of my life I want to be where it truly makes sense for me to be. I want to feel completely at home, wherever I land.
Q: Several people have remarked that whatever the injustice of your firing, KSTP’s owners, the Hubbards, were very loyal during those times you needed off to battle depression — that they should get consideration amid the criticism for dumping you now. Do you agree?
A: I don’t think there’s anything to criticize. I was not owed a radio show by Hubbard Broadcasting. They have microphones and a studio and a tower and airtime and it’s theirs. They built it, they created it.
I think some of us in the business forget that it’s not a talk host who “has a show.” The station has the show. As a talk host, you work that show. But you work at the pleasure of the company.
Q: You have no bitter feelings at all toward a company that let you go with no severance after 17 years of service? That’s a little hard to believe.
A: I think if you looked at it this way, it would make more sense. I watched many people attempt radio shows over the years. I saw talk hosts come and go. In all my years at KSTP, I saw only three shows succeed — truly succeed. The only three programs to ever generate any kind of decent ratings at all were Rush Limbaugh, Jason Lewis and Joe Soucheray. That’s it.
The rest of us never offered anything in the way of mass appeal. So any talk host, outside of those three, should walk away, following a firing, feeling lucky to have been given a shot.
Q: Where do you think KSTP is headed? The talk around town is about terrible numbers, save for Joe, and a pricey Twins contract that might not pay off, since it was signed during good times but now must be sold to advertisers during bad times. This is a strange time in radio and there’s something to say here.
A: Radio, as we’ve known it in this country, is dying. I don’t envy anyone trying to make the transition to the next stage in media. The Twins gamble has not paid off for KSTP. It has not affected ratings.
That has been very disappointing. It was a coup to steal them from ‘CCO, but oh, the cost.
You add that to the fact that Soucheray is the only talk host over there driving home each day feeling good about his ratings and you have big worries. Tack on the dismal economy with its bleak advertising picture and you have more than just worries.
I think every radio station in town has to pray to God they have a visionary on their staff. This is the time for change and innovation. A dramatic shift needs to occur.
I hope to end up somewhere where this idea is fully grasped, where the ideas move to the Internet, websites, video-blogging, music, live streaming. I think what is about to rise out of the ashes of the old radio model is far more exciting and interesting than what has come before. Some station in this town is going to be the first to fully exploit this. To those folks go the spoils.