Sunday, March 18, 2018

Episode #061: Walter Sterling

Walter Sterling has been in radio since he was 15. He worked for a suburban New Jersey station for minimum wage as an on-air DJ. One day the owner said that if he helped dig the ditch for the new transmitter, he would be paid double minimum wage. Of course, he turned that down because he was a star.

But it did teach him a profound understanding of radio management’s value of on-air celebrity.

He was one of the first talk show hosts on the FM band at stations in New York City and, as alter ego Walter Sabo, programmed enormously successful stations throughout the country. He and his colleagues introduced the the format known as Adult Contemporary to NBC’s O&O FM’s. He is the youngest Executive Vice President in the history of NBC and held executive positions at ABC, before becoming a top media consultant. 

Sadly, he did not own the stations he created. As a result, he continues to work on the air promoting strange ideas and opinions.

By any name, Walter believes radio’s inherent strength over other media is its ability to reflect evolving audience needs and tastes. He is a winner of the Sigma Delta Chi award for Broadcast Journalism excellence, a graduate of the Newhouse School of Communications and he has numerous bowling trophies. Perhaps the most stunning and bizarre fact about Mr. Sterling is that while in high school he was a founding member of the game Ultimate Frisbee, even though he clearly knows nothing about sports.

Like many of us, Walter was born with what
Walter also hosts a popular podcast
he jokingly refers to as “the curse” and acknowledges that working in radio is an avocation in which participants don’t have a choice. “If you ask mostpeople in radio if they would prefer to work in television, they’ll wonder why you’re not asking if they would rather be a plumber. It’s not the way we are wired – I was born that way.”