D.J. Stout knew exactly what he was looking for; he just didn’t know where he’d find it.
After Marc James left WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610) this spring for a job at the CBS Radio sports station in Atlanta, Stout decided he wanted to bring back the “Prime Time” afternoon drive-time show that until 2010 had been hosted for 13 years by Mark Packer. It featured a rotating co-host format and the popular “whiner line.”
But Stout, operations manager for WFNZ, needed someone to serve as primary anchor for the show. He kept plowing through audition tapes and not finding the voice he was looking for.
Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, Chris Kroeger noticed James’ departure and wondered whether WFNZ would give him a shot. For three years he’d been working his way up at IMG College, a growing collegiate media and marketing firm where he was doing programming and some on-air work for Pac-12, SEC, ACC, AAC and Big East shows.
His ambition was to become an on-air personality, and he was interested in landing in a pro town.
Kroeger grew up in Matthews, graduated from Piedmont High School and did some call-in work for WFNZ while he was at Appalachian State University (he overlapped with the university’s championship football teams) pursuing a broadcasting degree.
He sent a resume and samples of his broadcast work to Stout, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Stout had never heard of him. But he listened to the sample. And he liked it.
“Then I opened up his resume. He was too good to be true,” Stout says. “He was from here, grew up listening to WFNZ. I really liked his tape, and he’s a Hornets fan and a Panther fan and he grew up listening to my radio station.”
Stout shot an email to Kroeger: “Call me.” How about coming down and doing the afternoon show later this week as a try-out? he asked. This is too good to be true, Kroeger thought.
Kroeger tried out on WFNZ that Friday afternoon. Stout was in New Orleans on business but didn’t want to wait to hear how Kroeger sounded. “I walked around with the phone in my ear for five hours,” Stout says. “He nailed it.”
Stout says almost every new host goes through a time where listeners complain about them. Listeners don’t like change and tend to criticize new talent until they get better acquainted. Kroeger somehow has skipped that part.
“Response to his show is the best I can remember,” Stout says. “With him, it has been nearly 100 percent positive. He’s a relatable guy and grew up here – maybe that’s part of it.”
Kroeger now handles the afternoon shift and does pregame for Panthers, Hornets and UNC Charlotte football.
Kroeger, 27, grew up in Charlotte at the same time the city’s sports scene did. He remembers going to Hornets games with his father in the old Hive. Now, he says, the city – which is heavy with transplants – is coming of age in pro sports and growing impatient for back-to-back winning seasons. “People are really hungry to see good professional sports in this town,” Kroeger says, though many still divide their loyalties with the teams they grew up with elsewhere.
Kroeger admits that he’s partial to the home teams, what’s sometimes derided as being a “homer” in broadcasting. “I get called a homer all the time and, frankly, I am. As a listener, I want someone who’s interested in the teams, but someone who also speaks his mind. It’s not always sunshine and daisies.”
Kroeger’s been at it long enough on “Prime Time” to have frequent callers he recognizes by voice. Some of them go overboard talking on the air, but are reasonable otherwise. It’s kind of like running a neighborhood bar, he says.
“You meet them in person and they’re down-to-earth, normal people,” Kroeger says. “I don’t know what it is with sports but it brings something out in people. It’s a different segment of the brain.”
NBC Sports has signed Krista Voda, one of the most prominent women in motor sports reporting who has been covering NASCAR for Fox Sports, to a multiyear contract to host Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series coverage when NBC’s telecast contract begins next year. She will also have assignments for NBC Sports and Olympic coverage. … Greg Armbrecht joins WCCB (Channel 18) as weekend meteorologist from the NBC affiliate in Omaha, Neb. …
WNKS-FM (“Kiss” 95.1) parts ways with midday personality Kelly Meyers after five years. She will be replaced with Cassiday Proctor, who will also continue her morning shift on the “Drex & Maney” show. … An appreciation day will be held for James McGill, 84, one of Charlotte’s oldest active broadcasters, at 4 p.m. Sunday at New Waves of Joy Baptist Church, 4739 E. W.T. Harris Boulevard with Bishop Altheresa Goode Howard emceeing. McGill does the “Sweet Hour of Prayer” show at 6 a.m. Sundays on WGIV (1370 AM, 103.3 FM). He got his start in radio at WDSC-AM in Dillon, S.C., and came to Charlotte in 1950.
Scott Mason, who does the Raleigh version of “Carolina Camera” for WRAL (Channel 5) called “Tar Heel Traveler,” was in Charlotte this week to promote his book, “Food Journeys Across North Carolina,” a compilation of down-home, mom-and-pop restaurants he’s discovered. He’s also got a TV segment coming up this month NOV on Price’s Chicken Coop in Charlotte’s South End. Price’s didn’t make his book, but Hap’s Grill in Salisbury did.