Milwaukee Talks: WISN-AM morning man Jay Weber
Jay Weber doesn't quite "fit the suit" of a man who makes his living as a talk radio host.
Not that he wears suits. Few people on the "talent" side of the radio business do, particularly those who start their work shifts before dawn.
In an industry filled with nomads who move from market to market in search of higher ratings and bigger contracts, Weber, the morning host at News/Talk 1130 WISN, is the picture of stability.
He has worked at WISN since 1990, when he signed on as a news anchor and reporter. In 1992, he hosted a "WISN"s Morning News," which was followed in 1998 by "Weber and Dolan," an eight-year pairing with sportscaster Bob Dolan, and his current program, "The Jay Weber Show," which airs weekdays from 6-10 a.m.
While some radio hosts are upended by swelling egos and shrinking work habits, Weber comes across to his audience, primarily suburban residents, as both humble and hard working. Though he's passionate about his views and at times amplifies his conservative opinions on the air (a hazard of the job), Weber, who is 42 and single, leads a quiet existence, spending his hours away from the microphone hunting, fishing and working on woodworking and home improvement projects.
"I'm actually a pretty boring guy," he said over lunch last week at Saz's. The conversation about Weber's career, the radio industry and the upcoming election was anything but boring.
Enjoy this Milwaukee Talks interview with News/Talk 1130 WISN morning show host Jay Weber.
OnMilwaukee.com: With the election coming up, I imagine the next few months will be peak time for talk radio. It'll give everyone something to argue about besides Brett Favre.
Jay Weber: The election will be huge, no question. But, Brett Favre was nice for me. The news generally stops during July and August, so it was great to have that diversion. It's what everybody was talking about. It was THE story.
OMC: And with the conventions coming up, you won't be hurting for material.
JW: That's true, but I really don't know how (national conservative hosts) Rush (Limbaugh) and (Sean) Hannity do it, where they can be interested in it day after day after day for so long.
There is a point where I realize, "OK, I've got three Obama topics today and I had three Obama topics yesterday. I can't do any more Obama topics."
OMC: Do you listen to other radio shows, or are you afraid that doing that would influence your opinions or make you feel like you were repeating things that had been said elsewhere?
JW: It really depends. I don't ever listen to Rush, because I go home and nap. I'll listen to Charlie (Sykes) from WTMJ on my way home. I'll sometimes listen to (News/Talk 1130 afternoon host Mark) Belling, but there isn't much on his show that I don't know about.
I sort of sample a lot, but I don't really listen for very long. That's the nice thing about doing a show in the morning - you know you get the first crack at everything.
OMC: Give me the Cliff's Notes' version of the Jay Weber story. How did you get to where you are?
JW: I went to Kettle Moraine High School in Wales and then I went off to UW-Madison because my brother, J.J. was playing basketball there. I'd never given much thought to where I was going to go to school. I never thought about going anyplace exotic. I thought I'd wait until the time came and choose one. Well, my friends and I went up there to visit my brother a couple times and I thought "This is a pretty neat campus."
OMC: That was all it took, huh?
JW: Yep. I did 4½ years there. While I was in school, I worked at radio stations WIBA and WTDY. I started at WIBA doing a nighttime board job. Everybody else was screwing around at the school newspaper, and I was actually doing it. I thought I was in a good place.
When I got out of college, Mark Belling was the program director over at WTDY. He hired me as news director and, right after that, he left for Milwaukee.
OMC: Belling was your boss?
JW: I never had him as a direct boss. He hired me for my first job. It was sort of funny, because Belling's interview was a quiz. I was a young reporter. He didn't' know me from Adam. He started out by asking me who the secretary of state was and who the mayor of Madison was. He got more and more obscure until finally I couldn't answer the questions any more.
OMC: That sounds different.
JW: It was. But, I've been in interviews where they ask these bizarre questions and you don't now what they're looking for. Obviously, he wanted to see if I knew anything. He didn't want to waste his time hiring someone who didn't know who the secretary of state was. He basically wanted to know if I was stupid or if I was paying attention.
OMC: And now you guys are the bookends of local programming at WISN.
JW: Mark has been good to me and good to 'ISN in general. If not for the stability of the other day parts, I probably wouldn't have had the chance to do what I've done.
OMC: And when did you get to Milwaukee?
JW: It's funny because Homer (Steve True from 540 ESPN) was doing the morning show for Belling at the time that I started. Shortly after Belling left, Homer went to Milwaukee, too.
OMC: Did you feel left out?
JW: After a year of working at WTDY for about $11,000 a year, I decided I would send out resumes. I sent them to everywhere warm first and then to Milwaukee. Of course, Milwaukee called. I came and I'm still here.
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Reader | Aug. 26, 2008 at 11:20 a.m. (report)
"One of the reasons I find myself talking less about local news is because of that. There is less in the paper. " Jay, why rely on the paper for your topics? Old school, man.
It's evident that Mr. Weber prepares well for his show and constructs a well reasoned argument before going on the air. That being said, I find his show less appealing than others because he comes across too frequently as a bitter and frustrated voice...that's just not what I'm looking for while I'm driving (the only time I listen to talk radio). Belling probably prepares less than Weber, but he comes across as more entertaining than bitter when he's discussing negative topics. Both come across as know-it-alls (a necessity for talk radio hosts), but Weber does so in a manner that makes him seem like the angry old man on the corner who yells at the neighborhood kids for walking on his lawn. That's just not appealing.
Mr. Weber was my 8th grade basketball coach. He used to make us do the Miken Drill. I liked him a lot, except when we were doing the Miken Drill. Sometimes, when he would shout directions from the bench, I thought I was listening to the radio. By the time I realized it was Coach Weber, the other team had stolen the ball, and was en route to yet another victory.
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