Monday, July 25

On leaving Computer America...

I'd like to thank those listeners and fans who've asked about what happened to me at the Computer America show. Your concern about what might be next for me is touching. Radio is a somewhat sterile business, or at least network radio is. In local radio, you see your audience at live remotes, but Computer America stopped airing in front of a live audience years ago. Still, it was more than just a microphone and a computer screen. I always felt connected to the listeners, whether they were screen names in a chat room or voices over a telephone. I will miss you, and I hope you will give my new radio home, Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline, a listen on Sunday afternoons.

However, this still does not answer your question. Just exactly what happened, after twelve long years? The middle part of this blog entry is something I wrote on the day I gave my two weeks notice to Craig Crossman. I saved it in draft form and let it sit for a while, but I think it's time I posted it.

The time has come to let go, and move on. When I heard Craig's voice over the telephone on the first day of March, telling me that instead of a check I would be getting my on-air hours cut by eighty percent (and my pay cut by ninety), I knew this day would eventually come. But I still don't think I was completely prepared for it.

Four months have passed and now I am ready. Finally.

What caused the break-up? I don't think I will ever know the truth. Craig gave me a reason that was largely financial. I was the highest-paid person on his staff by a wide margin, so if a financial crisis was upon him, I suppose it did make sense to cut me. Yet, as the days rolled by following the schedule change, collecting into months, and finally into several months, I neither saw nor heard anything else that would have supported the existence of a financial crisis. So I was left with only his word, which long experience had taught me to doubt.

No, I believe the real reason was that Craig needed to "take back his show." I was his co-host for twelve years, but what I did in that role changed dramatically over time. By the end, I was also the show's producer, deciding what would go into each night's broadcast, booking the guests, assigning topics for discussion, and organizing contests and promotions. I was also the webmaster, and hosted the web site on my server. While I never had any direct influence on Craig's column for the Knight-Ridder wire service, Craig often chose to write about products or services covered on the radio show. My voice was heard on the show as much as his, perhaps even more, and listeners would joke in our chat room about how it was The Mark Show. All Craig had to do each night was show up to work.

I suppose I should have seen it coming then, eh?

To be fair to Craig, it was indeed his show. He developed the concept of the show as an extension of his newspaper column, and even though that changed over time into the newspaper column covering some product or service from a recent radio show, it was still his creation -- his baby.

On the other hand, no one forced him to turn over control of things to other people. He simply did not want to do the work, especially when he could pay others to do it for him. Yet he still wanted credit as if he had done it. Ego and laziness clashed, and eventually ego won. My role in the show had to be reduced, so that his name would be the only one in lights.

So now it is time to go. Craig was clearly happy with my reduced role in the show, and he has found others willing to do the work without making themselves as prominent as I did, or being paid as much as I was. That is something he has a perfect right to do. The irony of this is, I'm not leaving as much over money as it must seem like I am.

I'm leaving over a lack of respect. For twelve years, I helped mold Computer America into what it is today. As co-host, I helped define its voice and shape its style. As producer, I designed many of the systems operating behind the scenes that make the show far more efficient than it was just a few years ago, when most things were still done by pencil and paper.

Yet, after all that, once I had been "adjusted," I was never updated on the alleged financial crisis, nor given any indication that a change Craig previously described as temporary was, in fact, anything other than permanent.

Yes, it is definitely time for me to go.

It is now nearly a month since my last Computer America show. I have joined Dave Graveline as part of the Into Tomorrow team, and I am enjoying myself completely. Dave Graveline is just the same in person as he sounds over the radio, a very warm and funny man who really loves gadgets and technology.

The Into Tomorrow audience is huge. Sitting in the host's chair a week ago, when Dave was away in Japan, I was surprised at how much pressure I felt. I have hosted hundreds of radio shows by myself, and co-hosted thousands more. But knowing that Into Tomorrow airs on more than 100 radio stations (I welcomed our 106th affiliate on that show), both the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks, and around the world to our troops over the Armed Forces radio network, I keenly felt the weight of one and a half million pairs of ears listening to me.

When last week's show was over and I knew that I had done well as the host, I felt a rush I haven't felt in years. I wanted to take a victory lap around the studio. It reminded me what I love about broadcasting: To know you've done a good show is an amazing feeling, and yet if you know that you stunk up the joint, you just can't wait for the next show so you can do better.

It keeps you coming back. As long as there is an audience and a microphone, you will just keep coming back.

And I love it.