When you think of the most notable names in radio, Neal Gladner is one of the first to come to mind. Today Gladner is the Director of Sales and Marketing for the US Stations Group of radio stations in Hot Springs. He has spent more than 30 years as a broadcaster in Arkansas and has gathered experience in broadcast meccas all across the country. 


Gladner decided before attending college that he wanted to be a journalist. While attending Bellevue College, Gladner was presented with a unique opportunity, which led to him gaining radio experience. 


“My advisor for journalism had started a radio program at the college for people who wanted to study broadcasting. It wasn’t going well. He made a deal with me: take the class and become the sports editor of the university paper,” Gladner recalled. “I did, and I fell in love with radio. I had great mentors, and I had a decent voice, and I’m sure that helped.”


After attending Bellevue, Gladner attended the University of Washington, where he further strengthened his skills and knowledge of journalism and radio broadcasting. Soon, Gladner was working at a radio station in Seattle before becoming a News Director. Not long afterward, he was approached about being a Radio Program Director. 


“I eventually wanted to work for CBS or ABC across the globe as a foreign correspondent,” Gladner explained. “Ultimately, I got into news and talk radio at one of the top stations in Seattle at the time.”


Gladner’s career in Washington was a colorful one.


“I’ve had so many wonderful experiences as a reporter. I got to spend the day flying in southwest Washington state, covering the eruption of Mount St. Helen from the air,” Gladner said. “I was just starting out as a reporter when I covered the discovery of what turned out to be Ted Bundy’s first victims. Of course, no one had any idea that day how that story would develop.”


Gladner spent the following years in radio in Washington State, gaining experience on air and in management before being offered a position in Little Rock.


Gladner started at KARN and The Arkansas Radio Network as the News and Program Director in 1984. He was promoted to Vice President and General Manager in 1987, and stayed there until 2008. Citadel Broadcasting had purchased the stations in 1997, and Gladner held a variety of positions for Citadel, which included returning to the air to host the morning news-talk show.


Gladner would move to Baton Rouge in 2013 to work for the Louisiana Radio Network but hoped to someday return to Arkansas. When Hot Springs expanded their market with the KLAZ radio station, Gladner was asked to return, and he gladly did. 


“I always loved Hot Springs and wanted to retire here. It was a great opportunity to come back and live here, although I’m not ready to retire yet,” Gladner said.


Throughout his career, Gladner has amassed a host of industry leadership roles and civic titles, including past President of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, past President of the National Association of State Radio Networks, Chairman of the CBS Radio Affiliates Association, Board of Directors of the Radio Advertising Bureau, Board of Directors of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, Adjunct professor in Radio-TV at UA Little Rock, President of the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club, Co Vice-Chair of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, Board member of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, and member of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Task Force, which reviews legislation that might impact the Freedom of Information Act.


Gladner says one of his best mentors was Ted Snider. Snider was owner of KARN, KKYK and The Arkansas Radio Network when Gladner joined his company. It was Snider who promoted him to Vice President and General Manager. Snider was also the Joint Board Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, the highest elected office in the industry. 


“Ted’s guidance and mentorship was one of the biggest influences in my career,” Gladner said.


Gladner spoke with reverence when going on to list the radio legends he has shared a sound booth with. 


“I’m so fortunate to have worked with, met, and been friends with some of the giants in the radio industry. Among them Chuck Barrett, now the voice of the Razorbacks. He hosted a statewide sports talk show on the Arkansas Radio Network. Jim Elder, our sports director at KARN/ARN, who is now deceased, was another legend. Stewart Doan, who was our Ag Director on ARN, was very well respected across the state in Agriculture and across the country, in addition to being  President of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters,” Gladner said. 


Gladner has also made friends and worked with individuals such as Ray Lincoln, Pat Lynch, Big Dave Medford, Tommy Smith, “Broadway” Joe Booker, Craig O’Neill and many more.


Gladner shared what he perceives to be the greatest challenge in radio broadcasting.


“For whatever reason, people think radio is dead. If you have an iPhone, ask Siri just how many people still listen to the radio, and you will be in disbelief at how many still do,” Gladner said. “Businesses love advertising over the radio because they know it’s alive and well, and it works.”


Needless to say, with a wide range of experience, Gladner has learned several life lessons. 


“You have to figure out where you want to go before you go there. I’ve had opportunities to do things and go places, but it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to grow my career but sacrifice where I lived to do it,” Gladner said. 


He also shared life lessons gleaned from his various leadership roles and experiences.


“Most people want to be judged on balance, not on individual accomplishment or failure. When you hire somebody, for whatever position, especially when they are new to the business, you have an obligation to train them properly, because if you don’t and they fail, that’s on you, and when you hold people to a certain level of expectation, some of them don’t like you very much,” Gladner said. “I’ve been fortunate to be through a lot of training and seminars. What’s demotivating is when management doesn’t make people do their jobs. When management doesn’t hold everyone to the same expectations in terms of levels of performance, hard workers will resent them.” 


When it comes to advice, Gladner shared an experience he had at a fundraising banquet.


“When I was an adjunct professor at UA Little Rock, one of the broadcasting organizations put on a banquet fundraiser. Our guest of honor was Arkansas actress Mary Steenburgen. She shared that when she first went into acting, she couldn’t find a job, so she took a job as a waitress. Sometime later, she went for an audition that included being a waitress. Real-world experience won her the role. Her advice was, if you get the opportunity to do something, do it, because you never know where it will help you down the road,” Gladner said. 


Gladner emphasized that at the end of the day, working in radio comes down to being an authentic friend to the listener. 


“Studies show that radio has one of the highest advertising believability ratings because listeners believe that they have a relationship with the people they hear every day on the radio,” Gladner said. “Radio is very personal. If done well, your audience may consist of tens of thousands of people, but you’re talking to them intimately like a close friend, all at once.”


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