By Dylan Marsh EAGLE TIMES STAFF
The voice of WCNL, Steve Smith, was honored on October 11 with the Granite Mikes Award — First Place for Public Affairs/Talk Show at the 2022 NH Association of Broadcasters annual meeting and award ceremony. He also received a pin for his 25 years of radio service.PROVIDED NEWPORT — On October 11, 2022, Steve Smith, longtime voice of WCNL, accepted the Granite Mikes Award for first place in the Public Affairs/Talk category at the 2022 New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters annual meeting and award ceremony in Concord. The award ceremony was held in person for the first time since 2019 at the Grappone Conference Center. He was also honored with his 25-year pin for his service in the communications industry during the event. Smith is well known in the area as the host of The Workforce Wake-Up and has been the station’s Program Director since 2007. “It is a huge honor for me to be recognized for what we do for our community on my morning show. I want to be a place people can turn to and find out what is happening in their community. The content I highlight every day is not something you will find on Pandora or Spotify. And for radio to stay viable, you have to give back to your community,” he said in a statement regarding the award. For many Sullivan County residents, Smith’s voice has become a mainstay in their morning commute. There was a crossroads in Smith’s formative years where this nearly wouldn’t be the case, however. After graduating from Newport High School in 1995, the radio host would go on to attend the University of New Hampshire. However, Smith was initially studying to become a mathematics educator, and only through a chance conversation with a boss at the time was offered a radio internship. “My boss asked me one day while we were working, what I was going to school to do. I told him math but what I really wanted to do was work in radio. He was a higher up at a radio station and offered me an internship,” Smith said. In 1997, while still in school at UNH, Smith found himself interning at WXHT in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. While interning, he found himself doing a number of things including, “dressing up as Elmo and handing out bumper stickers.” But, he aspired to be a radio personality or disc jockey. When he asked one of the resident DJ’s how he could become one the DJ responded, “change your major.” This is exactly what Smith would do, which is one of the reasons he found himself in a full time position with the station. After a year with the Portsmouth station, Smith would transfer closer to home to work at a Rock and Roll station in Lebanon. He would go on to be the Program Director from 2003-2007 until the station was bought out by a larger company. Smith was fired shortly after the company purchased the station. “Getting fired that day was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It’s a pretty crappy feeling, getting fired but it was the best thing that ever could have happened because three days later WCNL opened up to me,” Smith said of the firing that would lead to him working with WCNL. Smith said that just after being fired he was contacted by the owner of WCNL, which had been located in New London since 1988. The owner told Smith that he wanted to move the station to Newport and wanted to offer full creative control to him. “It really was the best. He trusted me enough to say here’s my station, do what you think is best. That is when I flipped it to the country format that we have now. Bob also taught me the importance of a radio host being involved in the community,” Smith said of his new position at WCNL. It was in 2007 that Smith, taking a look at the demographics in the area, switched the station from Americana to a more Country music focus. Smith also stated that when that decision was made they became the only station in the area playing more traditional Country artists such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Since that change in 2007, Smith has contributed much of the longevity and success of the station to the community. While acknowledging the ways in which the technological landscape affects the ways in which we ingest media, he says that staying focused on the community keeps him in line with the times. In 2015, Smith began the Steve Smith Podcast after a number of listeners spoke to him wishing that they were able to catch interviews Smith had done with locals. On Saturdays in the fall, Smith can also be heard over the airwaves as the voice of Newport Tigers Football. “I couldn’t do it without the community. If people didn’t listen to me I wouldn’t be here and to know that the station is meaningful to them is what keeps it going. It’s the same with local businesses, it’s fun to order stuff online but people have to remember to shop locally. Without those local businesses we wouldn’t be able to be here,” Smith said.