Joel Hooper never wanted to be the action; he wanted to report it.
“I’ve never wanted to be a performer,” Hooper said. “I wanted to tell the story, not be the story.”
Hooper has worked as a radio announcer for Elkin’s radio station, WIFM, for 14 years, but his career started when he was 7 years old in his basement.
“When I was growing up I loved to announce games,” he said. “I had a tape recorder and I would turn down the sound of a game that was on TV and would record my announcing for what was going on the game. We didn’t have cable growing up so one of the biggest things in my life was getting ESPN.”
Not only would Hooper announce games playing on television but also as he was playing.
“I had a Nerf goal and I would announce my own games as I played,” he said.
From announcing games as a child to playing golf and basketball at Elkin High School, going into the radio business as a sports reporter was always a dream.
He started in the radio business in 1993 but started working with WIFM in 1998.
“I’ve watched the business change a lot,” Hooper said. “We used to have cassette tapes with music on carts. We would have a list of songs and stack the tapes we were going to play. Radio started transitioning in 1995 and we switched to computers in 1998. Everything is digital now.”
WIFM has a library of about 2,000 to 3,000 songs of music from the 1960s to today. The radio station plays family-friendly music and is community oriented. Hooper announced at the Wine Festival and Relay for Life, he reads to students at schools and helps give Boy Scout tours of the radio station.
“We get to do a little bit of everything: predicting the weather, recording commercials, editing content, announcing and even taking out the trash,” Hooper said. “You may see us out at events that have nothing to do with radio. Gary York takes photos at events for our website. We aren’t secluded to the radio studio.”
While working with WIFM, Hooper has covered almost 20 high school state championships in the Yadkin Valley including nine football, five basketball, two baseball and 10 softball state championships.
“Any time we have a state championship to cover, it is huge,” he said. “When I’m announcing any game, I try to paint a picture of what it feels like to be there; whether it’s lighting, the smells, the weather. I trying to convey all those things to the audience.”
One of Hooper’s biggest stories he’s covered was when fallen soldier Capt. Mark Garner was returned home to Elkin on July 6, 2009.
“I was glad to be able to be there and help tell the story,” Hooper said. “We were there live when he was flown into Wilkesboro and reported over the radio as we were coming into town and down 268 Roaring River, through Ronda and into downtown. There were thousands of people lining the street.”
Whether they are driving down I-77 or already at work, WIFM listeners are in all different types of situations.
“You realize maybe you are talking to people who either have bad day or a great day, or have everything going for them, or are really, really lonely,” he said. “There is no way to talk to them all, but you picture you are talking to one person, and that way you keep it honest.”
Full name: Joel Hooper
How many years with the job: 14 years
Favorite food: Japanese
Favorite pastime: Traveling with my wife, Leslie, such as the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C.
Favorite Sports Team: Wake Forest
Family: Wife, Leslie
Pets: Jack Russell dog, Deacon
City born in: Elkin
Church: Elkin First Baptist Church
Reach Jessica Pickens at 835-1513 ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org.