By April Skye Balough
On the third floor of a spacious office on Fourth Street in St. Pete, nestled behind three doors—two of which requiring a security badge—sits one slim woman consumed by a pair of bulky Sony headphones and five computer screens. Danielle Belusky McBroom flashed her studio intern badge for the first time nine years ago, and has been growing in talent and achievement ever since.
At the ripe age of 19, Danielle attended Next Big Thing 5, and made it her mission to work the station’s notorious festival behind-the-scenes by the following year. “One of my proudest moments at 97X was when my boss came up to me and told me I was hired, four days before NBT 6,” she enthused. “It was quite overwhelming when I realized I actually did it!”
She began her career learning the ins-and-outs of producing the successful show ‘The Morning X.’ Danielle would arrive at the station by 3:45 A.M. every weekday to prepare. When she left the office, the mental load wouldn’t cease. “I had a CRAZY amount of responsibilities. I would sit at home and feel guilty if I wasn’t working. I always felt like I needed to be looking up stories and doing content and finding angles and booking interviews… My mind literally worked like that 24 hours a day for six years.” Almost three years ago, the station shifted to focus on the music, the show disbanded, and Danielle became the ‘face’ of 97X, running the boards solo every morning.
At any given moment during her shift, Danielle is doing about five things simultaneously. One minute, she starts a draft of a SafeTouch Security endorsement that she’s promoted so many times, a cheat sheet is unnecessary. In the middle of recording, her countdown is dwindling, so she flicks a few switches and goes live to give away sold out NBT tickets. Twelve disappointed people later, she clicks on a third screen and gets ready to record the winner’s reaction. “Stephanie, you’re caller 13!” Danielle says with the enthusiasm of a night club’s hype man. “No way! Awesome!” Danielle gets the girl’s information, snips at the soundbite, sets it up to play during her next break, and in one breath goes back to editing her commercial.
Half of Danielle’s job is social media, and part customer service, all while grabbing her microphone every few songs to record a break. She is constantly on the move. Responding to about 40 emails a day, and filing them into folders ranging from ‘MetroPCS’ to ‘#3TrackSnack.’ Thinking of ten different ways to word a tweet about Uber in under 116 characters—“I know the image takes up 24 characters”—and scheduling them to post at different times, all weekend. Meanwhile, she replies to another winner on Twitter with the station’s phone number, answers their call, records a ten second break, and then takes the winner’s information. During all of this, she’s editing a Snapchat video of her making up a goofy Next Big Thing song, complete with emojis. “When I got here, I really took in radio with all of its quirky weird stuff. I’m a really weird person myself, so for me, I want to do something that fulfills me. I feel like this is a great place for me.”
Since she has been in the spotlight for the entirety of her 20s, one might wonder if this petite woman with a brown asymmetrical bob and a bright smile still feels genuine when she’s on the job. “I feel genuine as hell! When you talk on the radio, you always want to sound like yourself,” she said with assurance, like an old friend. “You don’t wanna be somebody that you’re not?! The way I talk, the words that I say, are all words that I say in my real-ass life. I don’t do cheesy radio things.”
Another aspect of Danielle’s job is mentoring the fledgling part-time on-air staff at 97X. She tunes in to all of their weekend shifts, drafts an email, and describes what they’re excelling at, and what needs work. “I don’t think you improve if you get just one or the other. If I listened to one of my shifts and did this, I’d probably rip myself apart.”
Danielle glances up as the clock ticks on. 11:36 A.M. “Got a lot to do still! Oh boy!” Every morning, Danielle creates a master checklist of everything she needs to get accomplished before noon. Some days she checks everything off, other days unexpected fires arise that require some precious studio time to put out. Her job is equal parts routine and creativity. She’ll be going through her emails, and responding to Facebook comments, and then she’ll have to think of another clever way to talk about an upcoming event.
Danielle hurries over to a box of unpacked holiday decorations in the corner of the studio. She picks up a string of red garland, with a wide smile spreading across her face. She proceeds to wrap the garland, and with a few strategically-placed pieces of Scotch tape, gives herself shimmering red facial hair. ‘Could my garland beard win the $500 Beard Contest?! See you FRIDAY at #97XBeerdz!’ she tweets, followed by a link for tickets. “It’s not always cut and dry. This is what my job is! You have to snap out of everything else you’re doing and be really creative, and then you have to pick up and remember where you left off and be productive again.”
You can follow April on twitter @aprilskye_ or facebook.