89.1 WEMU

Meet The Staff - Patrick Campion

Mar 31, 2016

You'll find it's hard to pry a microphone out of WEMU's Patrick Campion's hands. After all, he wouldn't have gotten into this business if he didn't love to talk!
Credit Marilyn Gouin / WEMU

  What happens when you take a radio junkie and technophile and plop him down in the middle of one of the great public radio stations in the United States?  Well...  You've been hearing and seeing parts of it for just a little more than two years.  Patrick Campion loves the idea of what radio once was, what it still can be, and what it must become into the future.  WEMU is the very embodiment of all those great concepts, and your continued support lets WEMU thrive and flourish in unprecendented ways.

Position: I'm the Program Director at WEMU, but I really like to think of myself as the Head Coach of the greatest baseball team on the island of misfit toys.  

Blue shamrocks are a real thing. That's what Patrick told me.

Hometown: Southfield, MI born and raised, but on a playground in Farmington, MI was where I spent most of my days.  I was a Catholic school brat - 14 years worth (K-12 and last year of college).  In case you're curious, I graduated from Catholic Central High School back when it was in Redford.  Go Shamrocks!

College/University: This is a bit of a grocery list.  I started at Central Michigan University (Fire Up Chips!) in their Broadcast and Cinematic Arts program (also had a theater scholarship and was in the choir).  After a year there I decided to focus more on radio, so I attended Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts (as it was known then).  There was some parental insistence that I had to get a "real" college degree, so I spent one year at St. Mary's College of Orchard Lake (don't bother looking it up - the college doesn't exist any more.  It's now an extension campus for Madonna) and got my BA in Communications Arts.  Fun trivia note - the only college I applied to that I didn't get accepted into was Notre Dame.  I genuinely had notions of pursuing a life devoted to the priesthood and wanted to study theology and philosophy among my Irish brethren.  Ask me some time about how they rejected me.  Frowny face.  Now I'm pursuing my MBA at Eastern Michigan University (almost half way there!).

 Favorite WEMU show(s): This is a tough one.  They all have such great merit.  I'm going to say Morning Edition and All Things Considered since I get to sub-host those when David and Lisa are out (but that's just because I LOVE being on the air).  Honestly, it depends on my mood.  I get the news/info I need from NPR and our local news staff.  I'm entertained and enriched by our local music hosts.  Some of the new long format shows we're carrying are INCREDIBLE (check out Freakonomics and The New Yorker Radio Hour if you haven't already).  I tend to view WEMU in different terms from your average listener since I'm responsible for the station's "sound" 24/7.  Because of that, anytime I hear something good on WEMU I'm filled with a great sense of pride knowing I had a small part in making that happen (sometimes a VERY small part).

What drew me to WEMU: A job interview.  Hardy, har, har.  Seriously, though, I've been working with WEMU off and on since 1999.  I worked for a technology company that serviced radio stations and WEMU happened to be a client that came on board right around the time I started there.  When I stumbled upon their job opening for Program Director in 2013, I jumped at the opportunity to get back into the on-air side of radio (again).  It's a rare opportunity to be able to do what you love in a field like this (and becoming more and more rare with each passing year).  I'll tell you more about that in just a moment.

What I do daily at work: Very rarely are any two days the same at WEMU.  My job entails overseeing all content creation and development on the station, on our digital properties, etc.  I try to have a hand in almost everything we do, but mostly it's to provide guidance to the people that make it "go" every day.  Sometimes I'll get directly involved in a project (like this one), but, for the most part, I'm here to steer the ship in the right direction and keep us clear of any icebergs that may pop up over the horizon.  Wait - that's not a great analogy.  Let's say that I'm also making the ship bigger and better and taking it to a safer harbor where more people are watching it arrive... OK.  That's gone on long enough.  I think you get the idea.  If not - give me a shout.  I love interacting with our listeners!

So many buffets and tattoo parlors, so little time.

