Veteran radio broadcaster Steve Cochran is the morning drive host on WGN 720 AM Radio, heard weekdays from 6–10 a.m. The laid back radio personality has lived in Naperville for more than 20 years. He is equally at ease covering the hard-hitting news as he is helping his listeners gear-up for their day. Cochran covers the day’s headlines with an analytical eye and his characteristic comedic slant and banter with guests and fellow on-air crew has drawn large audiences. Steve is also an actor and stand-up comedian.
Is being a radio host a dream job for you?
Well, I’ve done if for a long time, but when the alarm goes off in the morning, it can be more like a nightmare. Somehow 3:59 a.m. is just too early; 4 a.m. I can just about handle! I’m doing the same thing I’ve done since high school, only now I get paid a lot better. Yes, it’s an absolute dream.
Which do you prefer doing, radio or TV?
I’ve done both. I used to have a daytime TV talk show in Michigan, but I do prefer radio. A TV newscast takes about 75 people to produce. We have eight people. I prepare an outline and then we just get out there. I’d say if I do one thing better than most, it’s my interview skills and ability to ad lib.
Although you are on the radio, your studio is very visible right on Michigan Avenue. Do you get recognized often in public?
Sometimes, but fame doesn’t mean as much to me as it did in the old days. It was great in my 20s. In the ‘90s I had the opportunity to go to California and had a pilot made for a sitcom I wrote, although it wasn’t picked up. But when I met my wife Maureen, my agenda changed. I have a family and have been very lucky to stay here in Chicago because I love it here.
What’s the most amazing experience you have had in your career?
In 2003 we did a program about adoption. I knew I was adopted and it led to me doing some research and I discovered my birth family. Although I was born in up-state New York, my birth mother was also living in Chicago. It turned out my sister was working at the Intercontinental Hotel next door to my office and would walk past the studio everyday without realizing we were related. Now my son lives close by his grandmother and she is getting to see her new great grand-daughter grow up.
What’s the best thing about your job?
It’s not just a dream to be able to do this. It’s not about how much money you make. It’s about being able to do something fun everyday for more than 35 years—although it feels like I started less than 10 minutes ago. It’s not easy, it’s competitive, but we are still here.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to break into radio?
All the rules have changed since I started out in the early ‘80s. You have to be able to do everything—to write, make videos, talk, be on stage—there are no traditional routes anymore. My advice would be to start putting out your own podcasts and write a blog about yourself. Broadcasting today is narrow casting or target casting. It’s personal to you and who you reach. Networking is also very important, I’m not sure young people realize that. They’re so connected on their phones, but they need to get out there and meet people too.Photo by Kristy Vicari