By Jim Jj Johnston
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018 we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones.” Today, we are shining the light on Julie Adam.
"I never wanted to be in the spotlight, I don’t crave attention, and I’m frankly happy being out of the spotlight."
Julie doesn't like the limelight, but that is not going to stop us from saluting her. She entered the business as a very young woman and earned her stripes every step of the way to become the most powerful radio broadcaster in Canada.
We were competitors for a long time in the business, and I quickly grew to respect her and what she is all about. Chuck McCoy and his 365'er brother Jeff Vidler were quick to tell me about her talent, her smarts, and that she would have a long and very successful career.
When training for marathons, I used to run the 6.5K to work and home most days. Often, I would be running down the street on my way to Yonge and St. Clair at 6:30 in the morning and Julie was getting her daily run in. There was always a polite nod back and forth and I got to see, first-hand, the discipline she has in her.
How did this radio thing come along? Julie says it was her passion for music which she has had since she could speak. Like most of us, she gobbled up all the music she could, and made mixed tapes. She determined early on that playing music, versus making music, would be her thing.
Getting towards the end of high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. One day around the breakfast table in her hometown of Toronto, her mom and one of her sisters suggested radio? She hadn’t thought about that but checked into the Ryerson program, applied, and off she went.
On a trip to Mexico with a girlfriend, she ran into the “Hit Man” Kenny Caughlin who by this time was the General Manager at a Michigan radio station. They talked radio non-stop and returning she was supercharged, sending out 50 applications. She says a few Program Directors responded, but she persevered and called them all. After a few interviews, and station visits (one at CHFI), 365’er Gary Aubé showed her around Q107, and after meeting Joey Vendetta (Scoleri), she became an intern. That turned into a gig as the Producer of 365’er Andy Frost’s legendary 'Overnight' show on the Rock Radio Network out of Q107.
This was all during her Ryerson days where she ended up graduating from with a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree, and a major in radio and television.
Along came RAWLCO where Julie, on her 22’nd birthday, arrived at Z99 in Regina to work in music and be on-air (under the name Julie St. James). Next, she was off to Rawlco's Energy 1200 Ottawa and then when they won the Licence and launched their Toronto Country station, 92.5 CISS FM, she moved to Toronto to become the Assistant Program Director and Director of Artist Relations. The team wanted artists to come into CISS and to have the want to come back. Julie led the efforts of Toronto's first country station trying to connect country with T.O. through artist relationships and visits.
Then Rogers bought the station. Chuck McCoy was in charge and just recently he told me that during the transition he told Julie her position would be temporary as they would be making a bunch of changes. Chuck quickly learned that this young woman had ‘stuff’. Chuck is very good at recognizing and developing talent and at this point not only kept her on, but he also promoted her and then became a mentor. Not bad getting Chuck McCoy on board as a mentor!
They would work together for a long time. Julie learned fast, could take anything thrown at her and do well (still does). Says Julie: “Chuck is amazing, and it was a good run. To call him a mentor is probably understating it. I think he made my career. He threw me in the deep end so many times, and I drowned a couple of times. Plus, we’re opposites. He was very meticulous, and I’m not like that. I’m messy. He helped me with all the business stuff I didn’t know, and maybe I lightened him up a bit.”
Next came the Program Director job at KISS 92.5 until 2003 when ROGERS thought so much of her, they accelerated her to the VP/General Manager/Program Director role at 98.1 CHFI. That has been and continues to be a cash cow for Rogers, a company that obviously trusted her to keep that juggernaut going and growing.
Julie has an amazing work capacity and thus can take on a ton. With her current roles intact, she became the Assistant National Program Director helping Chuck McCoy and the team cross-country. In 2010, she became the VP of Programming for ROGERS, the first female to have that position in Canada!
Five years later upon the retirement of Paul Ski, ROGERS handed her the keys as she became the SVP of Radio (again Canada’s first) and she’s been leading a very successful nationwide Radio division since. Her position sees her driving strategy and overseeing the management and development of ROGERS Communications radio stations nationwide.
Julie, like Chuck, has a penchant for spotting and developing talent and has given many successful Canadian on-air morning personalities their first shot in the critical morning position. She also hires well and surrounds herself with the very best who are passionate in the same way. For example, Paul Kaye who is a fantastic VP of Product & Talent was hired a few years back from NEWCAP. Ratings continue to be solid, and virtually stronger everywhere in both PPM and Diary markets. The most recent ‘Diary Market’ Numeris rating result from a few weeks ago was a knockout for ROGERS.
