The most important piece of advice that the late E. Steven Collins gave me was explained in two simple words: “show up.” These two words landed him his first experience with radio and led him on the path toward a successful career.
While in college, I registered for a media course and was given the assignment of interviewing a media professional. I had no idea who to contact and reached out to the surrounding news outlets. I was surprised when I received an email response from Mr. Collins, but thinking back on it, I should not have been based on how giving this man was.
Mr. Collins was the “unofficial mayor of Philadelphia”, as well as a major public figure in the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. He was an amazing man and I considered him an inspiration, as well as a mentor. He always made time for others and got things done.
I was scheduled to interview him for my assignment on a Thursday afternoon. We decided on the location of Barnes &Nobles, and I was anxiously trying to memorize the questions I wanted to ask.
As I walked into the bookstore and saw the crowded tables, I began thinking of nearby places to meet at. Just at that moment, Mr. Collins called to tell me that he was outside the building.
I walked over to him, prepared with another destination aside from the crowded B&N. He explained that he was going to a community event at the African-American Art Museum and I could interview him there. He was dedicated to the community and networking, and I admired him for that. One thing I learned about media and journalism is that no two days are the same, and sometimes you have to go with the flow.
As we headed to the Art Museum, he began to explain how he got involved in the radio industry and what direction he wanted to take it. I considered taking out my notepad to record this information, but decided to just listen. He then asked me to describe the focus of the assignment and what I wanted to do in the media industry. He asked a variety of questions: “did you reach out to this news station?”; “do you have business cards?”
I realized he wanted me to succeed and be the best media professional I can be. He taught me to declare your own job title and take charge of your life.
We arrived at the African-American Art Museum and quickly joined the community event in progress. Mr. Collins effortlessly made a few statements on the topic of discussion and was engaged with the speakers. He then asked me if I had a question for the speakers. Aside from my interview, asking a question was the last thing on my mind.
Mr. Collins told me “you’re a journalist; you should always have a question.”
His genuine advice was very beneficial and I have applied this to my journalism career.
The event drew to a close, and I finally began the interview, but ended up learning more about myself as well as Mr. Collins’ career. I tend to downplay my accomplishments and need to embrace them.
Mr. Collins was an amazing man, media professional and mentor and will forever be an inspiration.
I completed my interview and assignment, but never had time to present it.
*Below is my presentation on him:
Ernest Steven Collins, or E. Steven Collins, was the Director of Urban Marketing and External Relations for Radio One, Inc. Radio One is a media company founded by Cathy Hughes that is targeted towards the African-American community. Collins was also the host of Philly Speaks, a political radio talk show host that airs on WRNB 100.3 Sunday mornings. Collins obtained this career by showing up, and perfecting his craft.
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Collins attended West Catholic High School and went on to study Journalism at Temple University. It was through Collins high school program that he got his first start in the radio business. He enrolled in a college media night class at Temple and showed up early due to excitement and curiosity.
By showing up early, Collins was introduced to Temple’s radio station and ended up being on their airways, reading the news. Since that day, he continued to make himself known and heard in the radio industry, as well as through other media outlets.
Starting off as a reporter, and then moving to broadcast news, Collins became knowledgeable of current events in the media. He carried this knowledge over with him in his career with Radio One.
Collins stated that the purpose of his job as Director of Urban Marketing and External Relations at Radio One was to “promote to the civic, corporate, and religious leadership media what Radio One is about.” This media company is targeted toward African-American consumers, and as Collins stated “has a commitment to 1.56 million listeners”, from its three stations of 105.3 WDAS, WRNB 100.3, and PRAISE 103.9.
Each of Radio One’s stations discusses topics that matter to their audience, such as politics, health, and education. This for-profit company gets its message to the public in many ways, such as radio, television, as well as online.
When asked which media outlet is most effective in terms of timeliness of providing the public with news, Collins responded with “radio.” He felt that with radio outlets, “there is a connection that other media outlets cannot duplicate.” There is a personal relationship that the listener has with the announcer, and they can relate to them in most cases. Collins also believed that with radio, the news is provided to its listeners in addition to music, and this helps to build their trust and relationship with the announcers.
Collins believed that media outlets have a major impact on its consumers. “Whether it is the Internet or satellite, a post on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter, someone is telling a story.” A person’s reflection, or perspective on what happened in their lives is a story, and Collins felt that there is “power in the technology that we’re using.”
There was also power in Collins approach to the community, and he used this power to promote more awareness for community organizations. Collins was involved in the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, Concerned Black Men Inc., along with many other influential groups.
Collins motivation for becoming a part of these organizations was the purpose of giving back and making a difference in Philadelphia. Through radio, Collins promoted more awareness of organizations like the ones aforementioned, and encouraged the public to attend and support their cause.
While discussing the future of media, Collins supported those entering the field and their endless possibilities. He believed that “there is nothing that can stop us at achieving success.” His advice to those bright, young students who yearn to break into any media industry is “show up.” Collins said opportunities are only given to those who show up and are not afraid to go after what they want. He also advised students to “be present”, and create a relationship with those professionals in one’s interested field.
Overall, Collins wanted students to achieve success in whatever they put their minds to. He felt that today’s youth have so many opportunities waiting for them but have to work hard to get them. Collins noticed the drive in the youth, and believed they are capable of making their ideas matter to the public.
Collins was an influential figure to all of those people who are determined to jumpstart their career. His drive will further motivate today’s youth to achieve their goals in the media industry.