Charese Fruge’ Talks To Lindsay Cochrane
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on October 12th, 2021
Her appreciation for the radio business started at an early age. “It started really because I have been around radio my entire life. Growing up, my Dad worked in television behind the scenes, and my mother was the Business Manager for Entercom/Norfolk, and she always wanted me to do sales because ‘that’s where all the money was,’ and she wrote the checks, but I never wanted to do that so I never thought I would work in radio,” she says. “Later in life when I was tired of bartending and wanted to get a job as a promotions assistant to do something else and to get to go backstage and do cool stuff, THAT is when I fell in love with Programming and the rest is history. But I am very thankful for bartending because it taught me how to talk to people, and now I just talk into a microphone. But I owe being a great radio personality to being a great bartender.”
It’s pretty clear from her experience that Lindsay is a seasoned pro. “Where do I begin? I’ve been in radio for 15 years and in eight states in ten years, and on eight different formats,” she explains. “I started as a promotions assistant in Norfolk, VA, my hometown, at Entercom (Audacy now), and fell in love with the programming side of the business and felt like my quirky personality fit there. Ask my friends who I grew up with, I have ALWAYS loved to talk and debate, so naturally I gravitated towards radio. I worked there for two years and thankfully Don London gave me a shot to be on the air once when a hurricane was coming overnight. Isn’t that crazy? Because I am not sure that even happens in the business anymore, overnight opportunities for new ambitious up and coming radio personalities, and that’s what I was,” says Cochrane. “That was it, and radio was in my blood I couldn’t get enough, and I set out to follow my dream of hosting a morning show with two females and the moving around began.
I then went on to get my first full time job (technically) at WQPO Q101 as a morning show co-host in Harrisonburg, VA,” explains Cochrane. “I then went across the street and was basically a PD without the title, for WBOP. I wrote clocks, scheduled, and rotated music, wrote imaging, and did the afternoon show. I also did the midday show at WSIG, a classic Country station, where I did a REAL request show and moved every piece of music in the noon hour. That’s also crazy too because I don’t know of that happening anymore in the business either,” she says. “From there I went to West Virginia and was supposed to be on a new Top 40, but it wasn’t built yet, so Charlie Cook put me on an AC station morning show, WWLW, which, as a Top 40/Hot AC type of personality, was a little different for me, but I LOVE morning radio, so I did it. Then I went to middays and from there I was on four stations a day,” explains Cochrane. “I did middays on the AC, then tracked the Top 40 station I was supposed to be originally on and did the 411 report, then I would track nights for WVAQ(Top 40) and track nights for an out of market station, WRVZ (Rhythmic). Then I went on to do middays at WVAQ where I had the pleasure to work for one of my mentors, Lacy Neff, a five-time Marconi winner, before he passed away.
I then went on to do nights in Pittsburgh at WBZZ where I started getting to do sports entertainment, which I loved, even though I am a Cowboys fan!!! After that, I went to Nashville to work for WKDF and WSM-F and Westwood one doing Nash Icon. My dream was making it to Dallas,” she says. “So, I left Nashville for Dallas to work for KLIF-F, and it was amazing to be in a Top 5 market. Then I got the opportunity to host my own syndicated show called “Life with Lindsay” for United Stations on Country stations across America, and that’s what I am solely focusing on now.”
Over the years, Lindsay set goals for herself when it came to her career, which has contributed a great deal to her success. “My biggest accomplishment was getting to Pittsburgh because I knew in order to get to a Top 5 market (Dallas), which was always my goal, I had to get to Top 25 first, so it was a huge deal when Mark Anderson gave me that opportunity at WBZZ,” she says. “Another exciting experience for me also happened in Pittsburgh because I used to do my show live fron PNC Park at the Pirates games, and I started a bit called ‘Locker Room Secrets’ where I got to go into the locker room and interview the players. This was my first time ever interviewing a professional athlete, which was Jordy Mercer, #10, my lucky number.
Another really big accomplishment in my career just recently happened with ‘Life with Lindsay,” Cochrane says. “My syndicated show just replaced Blair Garner on WCCQ. This was important to me, because when I was in Nashville, I was up to be hired as his co-host, and I didn’t get the job because they gave it to his husband. I remember crying for an entire day outside of the station, and then two years later, the show I now host replaced his. Even though it’s just on one of his previous affiliates it was still a full circle moment for me.”
15 years in the same business does bring about its challenges. “My biggest was/is learning not to take it personally when I don’t get hired or get affiliates, or when I was fired, or worked for very mentally abusive Program Directors who told me I wasn’t good enough or had no talent. I will tell that story one day when I write my book,” she says. “I tried to manage those challenges by healing my own personal traumas and not letting anything or anyone tell me what my worth is and believing in myself when NO ONE else did or does, which is not an easy path but worth it for my own peace of mind.”
