This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on November 20, 2019
I can’t think of a better person to kick off the Women to Watch feature than Robin Bertolucci, Program Director of Los Angeles News/Talk monster KFI-A 640 and KEIB- A 1150. I had the opportunity to work with Robin in Los Angeles a little over 10 years ago and I’ve always considered her to be a “Unicorn” in this business. Not only does she successfully program an AM signal that is consistently in the Top 10 when it comes to annual revenue nationwide, but she is also one of very few female programmers in News/Talk, a predominately male format. She is an anomaly whose passion, and vision have never led her astray.
Her career began after studying rhetoric at UC Berkley when she took a job in the Bay Area in 1987 as a Desk Assistant in the KGO newsroom. She later graduated to Executive Producer and in 1995 took her first Program Director job at KOA/Denver. After working her way up to the role of Regional Programmer, she moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to program KFI, a station that has been a consistent leader in the News/Talk format with Adults 25-54 ever since. She oversees live and local programming from 5a to 10p with major market talent like Jennifer Jones Lee, Bill Handel, John and Ken, Tim Conway Jr. and Gary and Shannon. In addition to that, she oversees a live and local 24/7 news team which covers Southern California.
Add to that the addition of her oversite of what is now KEIB-A in 2009, her marriage to fellow broadcaster Don Martin, who she refers to as “the love of her life,” her two children and three dogs and she’s got a full plate. This leads us to the first obvious question:
- How do you manage it all?
The best I can! My kids are older now so it’s easier, but life balance is key, and I know myself well. I need certain things to feel alive and creative…from digging in the garden and dog walks, to vacations, family time, and baking…. I know that’s who I am, what I need to do to be happy, creative and balanced and it all helps me be better, more in tune, with our listeners…. the people in the “real” world.
- What is it that makes you so passionate about the News/Talk format?
I love that it is ephemera. The show we do right now only works right now. It is “of the moment.” It’s like plugging into some collective consciousness about what’s going on, especially on the local level…hitting what people are doing and feeling right here, right now. Most news talk is all politics all the time and I must tell you that is NOT what turns me on about the format. I like the variety and breadth of real life, the issues you talk about over dinner or your commute (what you’re watching on Netflix, your kids, a new restaurant, a break-in down the street, and yes, some politics too). We are live and local and have maximum flexibility to talk about what is most important right now, whether it’s the fires, the homeless crisis or how to cook Thanksgiving dinner outside on the grill.
- What advice would you give any newcomer facing the challenges of the business today? Especially young women?
I never wanted to be the best woman in my job. I just wanted to be the best person! Develop your gut. Learn what works and doesn’t work by doing it. You can learn as much from screw ups as from wins. Learn why something worked or why it didn’t. Ask a ton of questions–be a curious person. Realize what YOU bring to the table and understand what you need to learn. Take the best of everyone you meet and leave the other stuff behind.
- Often, we hear the advice of successful people who say, “speak your truth.” I’m torn on this topic because I don’t know that it works in every industry. I’d love to get your opinion on this.
My job is to be a professional listener–to represent the listener, so I always try to speak the truth about what I believe. Sometimes that means people won’t like me, but I always hope that they will respect that I was honest with them. I think everyone should be true to themselves and speak their truth, whoever they are. I try to create an environment where people I work with can talk to me about whatever they are feeling or going through.
One of the biggest achievements that Robin is proud of is evolving the KFI brand with her team. Keeping the content up to date is a constant focus for them. She also loves building new shows, discovering hidden talent, finding and nurturing creativity and putting the right people in the right seats. Her new ventures involve developing content out of Los Angeles for iHeartMedia’s Podcasting platform.
“I love watching that side of the business grow. It gives us more real estate so that talented people have more time to tell their stories. I love seeing spoken word get the attention and credit it deserves. KFI is no longer just a radio station, it is an audio (and visual) brand across streaming, social, radio and all the other different ways people are consuming us. It has given us new life and a path to really grow and expand into the future.
Follow Robin Bertolucci on Instagram and twitter @robinbertolucci