Sitka radio’s uber-host Rich McClear aboard the cruise ship Prinsendam.

Regular morning listeners will have noticed that Rich McClear has stepped in to host Morning Edition this June — an occasional duty he first performed for KCAW shortly after helping found the station in 1982. Rich brings a unique energy to radio with his expertise, depth of experience, and gift for telling stories. And it’s not limited to public radio: McClear has also been hosting Problem Corner on KIFW, Sitka’s commercial AM station.

KCAW’s Robert Woolsey asked Rich about his passion for this work.

KCAW – When KCAW asked you to be our substitute Morning Edition host in the month of June, you were on a cruise in the North Sea. Nevertheless, you promptly agreed to take over the microphone on your return to Sitka. Why was this such an easy decision for you?

I seldom pass up a chance to do radio, I love it. And being part of Raven News, great!

KCAW – You also host the ever-popular Problem Corner at midday on Sitka’s AM station KIFW. How is it hosting two of the most-listened to programs in Sitka?

I didn’t hit me until I was taking my daily walk in the National Park. I was walking by a group of cruise ship visitors and the guide pointed to me saying “There goes the Voice of Sitka” and asked me to say a few words to the visitors. About 15 minutes later it happened again with different group. I realized I had become kind of a minor celebrity or at least an entertaining tourist attraction. I’m happy that folks chose to keep me company on the air.

KCAW – Do you change your approach to hosting on public radio versus commercial radio? Does your sound change at all?

Of course. The most important thing about radio is “talk with your listener.” The Problem Corner listener is different from the Raven listener (although there is overlap). I try to find things that would be interesting to each group of listeners. But Problem Corner is a talk show. Talk shows hosts need “attitude” that isn’t appropriate hosting Raven News or doing
The Good Day Radio Show. On Problem Corner I feel freer to express opinions that may be controversial in order to prompt discussion than I do on Raven.

KCAW – After all these years, are people in Sitka still surprised to meet you in person, after only having heard you on the radio?

All the time. Several times a month I may be walking in the park or having my daily espresso macchiato (as opposed to a Starbucks type of macchiato, which is more a dairy product) at the Backdoor and someone will hear me talking and say, with some surprise “You’re Rich McClear.” I guess I don’t look like I sound.

KCAW – What is the single-most enjoyable thing about being on the radio for you?

Rick Sklar is arguably the most successful program director in U.S. radio history. He made WABC in New York the most listened to station in North America for the better part of a decade. He once sent a memo to his on-air staff that read something like: “When that red ‘on air’ light goes on, this has to be one of the great moments of your life, sound like it, let the listener know.” That’s it. When that red light (It’s blue at KIFW) goes on it IS a great moment, there is a rush of adrenaline a surge of joy, I’m happy.