Chicago radio remembers three Rockford radio rookies

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 7:38 AM CDT
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CHICAGO, Ill. (WIFR) - Viewers and listeners to the Rockford news scene over the years, have seen a lot of familiar names and voices move onward and upward in the industry.

More than 35 years ago, three up-and-coming radio rookies stepped into different studios in Rockford. One chose news, another rock ‘n’ roll and the third, Top 40 Hits. However, all three worked in the same building, housing WROK and WZOK.

23 News found all three among the skyscrapers of the Windy City working for Chicago’s top-rated stations: Lisa Dent with WGN, Lisa Fielding at WBBM-AM and Joe Soto with V-103. All of them holding onto fond memories of their small market beginnings.

“When we met, we were all in our 20s all new to a new station away from our families…not a lot of us were from Rockford, so we automatically bonded that way…and as you know to be a journalist or to be in the radio or television business you have to be kinda crazy,” said Fielding.

“It was special because it was kinda new and the people that I worked with, we were all on the come-up.. we were trying to make it, you know? And we were learning from each other,” said Soto.

“I was 22 years old…green, fresh…really did not know what I was doing at all, but these guys really taught me the ropes right away,” Fielding recalled, “We were really, really competitive and Rockford, as you know, has a lot of big town news in a small town market.”

“Rockford’s my hometown and I always wanted to work at WZOK that was my dream, so I did everything I could to get in at WZOK. That meant working from two in the morning to six in the morning,” said Dent.

They say the medium is different from the 1980s with technology changing rapidly.

“I remember when they would let me take phone calls, but you had to record them and put them on the air,” said Dent, “you’d have to use a knife and splice it and put a little piece of tape and hope that the glitch wasn’t audible.”

“And we did it with a reel-to-reel and razor blades and you’d have to find the beginning of the conversation,“ Soto explains, “and if it was lagging you’d have to edit all that mess out, and you find the *vffft vffft vffft* and then you put it together, and then you’d have to put that piece of tape over a song.”

“That’s so crazy now…at WGN, all phone calls are live, but through the years you’d simply record them, quickly edit and get them on the air,” Dent recalls, “I could edit while I was talking on the air, go to the phone call that was on tape, so to speak tape, but back then it really was tape.”