In the spotlight....

Mantel in the Morning

Eastern North Carolina
Interviewed by Steve Harmon

Wonderful story of determination from former WGAR Cleveland star Jim Mantel. After being let go, Jim worked night and day to find the right new gig. He did on air interviews, met countless Pds and Oms. When he chose his North Carolina home we could not wait to catch up.

Harmonious:  How's the new cast coming? Jim Mantel:  Just myself and casting now for co-host...know anybody Mr. GaGa?


Harmonious:  Your show bio? Jim Mantel:  I was in Cleveland since um, President Carter, I think? WGAR I also worked in Midland Texas, which is why I am one of few that can understand and tolerate that Texan-Lite Harmon.


Harmonious:  What put this job as the ONE? Jim Mantel:  Well, they offered it to me for one. My wife and I love the water and had actually had the area on our radar because it's the sailing capital of NC. We love the sail and love the beach.


Harmonious:  What's your biggest challenge? Jim Mantel:  After being in my hometown for 20 years..I knew where all the skeletons were burried. I knew almost everything that had happened because I also grew up in Cleveland. So going to a place where I knew virtually nothing, it was 'starting all over'. The audience didn't know me, co workers didn't know me. So building from zero was something I hadn't done in almost 20 years, and when I did that I was on familiar soil. Great challenge - it is fun to be lost all the time!


Harmonious:  Major change since working without PPM?   Jim Mantel:  None really. First off we don't subscribe to Arbitron so that takes part of it away. Having been through PPM though I learned a lot about how listeners use radio and try to apply a lot of that to what we do. Knowing that they are filling out diaries also requires that we go back to basics we used 15 and 20 years ago to reinforce station positions and recall. I need to kiss hands and shake babies again. In the end, good radio is good radio no matter how it's "rated."


Harmonious:  Tell us about your new city? Jim Mantel:  It's a VERY weird market. It's market 85, but it's not "a city". It's a handful of smaller cities spread out. Our signal goes almost border to border from SC to Virginia. We have Camp Lejeune here along with Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson Air Force base is also in our market, so a HUGE military presence. If you look at a map and find New Bern, that is where our studios are. Jacksonville and Camp Lejeune are roughly 30 miles south of us, and further down the coast is Wilmington, we cover that too. To the East about 30 miles is Morehead City and the beaches, 30 miles north is Greenville NC and East Carolina University. To the Northwest of New Bern is Kinston and further is Goldsboro which is 60 miles..and also in our market. Scattered between all of those are smaller towns. On the plus side this means that a lot of people drive a LONG way to and from work, they either drive 4 minutes or 45 - not much middle ground there. I think we are the 2nd largest market as far as geography is concerned. That creates it's own set of issues when it comes to being "local," because what is a big deal in Greenville and ECU, in Jacksonville which is 50- 60 miles away they aren't even aware of it nor care.


Harmonious:  Cool things about your market? Jim Mantel:  On the ocean, the original capital of NC and the place Pepsi was invented. The guy who created Pepsi got some seed money from the Episcopal Church here in town... If you re-arrange the letters in PEPSI COLA, you get EPISCOPAL!!! We're on the water and have a HUGE marlin tournament every year. The weather is incredible (except in the spring when pollen is measured like they measure powder on ski slopes!!!). Having all the Marines here is great for a couple reasons. 1) it's good for the local economy 2) it plays well with the Red White and Blue of Country Music. It's very laid back here. Boats, beaches and Pig roasts.Carolina Bar B Q...


Harmonious:  Was there a radio star you loved growing up listening to? Jim Mantel:  Gary Dee was on in Cleveland when I was in high school and he was one of the original shock jocks. Jeff and Flash at WMMS were the ones that made me think "I'm a smart ass too.. I think I could do that." It's pretty cool that both Jeff and Ed are good friends of mine now.


Harmonious:  What's your biggest challenge for your show? Jim Mantel:  To find a niche for it.. the "you're the show that _____________" I haven't nailed that down yet. Part of the problem is we are so damn busy. This is as promotionally active a station as I can remember. We're doing as much as we did in the mid and late 80's. A lot of that involves on-air support of contests so our time to "do our thing" is limited because of other things going on.


