WCTC’s Bert Baron: ‘My Show Is a Love Letter to New Jersey’

The longtime radio host chats about how he got started, his crazy-early wakeup time and the on-air interview that's stayed with him.

Bert Baron Photo by Eric Levin

Editor’s note: After more than 17 years at WCTC, Bert Baron stepped down on July 26 to become public information officer for the city of New Brunswick.

Were you a big fan of radio as a kid?

Very much so. As a kid, I would look at the radio in my mom’s Cadillac and say, “How does it work?” I was fascinated by the technology. To this day, I couldn’t tell you how it works.

How did your first radio gig come about?

A friend of mine was doing a polka show at WDVR in Hunterdon County. He said, “Come on down, I’ll let you pull the records out of the music library.” I told him I didn’t know anything about polka. And he said, “If you like the album cover, bring it in.” It was at that moment I felt just a sense of belonging. I felt I could contribute here.

Did you play polkas on air?

The job was reading news headlines. A little banter with the deejay. One time, he let me press “play” on the record player. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

Joining WDHA in 2001 was a big step.

That was the station I grew up listening to, and to have a chance to work there was just fantastic. I was the Saturday-afternoon jock. I would get so nervous. You’ve got a gigantic audience. There was a lot at stake.

How did you get started at WCTC?

I started in 2002 as a production assistant at WCTC and Magic 98.3 [the sister FM station]. I started on the air a couple of years later when we were playing oldies records. Then we made a transition to talk, and I did a talk show. They said, “Can you talk for two hours?” I said, “I think I can.”

Now you’re the morning host. What time did you wake up this morning?

It’s 3 AM, every day, Monday through Friday. When I wake up, I go right into show-prep mode. First thing I do—after I remind my wife that I love her—is start surfing the news sites to see what I missed overnight. I arrive at the station about a quarter to five and start plotting out the day. What’s going to be on the minds of the most people today? I want to be talking about that.

Can you live a normal life?

A normal life and radio rarely go hand in hand.

Do you sleep in on weekends?

Sleeping in for me is about 6 am. I try to keep the weekends free, but we always have appearances and station functions on the weekends. If I just get some free time, spend some time with my wife, go shopping, get a little nap, get some sleep, I’m good.

What was your best moment on air?

I had a chance to speak to someone who survived a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. He was on a national tour, talking about mental illness, depression, and suicidal thoughts and whatnot. Talking to this guy touched me in a very interesting way.

And the worst moment?

At a Bastille Day celebration in Frenchtown. It was my first live remote. Someone suggested an interview with a Marcel Marceau tribute artist. Marcel Marceau doesn’t speak. How are you going to interview a mime?

What’s the best part of doing this job in New Jersey?

Every day, my show—in kind of a twisted way—is a love letter to New Jersey.

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