Julie’s batting average is extraordinarily high but not without some hard learning's like all of us. I bring this story up for the simple reason that it’s all about how you deal with mishaps and sometimes those result in great things. It’s what you learn from them that makes you better equipped to be the best.
Two years later she called Erin and asked her out for a coffee. Emotions were high, Julie apologized, admitted to Erin that she was wrong, and they managed to move forward again together. Erin said it was a second chance to go back with her 'head held high', and she was ecstatic. Julie made it right including a public apology which Erin was not expecting. Upon Erin’s return, with the legendary Mike Michael Cooper in tow, ratings zoomed high again. Says Julie: “Of course, it was a total mistake, but in the end, it was the best thing we could have done. It allowed Erin to go and do her own thing, kick our ass, find Mike Cooper and then come back and kick everyone's ass.”
Julie's passion is working with people. She is known as a great communicator, who is not hesitant to be on the road to see and coach her teams in person.
She's also very innovative. Julie has been quoted regarding the interesting structure she put in place at Rogers: "I devised a system that was restructured under formats. For example, in Toronto Sportsnet 590 and CHFI have nothing in common, but Sportsnet 590 and Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver have everything in common. I found that having someone focused on the same formats across the country, because we have people focused on sales across the country, made more sense to me than having a General Manager. We have National Format Directors and the PD’s report to them. We have sales managers that are regional because sales are so local, and here in Toronto, we have a head of media sales and head of radio.
The format directors report into me, and I have a VP of Talent and Content in Paul Kaye who is also one of my reports. We have PD’s and SM’s in every market."
As for the #MeToo movement, Julie says it is nothing short of incredible. She sees history being made with women now having the courage to come forward and all working together to shut this behaviour down. The result is the world is changing.
In an article with 365’er Sharon Taylor awhile back, Julie was quoted as saying: “I also think it is impacting the work environment beyond its original intent of standing up against sexual assault and harassment. I think it is forcing leaders (& I believe everyone can be a leader) to shut down all inappropriate behaviour. Even as simple as …how do I say this nicely… not allowing people to scream and yell and behave like total jerks at work. Work should be fun, and our people deserve a great work environment. As they say… culture is defined by the worst behaviour you’re willing to tolerate. We have a zero tolerance policy at Rogers Media.”
‘Shelter from the Storm’ is a campaign that Julie has also championed, helping to raise millions of dollars for the Canadian Women’s Foundation. She helped grow this Radiothon from a local Toronto event to a national spectacle when she got radio stations in Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kitchener, Sudbury and Lethbridge, and also CityTV on board.
If there was ever any doubt about the repair of Julie and Erin Davis’s relationship, it was Erin who in 2011 proudly presented Julie with her ‘Rosalie’ award, which is handed out to top women in Canadian broadcasting. This has been given in the past to trailblazers Denise Donlon, Erin Davis, Jane Hawtin, Marilyn Denis, Maureen Bully, Susan Marjetti, Shushma Datt, Maureen Holloway, Betty Selin, 365'ers Ky Joseph, Jo-Ann Silverstein and Liz Janik, and Rosalie Trombley, who of course is the inspiration for the award.
Julies best advice to up and comers? "It’s a tough business. It is competitive, and it’s hard. Move, work wonky hours and all of that. But I think that audio, like podcasting, is taking shape and it’s been around for a long time. That voice, that human connection is only going to grow. I think audio is still a place to be.”
Sharon Taylor likes to tell this story and was she not right on? “Years ago or so, Julie and I were sitting on a panel at a CRTC hearing in Toronto. I introduced her to the commission as the future of radio. I think she still is.”
Julie manages to do all that she does and still be a fine family person, finding the time at one time or another to coach both of her sons’ baseball teams. Rumour has it she is a hopeless Detroit Tigers fan (how does that go down at work?).
It's been a pleasure to follow Julie from the time of her entry into this business to where she is now, which is at the very top. I have never worked with her, but I talk to enough people and most times I get the same description of her: 'Works hard, smart, talented, a strong communicator, is intuitive, respectful and a great leader.' Really nice to see. She'll be around for a long time to come. Well done, and keep it going, Julie.
Thank you, Julie Adam, for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Julie’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
– Jim JJ Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Programming/Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries worldwide.