Ginny Hubbard Morris seems to have held every key job at Hubbard Radio and its flagship local stations, KSTP-AM and FM, over the last three decades. She worked her way up to chair and chief executive officer of what now is the ninth-largest radio company in the United States, thanks to an expansion she conceived and carried out over the last five years.
Every job, that is, except one: talk show host. Why not?
“No way anyone will ever hear me on the radio,” she said. “No interest.”
Even as a one-time substitute?
“No way,” she repeated.
Morris made the statement with a shrug and the same equanimity that colleagues say characterizes her work, regardless of whether she is making decisions about content, personnel, ad rates or whether to acquire another station. She knows her strengths, and she harbors no illusions about waxing eloquent on the airwaves.
“I’d probably freeze up,” she said.
Her colleagues, including her boss and her top talk show host, would beg to differ. The Morris they know wouldn’t freeze up because the self-confidence and calm intellect that they have seen lead Hubbard Radio would serve her well on the air.
“Ginny is successful because she is smart,” said her dad, Stanley S. Hubbard, chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting. “She listens. She is fair and trustworthy. She surrounds herself with good people, and they like her. Anywhere I go in the industry, people tell me how much they like Ginny.”
One might think Morris was predestined to work in the broadcasting business because of her dad and her grandfather, Stanley E. Hubbard, who founded WDAM Radio, the predecessor of KSTP, in 1923 and KSTP-TV in 1948. But she wasn’t sure for a long time.
Born in St. Paul, the middle of five children, she grew up on the St. Croix River and graduated from Stillwater High School in 1981.
She attended Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and transferred to St. Thomas as a sophomore but left after a year and enrolled in University of Minnesota night classes because she wanted to work during the day in the promotions department at KSTP- TV. She had interned there after her freshman year.
“When Dad asked me about working at the station,” she said, “he told me, ‘Just try it for the summer. If you don’t like it, I will stop bothering you.’ I liked it a lot. And I never left.”
She became promotions manager in 1985, and five years later he appointed her manager of KSTP-AM.
“When I put her in the radio job,” Hubbard said, “she went to one of her brothers and asked, ‘Is Dad trying to get rid of me?’ I wasn’t. But the station was in trouble. I had been watching Ginny and I figured she could get the job done – and she sure has.”
Morris said KSTP programming then was “a mishmash,” with an all-talk format “but no one to talk to!” She stuck with talk shows but hired “dynamic personalities with good storytelling abilities and communication skills.” People like Barbara Carlson and Jesse Ventura came and went while others – including then part-time “SportsTalk” hosts Patrick Reusse and Joe Soucheray – moved into prominent roles and remain at what has become 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
“Ginny is incredibly competent, and she leaves her talent alone,” said Soucheray, a 1971 St. Thomas alumnus who has hosted “Garage Logic” since 1993. “If you do your job, she stands back. She is not interested in micromanaging. She appreciates results.”
Morris became president and general manager of Hubbard’s Twin Cities radio stations in 1995 and formed the Hubbard Radio Network to syndicate shows throughout the region. Despite the challenges facing the industry with the advent of satellite radio and streaming services, she always has found radio – not television – the best fit for her.
“Radio is more appealing because it’s more nimble,” she said. “We can change our format on any station in a short time if we need to, and there are fewer moving parts. We don’t have to worry about visuals. The listener has a different relationship with radio than television; radio can be more intimate and feel more comfortable.”
Morris knew Hubbard Radio needed to grow to survive. In 2011, Hubbard acquired 17 stations in four major metro markets – Washington, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati – and two years later bought 10 stations in Seattle and Phoenix. Closer to home, Hubbard purchased 16 stations in northern Minnesota, and today has 41 stations.
After the acquisitions, Morris didn’t prescribe content mix for stations outside of the Twin Cities but allowed them to make their own decisions.
“The needs in Phoenix are totally different than in St. Louis,” she said. “People on the grid and in the market know what’s best for their community. Radio does not do as well as a franchise. Every radio station has an essence that is a reflection of its community, and being ‘local’ is the only thing that sets radio apart from streaming services.”
Morris laughs when asked if she is a “lifer” at Hubbard Radio. “I’m pretty sure,” said the mother of two children in college, and that’s fine with her because she loves the sense of family there. She’s close to her employees. Her dad and her brothers – Rob oversees the television stations and Stan runs Reelz, a national digital cable and satellite television network – are steps away.
So are the studios where talk show hosts hold court, if she ever gets the inclination.
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