It’s 2 a.m. in Detroit, Michigan, when most are sleeping through the night, and all anyone can hear outside are crickets chirping. As the silence continues, one person is ready to start their work day. Detroit news reporter and radio host Jay Towers looks forward to his day that consists of two different jobs. Towers begins hosting at I Heart Radio Detroit from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. Immediately after, he transitions into the next studio in the same building and begins his anchor position on Fox News Detroit.
At 45, Towers has been doing radio for 31 years. He started at a fresh 14 in his hometown of Toms River, New Jersey, while on a school trip to get a tour.
“I have wanted to be on the radio since I was 5, so it’s kind of all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he said. “When I was 14, I handed the program director of the radio station my demo tape and he said, ‘Oh, we don’t listen to anyone’s demo tapes while they’re here.’ So I left it for him and as I was getting onto the school bus, he ran out from the radio station and asked me what radio station I made the demo tape at. And I told him that I made it in my bedroom.”
Ever since that fateful day, Towers began working at the radio station. The demo was of Towers doing a Pepsi commercial that he recorded in his bedroom. Towers got a hold of the jingle that Pepsi was using at the time and there was 30 seconds in the middle of singing where the DJ was supposed to come in and talk; he did that part. He also talked up songs and pretended to be a DJ. He was so convincing, he said, that the program director thought he was previously or currently on another radio job.
With no education in the journalism field or expectations, he gained a spot on radio and was able to quit his part-time job at Burger King. Shortly after his radio gig at 14, Towers went from working at 14 in a Burger King in Toms River to eventually ending up in Detroit, where he’s been there doing radio since 1999, and doing television since 2004.
The biggest challenge for Towers in his career, he said, is balancing.
“You’re ultra focused to who your audience is every day on the radio,” he said. “And then to kind of switch hats and go down the hall, and then be a news anchor, where you’re talking about a Supreme Court nominee, and you’re talking about crime, and you’re talking about how to bring the city back and things like that.”
Towers said he finds it challenging but rewarding because each job comes with its pros and cons.
“When you do a lifestyle radio show, you know, it’s me, and I host it with a woman that’s been on the radio a long time in Detroit, and then we have our on-air producer who’s, you know, 30. So we have different perspectives.”
Towers’ radio audience is predominantly women in their late 30s and early 40s. The station is for everyone, but it leans toward female listening. Having an audience of this demographic allows Towers to be able to speak his mind more frequently on the radio as opposed to the news channel, he said.
As soon as his radio job wraps up, he switches hats and walks down the hall to begin his news anchor position for Fox News Detroit. Towers goes from talking about light hearted subjects to now discussing Supreme Court nominees and crimes taking place in the surrounding area.
“It’s just . . . it’s night and day, and radio allows me to have opinions,” he said. “You know, I’m not known to get on the air and, you know, go crazy on things. And then, you know, to, in the same breath, to walk down the hall, and talk about, you know, the Flint water crisis, where you really, you know, you can’t have an opinion, you got to just kind of stick with the facts and kind of go through the news of the day.”
Towers has also had several opportunities to speak at different schools to children about his career. He said he enjoys giving back to those in need in any way possible. He goes to schools and joins organizations to celebrate with different charities and help give back in different ways. This job allows him to have resources to be able to fund events and gather charitable funds from audience members.
“I started a charity seven years ago called JS juniors, where I take kids with chronic or terminal illnesses to Disney World at Christmas time,” he said. “Having a big audience helps me find kids and be able to take them and their families on these trips.”
When Towers is not working or giving back he also balances being a father.
For Towers it can be a bit challenging to navigate the day this way. Towers has had ADD since he was a child and found it held him back when he was younger. As he got older, he realized that this was a very helpful aid in his career and being able to navigate to different careers at once.
“I’m usually at my best when I’m . . . on television. In the back of my head, I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ve got two minutes when I go to break to get down the hall,’” he said. It can be understandable for someone balancing two careers to get burnt out quickly, but Towers manages to go through daily life with a healthy balance.
“My advice would be to be 100% sure that it is what you want to do, and most people know if they have something inside of them, that drives them to do something,” Towers said.