When he went to school, he probably never thought he’d go on to be a morning radio show host.
Now, Sherwin Hughes has found a comfortable spot behind the microphone on WNOV-AM 860. His show "The Forum" airs weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m.
Before we talk about the issues of politics, education and community that he tackles on the air, he explains that it is important to know where he came from. I like to think that personal experiences shape one's point-of-view, and for Hughes it isn’t any different.
"I grew up in Brown Deer," Hughes explained, walking through where he went to school and a journey that took him to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and eventually UW-Milwaukee. "When I was at UWM, I had internships and majored in social service."
Hughes landed a community development position at the YMCA, and through that post started networking with community activists and area politicians. He later worked at South Division High School in the Milwaukee Public Schools system and also helped on a number of campaigns for various Democrats, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Now, Hughes spends most of his day running his political consulting business and working with his clients, but it was a chance opportunity that led him to the radio.
"I got a call from Lena Taylor," Hughes said, explaining that it was not uncommon for him at the time to be in touch with the state senator. "She said that a person who was to be on the air didn’t show up, and they needed someone there."
WNOV, which had some struggles in the past, spent some time off the air, but it was now back trying to gain back an audience. The station was planning on covering the election with a program called "Election Central." Hughes went on the air with Taylor and other community members for a full day of coverage, providing information on candidates and the different issues reflected on the ballot.
That was it. Hughes was meant to be a fill-in for the day.
"Then the next day the station got a lot of calls, asking why I wasn’t still on the air," Hughes said. "The owners and I came to an agreement and we started the show."
Up until last month, the landscape of Milwaukee radio included a progressive African-American centric talk radio station. When WMCS-AM 1290 was on the air, Hughes was the host at the "other" station. When news came that WMCS was undergoing a format change and its radio show hosts had been let go, Hughes knew it was a bittersweet time.
"It’s a bittersweet kind of thing. I would listen to them and they would listen to me," Hughes said. "Our perspectives were very different, but I appreciated it. Ultimately, it’s a sad day."
Hughes has had WMCS show host Eric Von on his show and invited Earl Ingram to come be a part of his forum, despite a turbulent past. But now it is up to Hughes to carry the weight of being one of the few progressive voices on the airwaves.
And after listening to "The Forum" for these last few weeks, it sounds like it’s a burden he’s happy to have.
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.