Purdue Profiles: Mike Loizzo

November 2, 2011

Mike Loizzo, news director for WBAA radio station.

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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 will celebrate 90 years of continuous broadcasting on its 920 AM frequency in April, 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 six 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?

The comedian Mo Rocca came to campus a few years ago to publicize Axe body spray. It's not typically the sort of interview we do, but since he was already here, I interviewed him. He was in character as a researcher for Axe and just made the whole thing really fun. I also got the chance to go up in the huge tower crane they used to build Neil Armstrong Hall. I interviewed the guy who operated it and that was really memorable.

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.

As an industry we're really converging with other forms of media, but we continue to remain a great source for a variety of musical genres, intelligent news and talk radio. We pride ourselves on presenting both sides of every story, being fair and being thought-provoking. During the two fund drives we hold each year, many of our listeners tell us they're always learning something new while their radios are tuned into our channels. Our mission is to educate, engage and entertain, and I think we do a nice job fulfilling that.

Are you able to translate your work with WBAA in any other ways on campus or in the community?

WBAA is the only public radio station in Greater Lafayette, so we're always looking for more ways to collaborate with people at the University and in the community. On a more personal level, I actually just received word that this spring I will be teaching a Public Affairs Reporting course for the Brian Lamb School of Communication. Students will cover local units of government in and around Tippecanoe County, and their work will appear on WBAA broadcasts and on the station's website. Everyone at WBAA and the administrators for the School of Communication are really excited about this opportunity.

For more on WBAA, visit wbaa.org.