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Rising Stars: Meet JR McHenry

Today we’d like to introduce you to JR McHenry.

Hi JR, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
The Bossman Show started off an idea amongst my friends and I in a Facebook group chat of a group that we were all administrators of. Those chats led me to keep mapping out a path forward to turn “The Bossman Show” from a dream to a reality. Being the radio head that I am and the lover of sports and music, I felt I had the chops to do it too.

As I moved to closer to making that leap of faith to start my own radio show and media company, I tried to reach out to some established radio personalities who I respected to try and get some advice and pointers, I got a whole lot of runaround and failure to return calls or reschedule meetings that were set up. Looking back at it now, I thank those individuals for not keeping their word to me or assisting me because now no one can ever say they put me on or helped put me on. Funny thing now is that I cross paths with some of these personalities at various events, games, concerts, conferences, and forums and some of which are currently still on the air here in Atlanta.

After many meetings and talks with my friends, the show began, we were on the air from 11pm ET to 1am ET on weekdays and from 4pm to 6pm ET on weekends. The dedication to wanting to establish the show and the show brand was the inspiration to be on the air every day. During those days to get guests, I would canvas via Twitter, just sending a tweet their way and seeing if they would respond and start from there. Starting out green, I used whatever means necessary to get content and guests, it was truly trial and error. In the sense of trial and error, I started off with a panel show with me being the host and with between 4 to 6 people (friends of mine) to be on the air with me just to provide content on the top news stories of the day as I continued to find my way as a host.

This continued for 18 months into the inception of the show, some of my panelists (friends of mine) were not getting better as on-air talents and it was frustrating to me, so I had to make difficult decision to move on from them, this decision caused a fracture between myself and some of my friends who started with me. In doing self-evaluation, the show was stagnating, and I knew I wanted to move from a panel format to a more of a co-host plus a guest model. Part of the outreach I was doing to find guests for the show, some of those guests did a great job and made a positive impact on the show and ended up becoming co-host of shows with myself after the format change. In those cases, myself and the co-host would correspond and collaborate on topics for the show that day of the week they were on.

Formatting the show with a different co-host for each day of the week lasted for about ten months before I decided to change format again to a permanent co-host format featuring talk segments and guests as part of a two to four hour show that would air on the weekends with the affiliates that we had agreements with to air the show. In some markets, they only aired an hour, two hours, three hours or the full four hours, my thing was if they’re airing some portion of the show, it’s a win for me and The Bossman Show brand. This format lasted three and a half years before I decided to move on from my permanent co-host to move to a solo host format featuring myself and guests engaging in long-form interviews.

The constant trial and error, looking for ways to be better, led to three format changes that I detailed above to arrive at the current format of me being a solo host conducting long-form interviews with sports figures, politicians, political analysts, entrepreneurs, activists, reports, writers, coaches, entertainers, comedians, actors, models, and a whole host of other interesting people with various backgrounds. This is the perfect format for me because I’m able to control the traffic on the air better, keep the discussion pointed in a focused direction and most importantly can fully connect with the guest along with giving them the room to fully layout their story and provide thoughtful insights throughout our conversation. Most interviews fall between the 15-to-25-minute range, but the really good ones can go up to 50 to 55 minutes. Being a self-syndicated show and not bound to hard outs, I can allow my interviews to run as long as they need to run without having to cut it short to get a commercial break. Some best conversations I have with my guests are the off the air conversations we have pre and post interview. I’d say even though I call them interviews and list them as interviews, they’re really conversations. I don’t believe in robot radio or robot conversations, I believe in having a freeform, freestyle engaging conversation rather than a predetermined question list script and only stick to that. Do I have talking points? Yes. Do I have topics listed? Yes. The difference me and other hosts I’m not married to the talking points and topics I have listed, I actually listen to my guests’ responses and follow up off of that, being honest majority of time, we don’t even discuss what I listed because I’m in tune with my guest and follow them around via their responses.

What sets me apart from other hosts is that I connect with guests from all different backgrounds and parts of the world and generate a positive vibe and feeling for them while they’re on the air with me. I believe in positivity when I speak with someone, I’m not trying to embarrass them or go down a path of negativity when they’re on the air with me, there’s hosts that specialize in that, I’ll leave that to them, I’ll keep it fun, lite and positive. That positive demeanor and vibe has allowed me to build rapport with many PR firms, team media relation departments, college sports information directors and many other communications teams across the world of sports, entertainment and politics. When you see me out at a game or an event, you’re going to see me with a smile on my face, chatting with numerous individuals who I’ve developed a relationship with over the years. I can build a relationship or make a friend anywhere I go. It’s all about finding that common ground or way of knowing with a person as a point entry and then letting things grow from there.