Favorite place to eat: I don't think this is a good question for me right now.  I'm trying to cut weight and getting back to my "fighting" size, so I'm pretty darn hungry right now.  OK - here goes...  Battista's Hole In The Wall in Las Vegas (great memories, great food, great atmosphere).  Caeser's in Lake Tahoe has the best calimari I've ever eaten.  Almost any Brazilian Steakhouse will do, but the two best steak meals I've ever had were at Morton's in Seattle and the Circus Circus steak house in Las Vegas.  The original Five Guys in DC is still the best greasy burger I've ever had (the franchises are good but just don't compare).  Speaking of Caeser's - their new buffet in Vegas is TO DIE FOR (and that's saying a lot in a town known for great buffets - the one at Wynn is still the standard bearer only edged out by Caeser's because their selection is larger).  I've eaten at some incredible BBQ joints all over America, conquerred the prime rib at Weber's, had incredible, freshly prepared Mexican food at a local hole in the wall in Mexico City, eaten Loco Moco from a roadside stand in Honolulu, sampled the finest poutine all over Canada...  I love food (especially local flavor stuff that isn't available anywhere else), but my favorite is still a three inch thick Ribeye that I start on the grill on my back porch, finish on my broiler and share with my wife.  No restaurant will ever come close to that.

The one song that is stuck in my head: I've been listening to a lot of "electronic" soundtracks while doing work at my desk (or studying) lately.  "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from "The Social Network" has been rattling around up there lately.  Thanks Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross!


The album I think people need to hear: In a time when grunge was king, Temple of the Dog came out right when I was getting my first car with a CD player.  To this day I can't hear "Say Hello to Heaven" without thinking about riding around in my black Bronco with the windows down and the speakers blaring.  I'd love to be able to share that experience with you.  If you're not into that sort of thing, then I'd recommend running out and getting Johnny Cash's "American IV: The Man Comes Around" immediately.  Put "The Man Comes Around" on repeat for about six hours until you can really feel all the pain and longing and heartfelt soul that that man had experienced in his lifetime.  

Favorite place to shop: Thrift shops are amazing.  Where else can a guy my size get great clothes for a buck a piece?  Seriously!  When I'm not being cheap, the tech geek in me loves to peruse the latest offerings from Micro Center.  

Favorite vacation destination: Going to Vegas with my incredible wife (especially to get a new tattoo) is tops on my list of flyaway destinations, but I'll choose northern Michigan over anywhere else in the world in a heartbeat.  There's something about the first time the water of Lake Michigan hits my toes after a long absence...  All at once I'm alive and at peace again.  We try to find lakefront camping spots at least a few times a year and spend a weekend unwinding, relaxing and becoming one with ourselves.  When we go up with the kids (all five of them) it has become easier to rent a house.  Last year our spot was near Interlochen and was a week of fishing, swimming, sight seeing, grubbing on local fare, drive in movies... It was heavenly!

Patrick Campion's best friend/wife and Northern Michigan pause to have their picture taken.
Credit Patrick Campion

Favorite person to follow on Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/Facebook: On Facebook I'm involved in a private group for radio people that has saved my sanity more than one time.  My daughter is on Instagram, so I get a glimpse into what she's up to with her friends.  John Dingell is the king of Twitter (and always will be!).

The last film I saw: Took four of the five kids to see "Batman vs. Superman" last weekend.  Loved it.  Was it all that it could be?  No, of course not.  But IT WAS AWESOME! I was in it for the spectacle.  I'm not too proud to admit that.

Most memorable moment at WEMU thus far: It involves an electronic toy, inappropriate humor, lots of inside jokes, laughing until it hurt and the last day of a Pledge Drive. That and when our ratings went through the roof last spring and we were number one in the market.  I'll never forget how proud I was opening that report that day because we did it together.  Go team WEMU!

I love public radio because: First and foremost, I love radio.  Some of my earliest memories are of the pictures that Ernie Harwell created in my head during Tigers broadcasts on WJR.  I remember sneaking my little transitor radio under my pillow so I could listen at night after bed time.  And don't get me started on J.P. McCarthy.  See - I'm tearing up here already.  I was blessed to have grown up in a radio market full of larger than life talent in a time where people like that ruled the airwaves and informed the community.  When I got to college the first thing I did was apply at the student station.  I couldn't wait to get behind that mic and make the magic that is radio.  It has been a part of our cultural fabric for a hundred years, and it continues to have the potential to play an important role in our society.  Years ago I presented a paper at a national convention that one reporter described as being about "The Advance That Has Led Us Backwards."  Consolidation of radio properties and the proliferation and misuse of technology have run a dagger straight through the heart of so many great stations.  It has been really depressing watching this industry gut itself over the past 25 years.  Public radio is, in most places, the last bastion of hope for this great medium.  Public radio represents freedom - a freedom to celebrate art and culture and news and community and hope.  A freedom to inform, to start the conversation, to be there for people when they really need it the most.  Public radio, again - in most markets, represents the best of us these days.  I've seen that for the 17 years I've been working with public stations of all shapes and sizes.  Why wouldn't I love that?