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Tom Kuser has done nearly a full day's work before most of us get out of bed in the morning. But there’s one question he doesn’t like to be asked:

So, what's it like to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning?

Turns out dawn would be sleeping in. The familiar voice of Morning Edition gets up at 3:25 am every weekday...and does a lot of other interesting things, too. Find out how The Honeymooners, classic cars, and an entirely different set of wheels have shaped the life of WSHU's Program Director.

What inspired you to get into radio?

My interest was piqued by my high school English teacher Mrs. Butler, who had us do some dreaded role playing in class. We hated doing it. Somehow she'd gotten hold of radio scripts for The Honeymooners, with Ralph, Alice, and the whole gang. But there was also the part of the radio booth announcer, which she gave to me. Afterwards, she said, "Oh! You sound like you're on the radio!" That got me thinking. Later on, in college, I discovered the school's brand new radio station, and that's where I lived for 4 years.

What’s the best thing about being in radio?

It’s different every day. Here at WSHU, it's the news the way we cover it in public radio. It's about more content, more meat, more background. And it's the music, some of the best ever written and recorded.

What bit of programming over the last 30 years affected you most and why?

There are two news events that come to mind. One Saturday morning, in the middle of a pledge drive, I realized that Scott Simon had "broken format," as we say, meaning that he was ignoring the normal clock and blowing through breaks. We learned that the space shuttle Columbia had burned up during re-entry. We immediately ceased fundraising, jumped on AP, and regrouped. We pre-empted the rest of the day's programming to stick with NPR's special coverage of the disaster.

 

And of course, another major news event was 9/11. I was on the air that morning and I'll never forget hearing first about Tower One, then Tower Two, the Pentagon, the plane in Pennsylvania...all programming other than NPR's ceased, and we sent our reporters into the field to cover the story. Our music department also put together a very moving sequence of classical pieces to help listeners deal with the events of the day.

What's the one thing our listeners would be surprised to know about you?

That I used to commute to the station on my motorcycle. But I stopped that when I realized that any pre-dawn collision with a critter crossing the Merritt Parkway—a deer, or a big raccoon—was going to end badly. I still have the motorcycle though. Two, actually.

What do you believe has contributed to WSHU's success over the past 30 years?

I think it’s the consistent quality of what we've been doing. It's the programs we choose to put on the air, and the local news coverage that we've improved over the past 10 years. It's also the kind of classical programming we provide: a good mix of music and very knowledgeable announcers who know how to choose it and bring it to the air in a really palatable way. Basically, we're lucky to have some great people.

A "back in the day" story: radio today versus yesterday...what's the biggest difference?

Remember that old expression, "it ended up on the cutting room floor"? Back in the pre-digital age, everything you heard on WSHU came from audio tape played on reel-to-reel machines. And editing that sound was a time consuming, manual process in which the tape would actually be cut with a single edge razor blade, and put back together with splicing tape. Back in the early 90's, I remember spending an awful lot of Friday nights—which turned into Saturday mornings—editing a weekend program called "Radio Pages," the floor around me littered with bits of tape that weren't destined for the finished product!

Outside of radio, what are some of your interests?

I'm pretty much a gear head. That's a bug I caught as a kid. While I don't have one at the moment, in the past I've had a number of classic cars to work on: a ’55, ’57 and 2 different ’56 Chevy’s, a ’66 VW, a ’65 Pontiac, a ’69 Barracuda, a ’66 Ford LTD, and a ’51 Mercury. Right now the only rebuilding I'm doing involves parts of my house!

What have been some of the most inspired memories you have of working at WSHU?

We've endured some pretty wicked weather over the years, and during those times we don't have the option of closing up till things are cleaned up. It's been really great to see how our staff pulls together to keep the station running under really adverse conditions, including hurricanes, super storms and blizzards.