Lindsay is one of the few women in the business who has had the opportunity to try out programming and management before. “I have programmed radio in a very small market without the title, but I am so glad that I did because it taught me so much about the business,” she says. “I am interested in doing it, so I can pick the personality shows on the station, but honestly, I would rather just be a Music Director because I love music and picking the next hit. When I was an AMD in Pittsburgh, that’s what I LOVED the most,” says Cochran.
She does have words of encouragement for women interested in programming. With the current statistics the way they are (12% Female PDs in the US), I think we can all agree we need more Female Programmers. “Shout Out to the few women already doing it. Like Melissa Chase down there in Houston,” says Lindsay. “I think there are plenty of women with the talent and capabilities to do it but it’s really a matter of getting upper management to believe in women to be in those positions. ‘So how do we change the culture that thinks differently?’” She asks. “I do think we are headed in that direction, but we are far from it being 50/50 men vs. women programmers. I think when women see more women in these types of roles it will give them the confidence to speak up that they would like to be in these roles because they already have the talent to do so, they just need that confidence that they will really be considered for these positions. I would also like to add that in addition to women in programming roles, we need more women in lead roles on personality shows, Take Dana Cortez for example, she’s such an inspiration to me.”
While female talent like Lindsay, Dana Cortez, and DeDe McGuire continue to make the radio industry attractive to young talent, the business overall right now is in a bit of chaos. Lindsay is optimistic; however, that if we take the right steps, we can incorporate real change and help improve the reputation of the industry moving forward. “We need to start having an open mind and conversations about doing business in a different way and stop having the mentality of ‘this is how it has always worked.’ It’s a different world now and we have to be able to adopt to the times and new ways of doing things,” she says. “Like for example, this new generation isn’t getting new music from radio, they are getting it from the internet, but we can do things like give away exclusive performances, backstage passes, etc. to grab their attention. Second, we need to stop the cookie cutter radio programming. Each market is unique and should be attacked accordingly. Third, we need to stop hiring toxic personalities/PD’s that have an ego problem and do things just to feed their own ego. Fourth, be aware that just because people have a large following on the internet, doesn’t mean they will get you ratings on air. I’ve seen this trend where stations hire these social media influencers that have no radio experience, and although digital is one aspect and we do need to get better at it, ‘Influencers’ shouldn’t have to skip the entire process, like we went through, to learn radio in a trial-and-error environment. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying they shouldn’t get an opportunity to learn, but I don’t think they should be getting jobs over seasoned vets. And Fifth, programmers should take risks on new shows and personalities, and give them opportunities and the chance to create, instead of sticking to who they know and what shows have always worked in the past (their people). Sometimes that works, but not ALL the time. We have to create new opportunities for personalities to keep them motivated and to give them hope in this business and their future.”
While the everyday challenges of the business weigh on her mind regularly, Lindsay has one specific one challenge that she’s turned into a personal and professional goal for herself. “What keeps me up at night is the fact that I haven’t won a Marconi yet, and I will work and keep hustling until I do, because I promised Lacy Neff I would not stop until I do like he did, although I don’t think I will win 5 like him,” she says. “I would just be satisfied winning one in my career! Also, I haven’t accomplished hosting a two female syndicated show yet, which is my DREAM, so that’s up next. So, if any programmer is interested in that please contact me!”
With such a busy schedule and managing the responsibilities that go with owning your own Nationally Syndicated show, there’s got to be some balance to help stay focused. “I am a gypsy at heart, so I LOVE to travel and see different cultures, and places and try different foods,” says Cochrane. “I love to be outside in nature as well, and of course during football season you will find me at the game or out with my people (aka Cowboys fans) watching the game! I also meditate and go out in nature to bring balance to my life when I’m having one of those days, months, or even years. Every chance I get, I go to the ocean because that’s my happy place and it replenishes me. And cuddling with my dog Hendrix brings me peace too!”
Moving forward, look for “Life with Lindsay” to blow up everywhere. “I am at 11 affiliates now and it’s only up from here, so what city is next?” She asks. “And also, eventually I’d like to get to that two female based show! I am also currently working on a promotion/ contest to send care packages to the troops. I have done it before, and I am a big fan of it because my brother was active duty in the Air Force, and I understand how hard that life is.”
To keep up with Lindsay and her future projects, follow her @Lindsayyonair – on IG, Twitter and FB and she just stared her show’s new social media accounts so please follow here @LifewithlindsayRadio IG, FB and twitter. Also check out her website: Lifewithlindsayradio.com or reach out to her: Lindsay@lifewithlindsayradio.com