Joe Connolly starts his weekdays from his local studio, preparing seven one-minute business updates to air on WCBS radio. Photo courtesy of Joe Connolly
Joe Connolly knows the worst thing in the radio business: when listeners turn the dial.
“Radio is show biz. If you’re boring, people won’t listen to you,” he says. But they listen to Joe, whose one-minute business reports on WCBS radio are one of the station’s oldest and most popular features.
It was only 8:30 a.m. on a recent morning, but Joe had arrived at his Connecticut shoreline studio at 4 a.m. to prepare for the seven daytime one-minute shows that air weekdays every half hour. -hours from 5:55 a.m. to 8:55 p.m.
He wasn’t satisfied with a snapper, the last item aired earlier in the morning. He didn’t think it was strong enough.
“I like to end with something positive,” he says.
Joe can fit up to six elements into the show, sometimes admitting he can go over 10 or 15 seconds.
“People say it seems to take a few minutes,” he says.
It uses new information as the morning progresses for different potential audiences.
“Teachers go to work early, so it’s 6 a.m., and blue-collar workers go to work,” he explains. “At 7:05 a.m., it could be people from marketing and advertising.
He won’t substitute an element he finds less relevant, just to have something new on the show.
“I prefer repeating rather than using a less important story,” he says.
Joe points to a painting on the wall in lower Manhattan. He looks at the windows of high-rise buildings and imagines himself talking to a single person behind one of the windows. Sometimes, he adds, he thinks of someone listening as he drives down the Merit Parkway.
“I wonder what this person wants to know. I always think about who is listening and I talk to that person,” he says. “What is useful to this person; what is worth knowing is worth repeating.
Business reporters, Joe says, often focus on Wall Street news. But, he points out, most people don’t work on Wall Street.
“The Deutsche Mark, bond rates, it’s not really interesting on the radio. These are printed stories,” he says. “My goal is to give a businessman something he can say in a meeting today.”
Joe knew he wanted to do radio when he was seven years old. He had already built an imaginary studio at his home in Massachusetts where he pretended to be a disc jockey and even interrupted the music from time to time to give a new report.
“I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do from an early age,” he says.
He was such a regular on radio stations as a teenager that when he got his driver’s license at 16, he would call local disc jockeys late at night to ask if they’d like him to bring some music. coffee and donuts.
While still a student at the University of Massachusetts, he worked weekends at local stations. He made tapes and sent them to program directors.
“If they responded at all, they said you’re not ready yet,” he recalls. Undeterred, two or three months later, he sent another tape and asked if it was better.
He went to work at radio stations after college, not only broadcasting, but writing commercials. He remembers one he was very proud of for a local furniture store, until the station manager criticized his writing.
“Savings starts with a capital S means absolutely nothing,” the boss said. “You mean the canapes are on sale!”
Joe got his first big break in the New York market by phoning WCBS radio, despite not being a staff member. He says the idea came from someone he saw phoning in reports to WABC.
His first real WCBS assignment came when they asked him to be a night street reporter in Manhattan on Thanksgiving. He says if you ask broadcasters when they had their first break, many of them will say it was Christmas, Thanksgiving or July 4, when regular staff wanted a day off.
Joe covered Connecticut politics in Hartford; he worked in Washington and New York, both for RKO, where he was an editor, and for CBS radio. He remembers when he first started covering the White House, one of his assignments was to be available when Ronald and Nancy Regan returned by helicopter from a weekend at Camp David in case the president had something to tell the press.
Joe knew the best way to get a comment from Reagan: to stand next to Helen Thomas, then the oldest White House correspondent. If Reagan had something to say, Joe explains, he would say it to Thomas.
“I wanted to be as close as possible so I could have him on the mic,” Joe recalled.
To this day, Joe actively focuses on the advice he received from legendary Washington disc jockey Eddie Gallaher; “Connolly, always remember one thing: leave them wanting a little more.”
When Joe returned to WCBS in New York, he was presenting newscasts, but switched to business reporting for which he became famous when, as he describes it, “the businessman fell ill.”
In addition to radio reports each weekday, Joe does a longer daily small business report. All this broadcasting represents around forty radio programs per week. He also produces a weekly 15-minute commercial video, as well as various speeches.
When he’s not broadcasting, Joe spends his time in the office researching information on upcoming shows and condensing interesting points to make them understandable into a one-minute show.
He is always keen to give advice to young people, and not just those new to broadcasting. A recent morning report featured an article on the need for qualified auto mechanics.
“We still need car mechanics; if someone has a son or daughter with no career plans, it could be a good high-tech job,” he says.
He urges young people to look for internships and not to be discouraged if it turns out that the field is not for them.
“Keep trying; if you don’t find it interesting, move on,” he says. And he makes a distinction between a hobby and a job. “A hobby is your happiness. A job is what you’re good at, what you find meaning in,” he says.
Joe never wanted to go from radio to television.
“On television, you have one, maybe two chances to do a story,” he says. “Radio is like baseball; there is always another chance at home plate.