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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

3-4-24 PDF
March 4, 2024
2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Michael Coleman, the Guy Behind the Curtain


English and Sociology, 1982

After a dismal semester of pre-med classes, Michael Coleman walked out of his math final certain of two things: one, that he failed, and two, that he was never going to be an optometrist. He ambled into the the catwalk, looking for a stairway to the garage. At the library, he turned in through the automatic doors, trying out a new route down through to the lower level, where he parked. Instead, he found WUMB, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s radio station. 
“They were really nice to me, and it was cool, so I decided to hang out there. Before you know it, two or three years later, I was running the place, and then I ended up teaching a class there. So I figured ‘Radio –  this is it,'” he said. “It was fun.” 
Coleman promptly changed his major from pre-med to English and spent most of his time as a student in the WUMB studios. After graduation, WATD in Marshfield hired him, and soon after that, he moved to WRKO in Boston, then to WBCN as the Production Coordinator, also located in Boston. 
“Then a new station came onboard in 1985 or 6, WZLX Classic Rock. I worked there [as the Production Director] for seven years.” 
He hit the road doing stand up for 8 or 9 months, living from hotel to hotel to couch until he got a call from one of his old ZLX bosses, now working at PBS. A position was open at WBZ News Radio. 
“I went over to the job, not serious about it, thinking I’ll just stay around here for a month, take their money, and then build my own studios; I’ll do my own thing.” 
He started his own production company, Cole Cuts, but never left WBZ. He is currently Director of Creative Production there and has been since 1993. His work never stopped inspiring his creativity. 
“I get excited,” Colman said. “I don’t sit up in bed thinking, ‘Oh geez, I gotta be good in this meeting with this client, or this presentation’ or anything like that.” 
“What’s great is I’m the guy behind the curtain,” he said. “Since I got into this business, nobody ever asked me or cared about where I went to school. They only care about what I can do for them right now.” 
Now producing audio bits and doing stand up comedy on the side, Coleman feels fulfilled applying the skills he accrued in college. 
“You go to school, you learn, and you apply it,” he said. “I was the 17/18 year old kid coming out of high school, going into this university. Everybody else in my classes were ten years older. They were the hippies who dropped out and realized, ‘Oh, I need my college education.’ Then there were the Vietnam veterans who had come back and used their G.I. Bill. I was always the youngest kid. In every class I was taking, there were older people. They had careers already. That, for me, was great because that established a work ethic more than, ‘Okay, let’s go to class and then go party.’ The whole commuter thing, when I look at it, prepared me for the work environment.” 
Coleman applied early to UMB during his last year of high school and got in six months before any other schools accepted him. The idea of going to a public university slowly grew on him, not least because it was the cheapest option. 
“I figured I’ll go for a year or so, and then if I don’t like it I’ll transfer to [UMass] Amherst,” he said. “Then I started making friends. The only tough thing was the commute, taking the train and doing all of that, but then I ended up buying a little jalopy, the size of a shoe, and commuted back and forth. I figured, ‘One of these days I’m going to transfer.’ I never did.” 
Working at WUMB kept Coleman on campus and involved in various student activities, including the Social Events Committee. He spent most of his time in the studio, or in the Pub Club, which was UMass Boston’s on-campus bar for about a decade. It closed soon after he graduated. Mid-reminisce, Coleman said he would go back to UMass Boston over any other school, if he had another life to live. 
“I was given the ability to try it and fail, and then try it again, succeed, try the next thing and step up. I had access to a really great place.” 
Coleman would do his own radio show if he wanted, or he could sit in a production studio and create audio mixes. Soon after his first visit to WUMB, he started taking classes on writing and journalism to improve his radio work. 
“They didn’t really have a communications major back then, but that was fine. It didn’t handcuff me,” he said. “When you’re going into that business, theoretically, you can kind of paint yourself into a corner by just learning one specific thing. I thought I would be more worldly and take many different classes.” 
Neil Bruss taught one of Coleman’s favorite classes, History of the English Language, in the English department. 
“He’s the one name that I remember,” Coleman said. “He stood out.” 
More valuable than classwork, UMB gave Coleman free access to recording equipment and the WUMB studios whenever he wanted. 
“I would lock myself into a room and spend hours just teaching myself editing and tape. They were reel to reels, just editing tape, and then mixing, and then playing with reverb and special effects. It was all basic, learning just to cue records up.”
He made a many friends through his work in the studio. He also DJed at parties to make money on the side. Pat Monteith, who ran the station at the time, would let him rent some of the equipment. 
“It was a huge advantage.  I thought, ‘Wow, how lucky was I to literally get lost and stumble into that place.’ It was divine intervention from the university gods.” 
He found his niche at UMB, and made the most of the experience. 
“It taught me to be organized, too,” he said, emphasizing, “Organized. Once you’re out of there, you are your own instructor, your own teacher, your own sensei, whatever the word will be. You’re your own governor. It’s okay to fail because every day we fail. We have to. I’ve never met anybody who’s batted 1000 in life. It’s impossible. It’s also impossible to give 110 percent. I hate that term, even 100 percent. It’s impossible, because for you to give 100 percent means that you never will leave work; you will never sleep. You’ll never eat because that’s taking away from your work. You’ll die. Your 100 percent will be different from mine, so you know what, you put your attention and intention into whatever you do, and you’ll succeed.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010