Bill Radke back on Seattle airwaves

When Bill Radke returned to Seattle two weeks ago, he needed to hit the ground running.

Radke stepped into his new job as morning host on KIRO-FM at the height of election season. After six years working for NPR out of Los Angeles, he needed to catch up on Washington politics in a hurry.

He also needed to embrace 2 a.m. wake-ups, four-hour stints on the air, and Seattle-style rain.

“It’s a shock to the system after living in the San Fernando Valley for six years,” Radke said.

Drizzle and all, it’s been a welcome homecoming for Radke. He became a familiar voice for Seattleites during the 1990s, when he hosted NPR’s Morning Edition on KUOW. Radke also was known around town for his stand-up comedy work and humor column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Radke didn’t plan to return to Seattle this year. He enjoyed his gig with NPR’s Marketplace, and his wife felt equally satisfied with her job at a law firm. The couple and their three children were settled in a house in the sunny San Fernando Valley.

But when KIRO on-air talent Luke Burbank called Radke up with a tip that the station wanted a new morning co-host to join Linda Thomas, Radke began to seriously consider the idea. His parents live in Lacey and his seven siblings all still reside in the Seattle-area. Radke envisioned his children growing up around their cousins.

Radke even welcomed the chance to return to Northwest weather. He missed the lush, green landscape. He thought fondly of cozy days indoors, book in hand, with rain pounding down outside.

His wife, however, was a different story.

“I said, ‘I know you don’t like the rain, but what if we give it a shot?’” Radke said. “In the end, she was game.”

Radke also liked the idea of working for KIRO again. He’d listened to the station since high school and interned there at the beginning of his radio career. Radke knew and respected Linda Thomas, and looked forward to getting the chance to team up with her.

“Linda is warm, funny, and knows so much about this area,” Radke said.

Though Thomas has only known Radke for a couple of weeks, she’s gung ho on the partnership so far. She said he’s smart, can be both serious and funny, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

“He’s exactly what I would want to listen to on the radio, so it’s going to be so much fun to do the show with him every morning,” Thomas said.

Thomas and Radke don’t plan a major overhaul of the show’s current events content, but the flavor and delivery may shift a bit. Radke wants to spend more time on feature stories, rather than just present the facts in a fast paced manner. Thomas said the team will continue trying to find unique stories someone won’t hear anywhere else.

In the past two weeks, Radke’s life has been a whirlwind of catching up on the Seattle scene and learning his new role. At Marketplace, he was on the air for just seven minutes at a time. At KIRO, he and Thomas control the airwaves for four hours straight.

Radke also must live with constant sleep deprivation. He’s at the studio each day between 2:30 and 3 a.m. He tries to catch a mid-day nap, and then picks up his three-year-old daughter and six-month-old twins. Oftentimes, Radke is in bed for the night before his wife or children.

But Radke is embracing his hectic life. He reasons he’s lucky to re-enter Seattle radio at the height of an exciting political season.

“I’m playing catch-up, but that’s part of the fun in this businss,” Radke said. “I’m always learning.”

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About Heidi Dietrich
HEIDI DIETRICH has worked as a journalist and writer for the past decade. She began blogging for the Washington News Council in spring 2010. Read Heidi's blog posts, see more about Heidi, or see more of what she's writing at http://heidiseattle.com/.