Savannah Morning News column
June 15, 2014
Let’s get one thing straight from the start.
“I am not a good spokesman for Georgia Public Broadcasting,” says Orlando Montoya. Montoya is the erstwhile on-air host of WSVH, our local public radio station. Last February the folks in Atlanta summarily dismissed Montoya and four other people on staff, three fulltime, two part-time. They were encouraged to throw their hats into the ring for a job. Montoya did. Four months later he found out he did not get one. He insists he’s not bitter.
“I had 15 good years and all people want to talk about are the last five months,” he said. “I liked my job. It was an ideal job. I wanted to keep working. I’m a chat show host.”
But he’s moving on. And he’s still chatting.
Only this time the chats will be via a self-devised podcast concept. An inveterate learner who has always gone to as many local lectures, speeches and panel discussions as he could, Montoya has decided these public events should be recorded. So now he intends to record, reshape and reformat them back in his studio at home and then make them available as a podcast on his site, SavannahPodcast.com.
Like many media-related things, radio is changing. People’s habits are changing. We no longer want to watch a clock and wait until a certain hour to hear a certain program. With new capabilities, we are spoiled. We are impatient. We want to download and listen to anything we want whenever we want. With SavannahPodcast as his vehicle he will attend lectures, such as those sponsored by the Savannah Council on Foreign Affairs, and make them available to the public. They will be free. Once a month he will interview someone and make that available too.
“Podcsts are easier for people,” he said. “It’s like shaping a play list.”
Unlike the three-minute-30-second format of radio, each interview will be as long or as short as he wishes. He’s already got a pretty good selection online: education consultant Erika Tate; Savannah’s Bishop Kevin Boland on the new book about Flannery O’Connor’s “A Prayer Journal”; writer Will Harlan on Carol Ruckdeschel, “Untamed: The wildest woman in America and the fight for Cumberland Island”; and a recorded lecture by Dr. Kevin Spooner who appeared before the Savannah Council on Foreign Affairs
Montoya’s not sure how the podcast will pay off financially. He’s hoping to get sponsors – the Savannah Council on Foreign Affairs is his first – and contributions from individuals, “kind of like putting out a tip jar,” he said.
Other than loving radio Montoya, 39, didn’t know what he would do when he started college. His first major was foreign languages, Russian, in particular. He had taken three years of the language in high school. He thought he’d either teach Russian in this country or English in Russia. But when a professor assigned a book by Boris Pasternak at the University of Central Florida, he changed his mind. “That did me in,” he said.
That’s when a college counselor asked what he wanted to do. All he knew at that point was “listening to radio.” His parents kept a shortwave radio in his bedroom, “so maybe something in radio,” he answered.
That’s when he changed his major to broadcasting.
“I walked into the college station and said, ‘I want my own show.’ Because of Russian he already knew verbs and tenses and grammar, so changing AP copy into a radio style of active sentences wasn’t hard for him. He became a jazz radio host.
“I did not go into radio to do news,” he said.
But when WSVH offered him a job as news producer, a title that stuck, he took it.
He’s not worried about his new venture. He will continue doing walking tours, which he now does for Savannah Walks, and which he used to do on his own. He will look for people to interview.
“I’m a radio reporter,” he said. “We like the sound of our own voice.”
That’s what people who listen to radio like – the sound of someone’s voice.
“Take Rick Cluff,” Montoya said. “I heard him on air when I was in Vancouver. Now I stream him. I like his demeanor. Why do I need to know anything about Vancouver to listen?”
Same with Leonard Lopate in New York. He likes his voice and his style.
“All I ever wanted to be was that friendly voice on the radio,” Montoya said. “That show host.”
Life moves on, Montoya said, just not always as we expect it will
“The other day I ran into a woman in her late 20’s. She said to me, ‘I listened to you when I was growing up.’ That was a little weird.”