Craig Fahle is leaving WDET, Wayne State’s National Public Radio affiliate, to become the Director of Public Works for the Detroit Land Bank Authority.
Fahle has been with WDET for over two decades and has hosted his program, “The Craig Fahle Show” for the last seven years. Over those seven years he has built a strong fan base, and in the last few days many fans have called in to congratulate him while admitting they hate to see him go.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave, actually. I mean, I’ve been here off and on for 22 years,” Fahle said. “I’m not suggesting that I’m done with this, or that this had run its course or anything like that. I was given an opportunity to try something different and really sort of stretch myself in a way that I have never done before.”
Fahle said the show will still continue no matter what.
For him, he said, the new job is a challenge to do something new and attempt to help the city of Detroit.
“I kind of feel like I’ve been drafted,” he said. “This is an important department doing really, I think, hugely important work in the city. And it’s an opportunity to really sort of put my money where my mouth is. I’ve been talking about different ways to revitalize neighborhoods for a long time and to actually have a role in doing it, I think, is pretty cool.”
How he got his start
Fahle attended Western Michigan University where he studied history, but he knew that he didn’t want to become a teacher. He also spent a summer at a law firm and realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer either.
It wasn’t until he was taking classes at the University of Michigan Dearborn that he finally found his passion. On his first day on campus, he saw a flyer for the campus radio station and decided to check it out.
“I had a blast - an absolute blast - just playing some tunes, whatever they had in their little library, and a light bulb went off and so I said ‘all right, I want to do radio,’ it was the first time I actually had any real direction.”
After that, Fahle attended Specs Howard. He got an internship in 1992 at the place where he would have his show 15 years later.
He started off writing news copy for Kim Silarski, a news anchor at the time. After starting slow, he was assigned complex stories. He later began to pitch them and also started conducting phone interviews.
“It turned into a part time job; I was also working part time in the underwriting department, and finishing school and working at a record store. So I was doing a triangular commute across metro Detroit,” he said.
He said he worked there for free for almost a year but he was on the air almost every single day.
Why he chose radio
Fahle said he was always the kid in his class who would raise his hand and read aloud to the class, so radio was a natural fit.
Ever since he was little, he has been listening to radio and people from WJR like Joseph Priestly McCarthy.
“It was always on in my house when I was a kid. It was on in every room in my house. Everywhere you went in my house WJR was on in the morning,” he said.
“(J.P. McCarthy) was this guy, that, if he said something, everybody would believe it. He was just this calm and collected guy who did a great job of presenting information to people on a regular basis. I was drawn to that.”
Having his own show
“I never have prewritten questions, ever, because that forces me to listen to what the people are saying,” he said. “I’ve just absorbed so much knowledge from these brilliant people who have been through the studios.
Over the course of the seven years he has had the show, he said it has helped him grow. He said it opened his eyes to a plethora of types of people, ideas and thoughts - he likened the experience to being at school.
“It’s like I’m at school every single day. I do my research every single day but I never know more than the guests that I have on that are the experts in the field or are directly involved,” he said.
Fahle said the knowledge he has gained has been amazing, and that you don’t have to agree with him, because it’s about having an educated discussion. This, he explains, is how you eventually get a better understanding of people.
“I want people to listen not because of what I’m saying, but what information they’re getting from the people on the program,” Fahle said. “It’s not about me being right about things, it’s not about me shouting down a guest or picking apart somebody’s argument,” he said.
The ideas of the show are not going to change, Fahle said. He hopes it will still be an outlet where people can have open and honest conversations about things that are going on with the use of facts and rational thoughts.
“I have total confidence in the people that are here, they’ll do a good job, I wouldn’t leave if I knew they couldn’t do it,” he said.
Best and worst moments
“The best moments are always when I have someone on the program who’s done something truly extraordinary or involved in something that is so much bigger than just themselves. You can’t help but be impressed with the guts that have to do what they’re doing,” he said.
Fahle said that the worst moment by far that he had was in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Dec. 2012.
“That was a crappy day in every single way that it could be crappy. I almost couldn’t do the show,” he said. “I mean, I’m a parent; it’s just such a horrific incident that was unimaginable that someone would do that and having to have an honest and open discussion about it.”
He said dealing with that topic was taxing because he was talking with so many people who were scared, angry, paranoid and sad. Trying to keep calm on that topic, he said, was not always easy either, but he said he had to mentally prepare and tell people there are things that are going to make them upset, but those feelings need to be set aside in order to have a rational discussion.
“The debate got stupid really fast, and I tried my best to make sure it didn't happen on the show. You just got to tell people, 'this is what we need to do', and usually my audience has been great and will respond to that,” he said.
Filling the void and next step
So Fahle will be leaving WDET and somebody will be filling his vacancy, but Fahle said he doesn’t want the station to clone what he has done but instead be unique and daring.
“I always feel bad for the person who follows someone who has been in the seat for a while. I’ll go back to J.P. McCarthy. He died really suddenly, and whoever followed him was always going to be compared to him, and I thought that wasn’t fair at all,” he said.
He wants someone new to come into the picture and put their own stamp on the show. He also hopes that his fan base will be accepting of that he said.
“It’s a huge responsibility, the Detroit Land Bank Authority is a relatively new creation and they have a lot of tools to repopulate a lot of neighborhoods,” he said.
With that, communication is going to be key, and Fahle thinks his years on the radio can help him in his new endeavor.
“I hope that there is a trust factor that goes into it. I think that is something I could utilize. Maybe if the message is coming from me, maybe they’ll buy it, I hope. I won’t lie to people, we want to be incredibly transparent which I’ve always been,” he said.
He sees a connection between his show and his new job. He wants to be able to break things down and make it easier for people to understand matters they otherwise would avoid.
“It’s been a good run; I’ve enjoyed the heck out of this,” he said, “Everything runs its course, and who knows? I could find myself in this chair again someday in some capacity -- you never know.”