Harmonious:  How much video work do you incorporate into your show? Jim Mantel:  Very little actually. It's just the two of us and with the market as spread out as it is and as rural as it is, we have among the lowest web penetration in the country. We do a lot with the website as far and interactive and content, but we can't do much "web exclusive" contesting or interaction, in other words we have to have other options for folks because a surprising number of listeners either don't have internet at all or are still on dial up like the old Banannacom with Kidd and Lisa..


Harmonious:  Philip's Daily Dose has been taken apart and put back together in a great new format have you seen it? Jim Mantel:  Seen it? I need to have my eyes surgically uncrossed from reading it. I was e mailing back and forth with Philip this week busting his chops about how MUCH content there was. Just between Bitboard and Daily Dose it's EASILY an hour..and I'm kind of nuts about prep, I feel like I need to know EVERYTHING when I walk into the studio so I DO read it all... The format is MUCH more user friendly and really does have EVERYTHING in it..There is a lot there, but you really don't need to go anywhere else for prep. Love the Print All...keep that working team!

From Philip:  My "formerly-20/20-and-now-crappy eyesight thanks you for that glowing review Mantel!  And I speak for Lisa and Jessica as well.  Together, we spend about 25 to 30 hours per day searching out everything you need every day on Daily Dose - and Jess is just part time!


Harmonious:  What is the one thing you would tell hosts on finding the new home? Jim Mantel:  Maybe two or three things! Boy I don't know, I kind of relied on you for input since I hadn't done it in SO long. It's SO competitive for the gigs that are out there!  You really need to be a sales man or woman on selling yourself. Also getting in the door is tough. Use every source and contact you have to find someone who knows someone.. It's more important than ever. Take all calls, take all interviews and check them out as they check you out... all crap you told me.  Once every blue moon you're right.


Harmonious:  The best BitBoard bit we ever tried was....."  Jim Mantel:  Either "Tackle the Dummy for Tickets" where we sent a producer out with tickets to a concert and told him to call us when he got there. Then when he called, we said where he was and the first person who tackled him got the tickets.. He did NOT like that idea and screamed like a little girl...  or Dwyer and Michaels' great "Picking Lottery Numbers by Putting Numbered Bowling Balls in the Back of a Cement Mixer".. It kind sounded like the Hindenburg incident meets Wild Kingdom. Since I was in the comfy studio above while people were screaming bloody murder as bowling balls came cascading down at them from about 12-14 feet in the air.. and cars had started coming to the lot so they had to corral the balls before they did any damage. Bowling balls bounce off cement REALLY well!


Harmonious:  Changes or tweaks for Bitboard you might like? Jim Mantel:  Forward thinking reports instead of backwards. It's nice to get stuff that has worked for someone that is timeless, IE 'Who has been shot by a relative?". But getting Thanksgiving, St Patricks etc stuff the week AFTER the day with a note to "bookmark it for next year" doesn't help. The product we have is awesome because the people creating it are awesome... make sure you contribute as much as you take away.

Also I wish everyone would include their email addresses and phone numbers on their reports. Not just so we can call and ask for stuff.. but often I'll see something in a report that someone is doing and either have an idea to add or enhance the bit.. or offer a different point of view that they may be missing.  I've done it enough that at some point I think most longtimers have heard from me at least once. I shouldn't have to search for your contact info...or worse have to call freakin Harmon to get it. 


From Philip:  Great suggestions Mantel!  For holidays, don't forget that we have compiled "past bit" files for all the major holidays.  Links to those files are both on Daily Dose and in the Planning Calendar.  Also, each year Lisa goes in and adds the new holiday ideas from the prep in the current year to keep those files updated and comprensive.

On your other suggestions, people tend to forget that Bitboard provides you an instant and automatic built-in network.  In today's times, natural disasters and interntaional news events can happen anywhere.... so any place can become "the hub".  You could have the ability to pick up the phone and call your bitbuddy for a first-hand, on-the-scene report.  So PLEASE include your contact information at the beginning of each of your reports.



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