Closing The Loop: 'Closing My Own Loop'
After five years and roughly 200 interviews, this is the final installment of Closing the Loop.
In this segment, Warren Miller, the program's creator, is the show's final guest. Kathy Sherwood interviews Miller.
KS: The first words in a Closing the Loop interview usually are where someone is from.
WM: I was born in New York City. I grew up in Morristown, New Jersey, near where my father grew up. I went to college in Boston, moved to California after college to become a rock 'n roll musician, moved in 1980 to St. Augustine, to the Orlando area for 20 years, and came back to Jacksonville in 2002. So more than half my life has been in Central and Northeast Florida.
KS: How did you become a journalist?
WM: Basically, I've done two things pretty well since I was a child: write and play music, especially on keyboard instruments. I've been in business. I have an MBA, I'm a certified financial planner practitioner, I've held insurance and investment licenses, but I'm not more than competent at finance and marketing. If I'm talented at anything, it's storytelling.
KS: How did you develop the storytelling skills to do something like Closing the Loop?
WM: I moved to Florida in 1980, and I got work almost immediately as a writer. While I was writing, I was asked by Glenn Stetson to join The Diamonds as a singer and piano player, and traveled the country for five years in the mid '80s. We were regulars on Ralph Emery's show on The Nashville Network, we played the Beacon Theater in New York, the Universal Amphitheater in L.A., and dozens of state fairs. All the while, I was writing and editing magazine articles, using an early portable computer, on airplanes and in hotel rooms.
By the early '90s, I was out of music, editing and writing full-time. I started doing commentary for WMFE, the public radio station in Orlando in 1993 and wrote for the television side, as well. By 2002, I was divorced, the custodial parent of a 15-year-old science whiz kid, and working with a technology development start-up. That company let me move to Jacksonville so that Andrew could go to Stanton, and I started doing commentaries for WJCT. I've been on the air in Jacksonville ever since.
KS: You began Closing the Loop five years ago. Whose idea was it?
WM: The show was my idea, but Scott Kim was the news director at WJCT at the time. We were friends from WMFE in Orlando. He asked me to do a weekly four-minute spot to fill a scheduled break in the morning and afternoon news programs. He said, "You can do anything you want, but you have four minutes." I thought, how cool – it’s like haiku or a 12-bar blues. It's a discipline, not a limitation. Closing the Loop started out about how people were dealing with the recession, but it quickly became about how people were dealing with life.
KS: Was it hard to find people to interview?
WM: I just asked everyone I knew if I could interview them! But then people started contacting me about themselves or about someone they knew who would make a good Closing the Loop, and that’s how I’ve gotten many of the best stories to me. Honestly, there are so many good stories in this community, I don’t have enough time left in my life to tell them all.
KS: I think you said you've interviewed more than 200 people. I want to put to you the questions you've asked everyone else – what did you learn from that experience, and how did it change you?
WM: How it changed me is that it's humbling. Nothing I've been through can match what some of the people I’ve interviewed have been through and overcome. They've told me about their challenges, and I've helped them tell their story to the listeners. What I've learned is that the human spirit is incredibly resilient. In that sense, Closing the Loop has been a weekly jolt of hope for me. Someone once said to me that I tell people's stories with respect, and that's the best compliment I could get.
KS: What does the future hold for you?
WM: I'm working with two people on a health and wellness feature program for public radio. I'm finishing recording a CD of songs I've written or co-written over my life. I wrote two novels that need to be rewritten ... and I need to do all of it before I run of time. So I guess, in a way, I'm closing my own loop.