My friend Drew Olson has a new work address.
The veteran Milwaukee sports journalist / broadcaster – and former OnMilwaukee.com senior editor – ended an 11-year run as a talk-show host at ESPN Milwaukee (540 AM) last week and will begin a new chapter with The Big 920 (WOKY) on Monday.
"I’m continuing my career-long quest to drive down the ratings and readership at every outlet in the state," Olson joked. "To quote ‘The Newsroom’ anchor Will McAvoy, ‘Progress is slow, but I’m in it for the long haul.’"
Olson, who spent much of his career covering the Brewers beat for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and did freelance work for Fox Sports Wisconsin, remains a contributor on "Big 12 Sports Saturday" on WISN-TV and as baseball analyst for "Bob and Brian in the Morning" on 102.9 The Hog.
"It might seem like I’ve worked at a lot of places, but by media standards my career has been remarkably stable," said Olson, who will work as a fill-in host at The Big 920 while management decides on a suitable time slot. "It’s already been a fun ride and I’m looking forward to what’s next."
Olson said his split from ESPN Milwaukee, which he characterized as "one of the most amicable partings in radio history," was prompted in large part by the station’s decision to reduce his two-hour midday show to a single hour in order to make room for "Wilde & Tausch," a program featuring Jason Wilde and former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.
"The easy joke is that Tauscher came in and ate an hour of our show," Olson said of the hulking former tackle. "But, I totally understood the decision. Jason is one of my best friends and those guys are going to be great together."
Olson said his friendship with Colleen Valkoun, who is market president for iHeart Media’s Milwaukee cluster, made his decision to leave "a virtual no-brainer."
"I met Colleen years ago when she did sales for Bob & Brian, and I always loved her energy and ideas," said of Valkoun, whose station lineup includes ratings leaders like country station WMIL (FM 106), WISN (NewsTalk 1130 AM) and Oldies 95.7 FM (WRIT) along with music stations WRNW (97.3 FM) and V100.7 (WKKV).
"I didn’t see her as often when she left for iHeart, but we reconnected a couple of years ago when our daughters played club soccer together. We spent a lot of time on the sidelines chatting about the radio business and the more we talked, the more I realized that I wanted to work with her.
"The Big 920 is the Milwaukee home of the Badgers, it has a really strong signal and I have friends like Mitch "Thunder" Nelles who work there and I respect the guys who work for the station in Madison (The Big 1070) like Mike Lucas, Phil Dawson and Mike Heller. The program director both stations, Tim Scott, is a good guy. It’s never easy to leave a job after 11 years, but I think this transition is going to be really easy."
Although it surprised many longtime listeners and even some co-workers, Olson said his exit from ESPN Milwaukee was surprisingly easy.
"Most of the time in radio, they call you in an office, tell you to close the door, fire you and have security watch while you pack your belongings," he said.
"Craig Karmazin (founder and CEO of Good Karma Brands) has been a friend of mine for a long time and it didn’t go down that way at all. I gave my two weeks’ notice after my show ended last Monday (Aug. 8) and rather than kicking me to the curb, he allowed me to finish out the week on the air. Instead of a one-sentence e-mail to the staff, he let me write a farewell note. I’m grateful for that, because it doesn’t happen very often.
"Craig and his team have done great things at ESPN Milwaukee. I was glad to be a part of that. But, I’m also looking forward to seeing how we can make things happen at The Big 920."
In addition to his radio duties, Olson will work for Crush It! (crushitsportsmedia.com), a company he started with longtime friend John Smilanich to provide media training and consulting to sports teams, athletes, coaches and administrators at all levels.
"Sports interviews have become frustratingly banal and combative," he said. "After all these years with a notebook, tape recorder and microphone in my hand, I want to show the guys on the other side that doing interviews is not an obligation but an opportunity to enhance their personal brand and the team’s," he said. "In my experience, players who are comfortable with the media have longer, happier careers and more opportunities in their post-playing days."
Olson, who co-authored his first book this year – "If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers" with Fox Sports Wisconsin analyst Bill Schroeder, said his next publishing venture will be – believe it or not – a cookbook.
"My high school friend, Suzette Metcalfe, is the chef and owner at The Pasta Tree," he said. "The restaurant is celebrating its 35th anniversary next year and I’m going to help her publish a commemorative cookbook with some great stories and amazing recipes."
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