A few years ago I was writing a story about old-time radio for the Chicago Tribune. One of my most useful sources was Sean Dougherty. He got me in touch with the right people, understand my deadline, and simply came through at every turn. By the way, this was when I was doing a lot of freelance work but never mixing that with my publicity work (perhaps the topic of a future post?).
At any rate, Sean touched base a few weeks ago and I explained that I wasn’t doing a lot freelance work right now, but maybe he’d be interested in doing a Q&A regarding his work with The Friends of Old-Time Radio. Not only did he agree to the interview, but he also revealed that his publicity work for the group is conducted purely on a volunteer basis as in pro bono, free, no strings attached, out of the goodness of his heart, etc. My hero. You should know that Sean also is group vice president of MWW Group so he keeps himself fairly busy. Here’s part one of my email conversation with Sean.
P.S. As wise and insightful as my posts might be (!) I think it’s always a good idea to pull in some real brains. I hope you will learn as much from the people I occasionally feature here as I do.
Leslie: How did you first get involved with The Friends of Old-Time Radio?
Sean: I’ve been a fan of the medium since childhood. It came from backtracking Jack Benny’s TV show, which was still in re-runs then, back to his radio program and took off from there. I first read about the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention in 1994 in an article in Newsday, a daily tabloid operating around New York. After attending that year, I had such a great time meeting all of the actors and seeing the great performances that I wanted to make sure that everyone who was interested would have a chance to find out about it. I had been collecting shows since I was 10 but had never heard of the convention until I read that article. Old Time Radio fandom is a closed circle – once you’re inside, you find out everything but if you’re outside you can miss it completely. I volunteered to run the publicity and have been doing it ever since. I will say that with the Internet now, it is a lot less likely that someone like me could just not know about the hobby if he developed an interest today. Our convention site is linked to Wikipedia, for example. In 1994, that wasn’t true.
Leslie: Before you began working with the group what kind of PR machine did they have?
Sean: They had a few members who worked in or with the media and did get coverage periodically from those efforts. In 1988, they got a great feature in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary recreation of “War of the Worlds,” and I understand that one year Leonard Maltin did something on Entertainment Tonight. The biggest attendance engine is and was the local OTR show host, Max Schmid of WBAI-FM, the local Pacifica outlet. He has been on the planning committee for decades and made sure all of the hardcore fans knew about it.