Approaching things, the way I do allow me to make inroads with general managers, program directors and operations managers of radio stations I reach out to about them picking up the show and adding it to their weekend lineup. Additionally, I use the same with potential advertisers and sponsors I reach out to about getting them to buy commercial time or sponsor a segment on the show. Anyone who knows me or comes in my presence knows I’m real, raw, authentic and what you see is what you get. I’m a straight shooter, I’m shooting you straight from the hip, ask me something, you’re going to get a direct answer, might not like my answer sometimes, but the one thing you know it was real and generally speaking the majority of the time folks respect that.

On the advertiser and sponsorship front, I typically target businesses that are overlooked by the bigger stations in the city and or may not be able to afford the rates that the bigger stations charge. The advertisers and sponsors can get more of a personal, direct relationship with me than the bigger stations, but since I am the marketing and promotions for The Bossman Show and I have the discretion to craft a package for a business that is unique to them and their needs rather than a this our plan take it or leave it as what happens on a daily basis at the bigger stations. Using my website, social media platforms and the show itself makes the business owners feel truly cared for and this is a partnership, not just a business transaction.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Seeing how far I’ve come from when the whole operation was just an idea from Facebook group chat to being a trusted voice in the community makes me pinch myself sometimes. Knowing how I started off with no following to have the following I’ve grown over the years from social media, being present at events, networking and sheer hard work is what’s rewarding to me. I value being Independent Black Media. I wear that proudly. Being able to be unapologetically Black on my show and tell the story from the Black perspective is something special to me that I take pride in. I never would have imagined being where I am today, but thankful I’m here and looking forward to better and better things going forward.

For the many highs of being a radio host, starting from nothing to now, there are a lot of obstacles and challenges that aren’t known by the average individual. These are the same obstacles that I’ve faced since getting into the radio media business. It boils down simply to this, who you work for and their standing in the media hierarchy determines whether you’re treated as a full-member of the media with all access or full-member of the media with limited access. Access to players, coaches, entertainers, politicians and people of that sort is determined by your name and who you work for. In my case, being independently owned without corporate backing can be hit or miss on how I’m dealt with entirely.

I’ll level this focusing on my dealing with professional teams and collegiate teams. Some teams and I have relationship where I’m credentialed to come cover the games to get pregame, in game and postgame content, but when I ask to interview a player or a coach from the team, I’m met with a no response or excuses and reasons why they can’t accommodate my request, most reasons center around “time” or only doing things with “local beat reporters”. Being in the game long as I have, I know this to be for lack of a better term, BS. Example being that the same coach or player I requested to speak to for 15 minutes is on a national show, but they told me that the coach or player doesn’t have “time” or that they’re only doing things with “local beat reporters”. It all goes back to what I said, the level of access and accommodation by these teams is determined by who you work for and who backs you up, not your level of content or quality of question.

Being the man that I am, when I see this scenario play that I’ve detailed above, I reach back out and say something to the effect of, I thought the coach or player didn’t have “time” or “that you all were only doing local stuff”, but I just heard and or seen coach on this show, usually I get no response, every now and again someone will respond and we end up have an interesting email conversation. Some of these people think in good conscience that they tell me that they can’t find 15 minutes on a coach or player’s calendar to accommodate my request for an interview. Nobody’s that busy that they can’t find 15 minutes on the calendar to do a phone or Zoom interview with me, it’s a matter of not wanting to. These PR folks are the gatekeeper, they can make anything they want to make happen since I’m independently owned and I’m not corporately backed, I’m not afforded the same level of accommodation and consideration as those who work for corporately backed national media companies.

Over the years, I’ve run across coaches and players that I wanted to interview but the PR folks wouldn’t make it happen, a lot of the times, the coaches and players tell me the request never got to them. This further cements the point I previously made about these PR folks being the gatekeeper and can make anything happen they want to make happen. The coaches and players will give me their contact information and we set up the interview without PR involvement. Then, I get an email for the PR folks to go through them for interview requests, not the coach and player, my response typically is I ran into the coach or player on their own time, not team time and set this up, I tried to go through you to set the interview up, but you chose not to work with me to set up. This part of the cycle of being independent media, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation, I choose to do and live with the result. I look at this way, closed mouths don’t fed and I want to get fed, so I capitalize on opportunities.

