Mark Spinn was amused by the first question asked by General Manager Steve Kaner when Spinn applied for a job at Kaner’s radio station. “He naturally wanted to know why a guy in 75-degree sunny Southern California would want to move to 22-degree snowy northwest Wisconsin to do small market radio,” Spinn grins. If Spinn’s willingness to move to the cold raised one of Kaner’s eyebrows, his age likely raised the other. Spinn is 60 – an unusual age in an entry-level job seeker.
Spinn assuaged Kaner’s concerns. Now, the STAA member is the new Morning Show Host/Sports Director at WRLS in Hayward, WI. Spinn found the opportunity through STAA.
“It had the combination of a non-sports on-air show position (morning drive host, doing local/regional news, weather, sports and music), plus play-by-play duties for local high school sports. That’s what I was looking for, as opposed to just a straight sports gig.”
WRLS represents the payoff of a bet that Spinn made on himself during the 2020 pandemic. “Like many people, I reevaluated what I was doing, where I was living and what I wanted to do going forward in my professional life. The answer always circled back to radio.”
Radio is in Spinn’s DNA. Both of his parents were broadcasters. “They actually met at WTMA-AM in Charleston, SC, where my mom was the news writer/ad copy writer, and my dad came in from a Cleveland station to be the evening DJ.” Spinn smiles when adding, “I quite literally exist in this world because of radio.”
A new course
Spinn was working in PR and marketing when his 2020 life evaluation convinced him to go all-in on radio. “I took early retirement from my job in Charleston, moved back to my long-time home of Southern California, and enrolled in the year-long broadcast program at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.”
Spinn’s instructors at Saddleback included former, longtime STAA employee Melodie Turori. His time on the South Orange Country campus was a game-changer. “I had great hands-on opportunities to do a live show, learn production skills/software, and call dozens of games in multiple sports for Saddleback College athletics.”
Spinn learned something else, too. “I quickly discovered there was a LOT to learn and a LOT of reps to put in before I didn’t cringe listening to an aircheck.” Investing hard work isn’t a problem for the former UC Irvine scholarship basketball player, and later, UCLA basketball walk-on. “I kept at it and jumped at every opportunity, whether filling in on-air, calling a game on short notice, or doing board op for a special event, etc.”
New job market approach
For Spinn, the trepidation of his life change came after entering the broadcasting job market. “I wasn’t initially getting much traction on landing a job. There was a bit of, to quote the Talking Heads, ‘My God — what have I done???’ It got to the point where I went back into a full time PR/marketing job for about nine months before I realized I had given up too soon. I registered for another broadcast class at Saddleback so I could continue doing my on-air show, call games, and continue to build my experience and marketability.”
His Saddleback instructor Turori suggested Spinn also join the company she spent many years helping build – Sportscasters Talent Agency of America.
“STAA was of great benefit to me,” Spinn recalls. [Owner Jon Chelesnik] pointed out the advantages of highlighting my age/maturity and my interest in settling at a small market station. I’d kind of danced around the ‘vintage age’ part in earlier applications to various jobs. Jon reminded me a lot of small market stations get tired of having to hire another 24-year old right out of college every year because last year’s hire moved up a rung in market size. So I reworked my cover letter to freely admit my stage in life and express the advantages for the station in hiring a guy with a genuine desire to stick around.”
Another habit Spinn started to set himself apart was calling employers to introduce himself and reiterate his interest.
“I know these things are like pulling teeth for a lot of people, but in my opinion, these two actions greatly boosted my chances.”
Spinn’s chances were further enhanced by the clever way he learned to spin his age (pun intended). “As a guy of that ‘vintage age,’ I bring stability and life experience to the job market. My goal wasn’t to climb the market ladder every 12-18 months and end up on ESPN Chicago or whatever. I wanted to be part of a ‘live and local’ station and be part of the community. I think that kind of desire settles in as we become more ‘vintage.’ It did for me. And small market radio provides those kinds of opportunities.
“[WRLS] was a perfect fit. When the offer was made during my visit, it was an immediate ‘yes.'”