Interviewing the Interviewer
– Mark Willis
I recently got to speak with Mark Willis, Sirius/XM's afternoon trucking news and information host, to talk about his extensive media career and his love for the trucking industry.
Mark Willis's media career started in 1977 when he was a student at the University of North Texas. He took a part-time job as the campus radio (KRR Radio) weekend night-time host. He worked weekends at the station for 4 years until graduating with his Bachelor's, at which time he then became news director for the station.
Since his college radio days, Mark has worked as a local news reporter for KRLD in Dallas, news director for several local stations, ABC Radio news anchor and director, and news director for Sirius Satellite Radio. After retiring from ABC/Disney, he enjoys his current position as news and afternoon host for Sirius/XM trucking radio.
“They are just people.” - Mark Willis
Mark has a lot of respect for truckers. In fact, during our conversation he qualifies truckers as “a most hard-working, genuine group of people.” During his career he has reported on everything from local news to national headlines, but says the part he enjoys the most is getting to talk to real people, like truckers.
“Boy, that's a group that works hard!” - Mark Willis about Owner/Operator Truck Drivers.
Any small business owner recognizes the sacrifices made and the sheer amount of hard-work and will power needed to make your business successful. Owner Operator truck drivers are no exception. With an industry that is frequently divided down hard lines between Owner Operator and company drivers, Mark recognizes and celebrates the differences between the two groups and expresses his respect for all drivers as the “heart and soul of America.”
He's spoken with drivers that are fresh out of school all the way up to owner operators and company drivers with multi-million accident-free miles, all of which he says seem happiest when they are working to make a difference. That is the American Truck Driver!
“You have to be good to your kids because they are going to pick your nursing home.”
Mark has a fun sense of humor when looking at life. He has a wife, Ramona, to which he has been married 31 years, and a 27 year-old daughter that teaches at the high school level. He jokingly states “children are always on your payroll.” But it is clear by the tone of his voice and smile in his eyes that he is both the adoring husband and doting father. Like the truckers he speaks so highly of, family is an important part of his life.
Now on the back-side of his career, I asked what he would like to do if he ever retired from media? His reply? He would like to teach like his daughter. “Teaching is a noble career” and one which requires a lot of patience. Mark recognizes that teachers have a difficult job trying to reach young impressionable minds to guide them on a path to learning. Like a good reporter who tells you the facts and not what to think of them, a good teacher teaches the student how to think, not what to think.
“Bucket List for me is to make sure the paramedics aren't there in the morning trying to wake me up.”
Mark states he has achieved a lot of goals. Hearing “CLEAR!” in the morning is not one of them, he jokes. I think that is true for everyone. His most important goal, however, is never truly achieved, as it is a constant state of learning. What ever path his career takes from here, Mark hopes to continue to grow and learn every day. The last thing my grandmother ever said to me before she passed away was to tell me to “never stop learning.” So Mr. Willis's desire to continue to learn every single day is a trait I share and admire.
There is no way I could possibly include everything I learned from Mr. Willis during our talk in a concise article. What was supposed to be a short 10-minute interview, turned into nearly a hour-long conversation filled with laughter and incredible insight into the history of trucking and media. I am certain this interview will be remembered as one of my favorites.