News Director for
When Mike Loizzo's three young children hear a man's voice on the radio, often they think it's his. From reading news on air and daily reporting to copy editing and one-on-one interviews, Loizzo, news director for WBAA Public Radio, enjoys the variety of his work and the opportunity to bring information to campus, the community and even his kids.
In the changing landscape of radio broadcasting, he is confident that WBAA -- which is celebrating 90 years of continuous broadcasting on its 920 AM frequency this spring -- can keep up. Loizzo works closely with 13 other staff members along with a number of students to provide content for and run three different stations, including an HD channel
How did you get started in radio?
I was one of those kids who always watched the evening news and read the newspaper every day. I always liked making videos and being creative in general, but I didn't think I'd really be able to make a career out of that. So I went the "safe" path -- science. After two years studying chemistry, I knew I didn't want to do that my whole life so I made the change to broadcasting. I went into the radio-television program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and did news reporting in the public radio and TV stations there.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I've been at WBAA for almost seven years and there is never a typical day. I get to report on lighter stories and more serious stories. I can work on a series instead of a short two-minute piece. I like the variety and the ability to get out and interview people I wouldn't normally have the chance to talk to.
Have you had any memorable moments working at WBAA?
On April 4, WBAA AM920 celebrated its 90th anniversary. We held our one-day pledge drive, which included playing a series of historical pieces from our archives. Those included part of a speech President Richard Nixon made at the retirement ceremony for Purdue President Frederick Hovde, and part of a news conference Purdue alumnus Neil Armstrong gave at the university several months after he returned from walking on the moon. I think all of us at the station were proud to hear these moments of history, and are equally proud to be part of a long tradition of great public radio from Purdue.
Also, this year we've begun interviewing Purdue University Press authors again. We first collaborated with the press in 2010 on its 50th anniversary, and had a lot of positive feedback about the interviews. So far, I have interviewed two fascinating authors who have written autobiographies: Sibylle Sarah Niemoeller von Sell and Walther Kiep. Baroness von Sell was a young child growing up in Prussia during the rise of Hitler – she actually met him briefly as a schoolgirl. Her father was involved in the Nazi resistance movement, and she knew -- and eventually married -- Pastor Martin Niemoeller, who spoke out against Hitler and spent many years in a concentration camp. Walther Kiep was involved in German politics and played a leading role in reunifying East and West Germany. He was in line to be chancellor of the country but a financial scandal in the party, which he served as treasurer, killed his chances at that. To talk with two people who were involved in such historic events or had firsthand knowledge of them was exciting and an honor for me.
Live broadcasting can present unique challenges. Do you have any examples of these?
There have been times when I've had a coughing fit or something in my throat during a newscast. All I can do is turn off my microphone and try to get it over with as soon as possible. Other times, there are technical issues like when a piece of audio I want to play isn't on the correct setting. In that case, I have to push the right buttons as fast as I can to get the audio on-air. The alternative is to just keep reading the news story without the sound, which, if it's written correctly, still makes sense without the sound bite.
WBAA's AM channel is Indiana's longest continuously operating radio station. How does it feel to be part of that kind of history?
It's interesting to know that I'm a part of that long history. Every day I see the history in photos and memorabilia on the walls, so it's really neat to see how the station has evolved. It began as an educational service with programs like French 101, Latin and Sociology 101. It's fascinating to think about how radio has changed so much, and yet WBAA has been able to keep up with that and stay on the air for nearly 90 years.
With satellite radio -- XM and Sirius -- is WBAA or public radio in general being affected?
It's obviously competition, but it's free to listen to us if you have a radio or the Internet. We're member supported, and as far as membership goes, we haven't seen those numbers decrease with the arrival of satellite radio. We have an AM station and two FM stations, one of which is an HD channel. Although not too many people have an HD radio yet, that's where we're kind of heading as an industry. With our website, we're able to put our stories in print and incorporate some videos too.
WBAA launched a new website in December. It has a cleaner look and added features, such as greater flexibility in how we position messages and news stories. There is now a comment section on stories for listeners to give their feedback. Our local podcasts, such as The Hungry Hoosier and Nick Schenkel's book reviews, are more prominently featured on the home page. Best of all, listeners can access new online streaming options for our three stations (AM920, 101.3 FM HD-1 and HD-2) and they can download the WBAA mobile app from the website.
You recent began teaching your first Public Affairs Reporting Course for the Brian Lamb School of Communication. What has that been like?
Teaching for the Brian Lamb School of Communication for the first time has been a great experience. I taught an Introduction to Journalism course at a community college in Fort Myers, Florida. I also “teach” students informally at WBAA, but being in the classroom setting for this public affairs reporting course is different. My master's degree is in public affairs reporting, so I was able to draw on the experiences I had more than a decade ago. I assigned students a local government and a school corporation to cover, so they were doing actual reporting. I also brought in guest speakers ranging from elected officials to West Lafayette's police chief to representatives from the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette.
I'm looking forward to teaching the class again next spring. School administrators also have encouraged me to think about other courses I could possibly teach. I see a real desire on their part to add courses that more closely align with the spirit of what Brian Lamb has done in the media and communication industries. I think it is great time to be involved with the school, both as a student and professional.
For more on WBAA, visit wbaa.org.