Six months ago, A.J. Honoré was working in Midtown Manhattan, crunching numbers for a major television network to see how many people around the country might watch the next episode of "One Tree Hill."
Today, he’s managing a college radio station in Iowa with about 300 undergraduate student volunteers, a 100-watt refrigerator bulb transmitter, and 400 or so square feet of beat-up office space.
All in all, he says it’s not a bad trade.
“At the CW, I was one of the youngest workers in the office, and while I loved the people I worked with, I find that working with young people is so refreshing,” says Honoré, who has been general manager of student-staffed KRUI since Oct. 1. “I’m 30 years old and a mentor here, and I’ve always heard people say how rewarding a mentoring relationship can be, and they’re right.”
Honoré came to Iowa in August, pursuing his MBA in the Strategic Innovation Academy in the Tippie School of Management. A native of the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, he earned his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and his M.A. from Fordham University. He worked for the CW for four years before deciding to pursue further educational opportunities.
“I’ve always enjoyed school to some extent, higher learning especially,” he says. “The return on investment for an MBA is pretty solid, so that was an easy choice that I had made some years ago. In other words, if the opportunity presented itself to return to school for an MBA, I was going to pursue it, especially at a Big Ten university like the UW-Madison or the University of Iowa. The MBA degree itself doesn’t have too many drawbacks that I can ascertain. Given the volatility of the industry I was working in, adding another master’s degree to the resume was certainly not going to hurt me. Furthermore, I believe that it has the potential to open more doors going forward.”
His introduction to broadcasting came when he worked for the student radio stations at both UW and Fordham.
“I love music,* I love radio, and I love radio people,” he says. “I was one of those people who graduated from college without a lot of definitive plans, so it just seemed to be where I drifted to.”
* A wide array, from classical and jazz to underground metal and hard rock, but generally, his tastes run to the louder, the better.
With his resume, Honoré might be one of if not the only general manager to come to KRUI after working at a real, live publicly traded broadcast network. That experience is serving him well. Managing a radio station is not always easy. The business attracts its share of oddballs and eccentrics, the loner-stoners who love to sit by themselves in a small room at 2 a.m. and talk to people they can’t see. Music fanatics who believe to their bones that grindcore is the Greatest. Music. Ever. while thrash absolutely sucks. Promotional obsessives who don’t understand why throwing turkeys out of a helicopter is a punch line* because it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Turkeys can fly, right?**
* They’re hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement.
** As God is my witness…
But Honoré says his transition to KRUI general manager has been easy so far. He oversees both the FCC-blessed over-the-air station and its experimental online sibling, the Lab.
“We have a lot of talented students with great ideas and a love for music and radio,” he says. “It’s in a very positive place. I’m just building on strengths.”
A self-described slave to mission statements,* Honoré adheres to the KRUI goal of providing music, news, and sports to the UI community and a laboratory for students to learn more about broadcasting and gain career experience.
* He is an MBA student, after all.
“It’s free-form radio without a playlist,” he says. “This is the students’ station and the students should run it. We can help them develop their talents for announcing, for curating music, or whatever they want.”
The equipment is a bit dated, he says, most of it six or seven years old, which is ancient in a business driven by technology that changes overnight.* For that, he’s coming up with a replacement plan. He’s also reminding station personnel about various FCC and IRS regulations that must be adhered to, so as not to lose a license or tax-exempt status.
* Though not so driven that spinning vinyl on a turntable once in a while isn’t unusual.
For his future, Honoré sees himself staying in broadcast at some level, probably combining it with some kind of technology element. The CW pioneered using both broadcast and Internet platforms while he worked there, something he says KRUI also does exceedingly well.
“There’s still plenty of room for innovation in the broadcast spectrum and the Internet is wide open,” he says. “People want to be entertained so if you can provide that to them, your business will do well.”
And he might even find himself back in New York, although he’d prefer to stay closer to home in the Midwest.
“New York has so much energy and vitality and cultural opportunities, and like I said, my co-workers were great,” he says. “All the museums, two world-class opera companies, Broadway. When I worked at the CW, I could get free tickets to the Museum of Modern Art. I’d go there on my lunch hour.
“But they do things a little differently in the Tri-State area,” he says. “It’s easier to live in the Midwest. When I go to the grocery store, people say hi to me. They acknowledge you. There’s this ebb and flow to the city, with young people arriving, some staying, but most go back home. I was the detritus of the Midwest. I floated in and then floated back out.
“Trading an hourlong, one-way commute in and out of New York City for a five-minute bike ride across the Iowa River seems to have improved my quality of life dramatically in the short term.”