HOTSEAT- High octane: Jay James' Best (hot)seat in the house
Some days, you can't turn on the radio without hearing Jay James. The sports director for WINA is on during morning drive time. Flip the channel and he's talking sports on sister station 106.1 The Corner. During evening drive time, he's back on for WINA between 6 and 8pm for "Best Seat in the House," and he calls UVA women's basketball games. The question arises: Does this guy ever sleep?
And the answer is, pretty much, no.
James averages 9-12 hours a day at work, seven days a week, and he has a simple explanation for his seemingly grueling schedule: "We are all very passionate about the product," he says. "We all have a vested interest."
"We" being the staff at WINA that James has worked with since he started at the station fresh out of UVA in 2000. "When you come out of college, you're at the absolute bottom of the totem pole," he recalls. So James did whatever was needed, whether that was setting up tables or carrying bags.
And a few years later, his supervisor left and James found himself program director– and boss of Jane Foy, the late Dick Mountjoy, and even former Voice of the Cavaliers Mac MacDonald.
"They knew me when I was an intern, and then I was their boss," says James, still marveling at that odd twist of fate. Sometimes, he says, he was the middle man for senior management, and the radio veterans saw right through that. "I learned a lot," he says.
Fairfax-raised James didn't do radio until 1997 when he was a religious studies major at UVA. "It's ironic because there was no communications major," he points out. "They'd dropped it the year before." He was invited to volunteer at 92.7 WUVA, and he did a show playing urban music called "The Afternoon Groove."
The usual trajectory in media is to start at the smaller stations, and move to major markets. That's not Jay James' game plan. He sees little to attract him to, say, the D.C. market, where he might make more money but have three times the stress level. "I don't know if I'll ever leave," says James.
That's not to say he's not eyeing other goals. "I have a very high interest in civic affairs," says James. "I want to be in a position to influence public policy."
That's why he likes filling in for Coy Barefoot's "Charlottesville Right Now," because he can talk politics. "I'll say, let's talk about the water plan," relishes James. "That really freaks people out."
Time is about up this day on James' tightly packed calendar, which has included meeting with 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, one of the many community organizations he supports. He mentions his friend, former UVA football star Antonio Rice. "He's always, 'say no.'" But James disagrees that he's overcommitted. "There is always a way."
So he's interviewed Craig Littlepage for Best Seat in the House, met with a client, done production work, and there's a basketball game to call this evening. But he still has time to fit in a workout at ACAC– and goof around for a photographer and have a little fun with the camera.
"I love the interpersonal nature of the medium," says James. "I love talking." Oh, and no surprise, he's a sports junkie. "I'd be watching Virginia games anyway."
That's how he can come in at 6am, work until 10pm, and then come in the next day at 8am. "I don't consider it a real job," he says. "If you like what you do, you never work a day."
Age: 31 on December 19
Why here? Charlottesville is the perfect place, great college town, tremendous university, my university by the way, great culture and art, fantastic restaurants, and low traffic. Well most of the time. I mean, I am from Northern Virginia, so this is great, but if we don't get on the transportation issue soon around here we might be in trouble.
What's worst about living here? No Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden or Popeye's!
Favorite hangout? South Street Brewery (great nachos) or the John Paul Jones Arena
Most overrated virtue? My work ethic. Yeah, I work hard, but I don't have a real job. I watch games for a living!
People would be surprised to know: I like country music, as well as that "Party in the U.S.A." song by Miley Cyrus
What would you change about yourself? I would make myself 6 inches taller so I could be a professional athlete.
Proudest accomplishment? Graduating from the University of Virginia and from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership
People find most annoying about you? My sometimes over-the-top corny one liners with the ladies
Whom do you admire? Carol Clarke, Jane Foy, and Debbie Ryan– three amazing women who have accomplished a lot and beaten cancer
Favorite book? The Bible
Subject that causes you to rant? Daniel Snyder and the Redskins
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Going to Hawaii twice in this decade
Biggest 21st-century creep out? MySpace and Twitter. They are both so lame.
What do you drive? A 2009 Nissan Altima, orange and blue, baby!
In your car CD player right now: Eighties dance hits
Next journey? The Bahamas
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Besides my multiple speeding and parking tickets, nearly being arrested at age 13 for TPing houses with my buddies.
Regret: The times in my life when I could have told someone special in my life how I felt about her and failed to do so.
Favorite comfort food: Outback's Bloomin' Onion
Always in your refrigerator: Chardonnay
Must-see TV: SportsCenter and HBO
Describe a perfect day: Sleep till 10, go work out, big lunch, then a nap...go to an afternoon movie...dinner with friends...turn in early....
Walter Mitty fantasy: Being President of the United States, and I would eliminate the IRS and income taxes.
Who'd play you in the movie? Taye Diggs
Most embarrassing moment? The time in fifth grade when I had an "accident" in class, that required changing undergarments.
Best advice you ever got? From my mother, always treat women with kindness and consideration
Favorite bumper sticker? Jesus is the Answer