Tom Taylor gets the 2019 NAB Spirit of Broadcasting Award

At this year’s NABShow, Tom Taylor received the Spirit of Broadcasting Award for over 30 years’ service to radio.

He has been editor of Inside Radio, M Street Journal/M Street Daily and the TRI newsletter from Chicago-based

Before journalism, Tom served as vice president of programming and operations for WPST/WHWH in Princeton, NJ,  programmed WKQQ Lexington, KY and WCHL Chapel Hill, NC.

The second-generation broadcaster is the son of Bill Taylor, a former radio/TV personality in Orlando and radio general manager in Charlotte Tom was introduced to radio a small child, and bitten by the bug, stayed involved for a lifetime.

His newsletter, Tom Taylor Now, became a well-respected journal and source of industry information in the US.

Wayne Stamm from radioinfo got a chance to talk to Tom about his career and journalism.
radioinfo: Tom Taylor graduations on a really very significant award.

Tom Taylor: Journalists don’t expect to get awards like this. We expect occasionally get phone calls, hopefully nice ones,  sometimes, “Gee what did you do to me?” …but when they called in January it was quite a surprise.

radioinfo: So let’s talk about how it all started for you, right back to the beginning.

Tom Taylor: I grew up in a Radio station. My dad was in radio for 30 years, and in television, and I made my debut at age 4. I was sitting in my father’s lap at the radio station that he helped build. He was also an engineer and he asked me to introduce the record it was Perry Como. Como look like Cow to me. So I said “This is Cow”. I was four so I flubbed my first intro and I hope Mr Como can forgive me.  But I enjoyed it and I saw that my father really enjoyed it, he loved being onair.

And I saw that this was something you could do, so in high school I began hanging around a radio station, a local one, a commercial station, and began doing more so in earnest in  college, which was University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where I began doing weekend shifts and then when I graduated they made me the program director.

So I was suddenly a manager trying to figure out how to get people to understand what the station was about and you know, do radio.

radioinfo: Journalism. Where did that all start for you?

Tom Taylor: I always liked writing. I can’t count, I can’t do science, I like history and I was an English major and writing was always something I enjoyed.

So I had gotten to know the folks at the Friday Morning Quarterback in New Jersey and we talked about working together and at one point I finally decided that would be something that would be an interesting second career and that was writing about radio stations and music too.

So I got to meet a lot of artists in the two years I was there… Melissa Etheridge came through, three of the five members of the Go Go’s came through, Randy Newman came through… the amazing Randy Newman.

I liked writing and then I got a chance to work with Inside Radio which was in the same office complex. So I did that for 8 years and then left to work with a different company and founded a newsletter and then Clear Channel bought Inside Radio, so I was back writing that again for some time.

In 2007 I left to take an offer from some folks in Chicago and they said let’s start a newsletter and I said that’s something I know how to do so. Sounds good.

So we did that with them for five years and then those folks retired from their main business and then two partners and I started what became the Tom Taylor Now newsletter.

At the time it was not my idea for naming a newsletter (after myself) but they insisted I put my name on it.

It’s interesting because younger people understand that when you’re in a business, no matter what it is, you’re a brand… is a brand. Wayne you’re a brand and we manage our brands.

Hopefully we enhance our brands.

That’s one of the things this award makes you realize that the folks thought of me as somebody who’s a brand, somebody hopefully they can trust.

And that’s what we want from journalism. I’ll just say that I was interested in getting the facts right. being fair. Providing context. And hopefully being a little entertaining.


radioinfo: Tom Taylor Now began in 2012 and you just finished with it last year. For a lot of people it was the go to publication on the industry. I thought was really interesting that Beasley CEO, Caroline Beasley says as far as she was concerned it was something that she would go to for information. How is it having that sort of response from somebody that’s that well respected?

Tom Taylor: It’s really humbling. She’s terrific. In radio we don’t know that the impact out there is going to be. We just don’t know what it is. And as soon as we’re run into listeners, or if we’re journalists we run into readers, we get a little sense of that and if we’re lucky we’ll have added something to their life, to their career, to their understanding, or we just give them a lift.

radioinfo: One thing I really wanted to touch on with you as well was the change in journalism. You kind of touched on it a little bit in your acceptance speech. Do you think we are losing good investigative journalism?

Tom Taylor: Yes. Because investigative journalism takes time. It takes patience.

If you saw the movie Spotlight about the Boston Globe investigation into the Catholic Church abuses. OK so the Boston Globe has a dedicated investigative team. and they spent months. They interviewed hundreds of people. They did lots of digging in very dull places. And you need those resources, that dedication.

It’s encouraging for example to see the Los Angeles Times which has new ownership and wealthy backers and they seem to be saying we want to be more like the New York times is, The Wall Street Journal is, on a sort of daily basis. There are magazines that do that stuff.

But yeah it’s a case that it comes back to the revenue. Right? The economics.

Being in the newspaper business 30 years ago was a fantastic thing, then classified ads were drained away by Craigslist and other places that were free. So that’s one third of the revenue component for newspapers.

Then as eyeballs begin to go to others places and advertisers found digital alternatives were cheaper, newspapers began to suffer the loss of more advertising and all the big display and full pages ads went.

And then you know you get owners who aren’t as interested in journalism they’re interested in whatever they can squeeze out of it, sometimes they’ll just sell off the real estate.

radioinfo: So if you were to give advice to somebody getting into journalism now?

Tom Taylor: It’s a great time to. We need younger people with new skills, for whom all of this social media is native because they grew up with it. They know where to find things. They’re used to working all the time around the clock.

And they have their perspective that comes from being an outsider, and that’s good, and more diverse in a more diverse population. So I think there are great opportunities and generationally there’s an interesting thing because people my age are retiring and there are going to be openings for people as others move out.

So stay curious. You know stay curious. Stay curious about the world. You never know what the stories are out there, you never know where the next story is coming from, and only you can tell that story.

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