Doing this as long as I have, I just call out the nonsense when I see it. It’s unfortunate that by choosing my own path, choosing to be independent, I’m effectively working with one-hand tied behind my back because I know from the jump I’m not afforded the same benefits and perks that those who work for corporately backed media organizations are. I feel good knowing that I’ve provided as much quality content as I have and built my brand and show the way I have understanding the rules of engagement in the sports media world which are stacked against those who choose the path of independence rather than corporate backing.

Especially with NBA and NFL players where the majority of players are Black, as a Black man, I can relate to them off the rip, we have a shared experience to connect on beyond their play on the field or the court, but I’m not afforded those opportunities because I’m not corporately backed. When I know these guys would love to talk to someone who looks like them and can relate to them. Let’s be honest, these guys are covered mostly by White men and White women who can’t connect with them the way I could. I see the questions asked of the players, I’ve been in the locker rooms with guys, the answers and responses they give me are not the same answers they give my White counterparts in the media. I don’t just center my show as an “Atlanta show”, I center my show as a “National show” that happens to be based out of Atlanta. I cover every team from every league, I’m watching coast to coast for interesting trends and stories to cover. After all these years, some of these PR folks still don’t get that about me and still question me about why I want to talk to their coach or a particular player.

In the NBA over half of the head coaches are Black, when I reached out to these teams about interviewing the coaches, I told them I was an independent Black media host and I wanted to speak to the coach and let’s just say I got a myriad of delay tactics, excuses and flat-out non-responses in my quest to interview all the Black head coaches in the NBA. I never look at myself as lesser than any of these other people who work for these corporate media entities. I want the same access, benefits and perks they get. I’m going to continue to fight for equity for independent media. We in independent media work harder, grind harder than those from the corporate media entities, everything we get, we have to scratch and claw for, nothing is given to us because of who we work for. Has it gotten me in some hot water with some teams for me pushing back and calling them out on their mess? Yes, it has, but it’s hot water and trouble, I welcome, because I’m fighting for the greater good. I’m not happy just accepting scraps. I’m just not happy to be there. I want the same privileges and accommodations of others; I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

A challenge with the potential advertisers and sponsors: they’re only stuck on the bigger, high-profile radio stations in the city. They’re enamored with the name and brand of them not realizing the reality of the situation. The reality is that if you buy commercial time on a terrestrial station if an individual is not in their car or listening to the radio in the office or at home, they miss your ad. Also, with the changing climate of radio to digital, the question is now, is your commercial being played on the online feed or just the radio (in car) feed. Getting a spot with me, I include your commercial in the podcast version of the show, so whether it’s a year or two after the fact, if someone pulls up an interview, they can hear their commercial still, so it’s a constant return on investment for the client. There’s no podcast of the music stations in the city that are posted with your commercial on their website, it’s luck of the draw of who’s in their car to hear the commercial at that given time. Working with me, your commercial can be heard any place, anytime, anywhere. A lot of times, clients will post links to the show and tell their followers to check out their commercials during the breaks of the show, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a partnership. Getting potential advertisers and sponsors to reset the way they view radio advertising can be challenging, but more often than not after I break it down the way I did above, they tend to come around and want to be with me instead of the more high-profile stations in the city.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m a radio host, field reporter, executive producer, sports director, social media manager, consultant, sales representative and counselor all-in-one.

I specialize in radio, show production and covering sporting events along with local events.

I’m known for my professionalism, my sheer joy to serve, my infectious smile and attention to detail.

I’m usually recognized by my shades or my variety of hats I wear.

I’m proud that I’ve built this media company from the ground up and had to earn every connection I’ve ever got. No one ever gave me anything, everything I’ve got in this business has been from my outreach and willingness to put myself and sell me and the show.

What sets me apart from others is that I understand every facet of this radio and media business, additionally understand the world of Public and Media Relations better than most in the industry. I know how to cut through all the nonsense that goes on throughout our industry.

On-air, I can touch on a variety of topics and create interesting segments for the listening audience that leave them laughing, thinking and wanting to pursue more bread crumbs and feed themselves more knowledge. I believe that every show is an opportunity to engage the listener’s mind and make a deeper impact.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
As I learned early in my quest to become a radio host, finding a mentor can be very difficult, the media is a very dog eat dog sort of a business, people are fearful of bringing someone along who maybe could potentially take their spot down the road. Since I’m independent, I’m not worried about someone taking my place because no one can take my show from me. If a person is trying to get with a corporate entity, they should try to be an intern at one of these places, but the key is don’t just let them off the hook by just being a runner, really press them to teach the tricks of the radio trade that way it gives that individual a foundation to build from. I’m always open to assisting an aspiring radio host grow in their craft.


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