Joe Votruba is a proud outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community both in the state of New Jersey and around the United States. Previously, Joe spent eleven years hosting and producing various talk shows at New Jersey 101.5, one of the most notable news/talk radio stations in the United States. He also served as a writer for their website in that time, delivering original lifestyle, news, and opinion content. He now works for FOX News Radio, delivering fact-driven news, and helps make the news more understandable to all walks of life.
Joe is a native of Staten Island, NY, and has lived most of his life within the reaches of the tri-state area, with many aspects of the region shaping him into who he is today. That includes his lifelong New York sports fandom and the fact he’s seen Bruce Springsteen live in concert 14 times (and counting).
I reached out to Votruba because I was curious about his feelings working for not one but two stations that the public thought to be companies that stood more to the “red” side of politics as opposed to the “blue” side. The curiosity comes from thinking that it must be hard working for them as he is an out and proud gay man. I asked for this interview just as the nation faced the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the LGBTQ community started to fear even more that same-sex marital rights would be eventually overturned as well.
Votruba agreed to this interview with open arms, and he had no problem discussing his feelings on political views as best he could. He also openly talks about his life, career, being a cat guy, and the use of dating apps.
You worked for New Jersey 101.5 for over a decade. What was your experience like going from there to FOX News Radio?
Joe Votruba: The biggest change for me was shifting my focus away from using my opinion like I did on the talk radio side of things. My experience hosting, producing, and writing at New Jersey 101.5 came with a huge emphasis on being opinionated but well-spoken, and having conversations with equally opinionated listeners. Right now, at FOX News Radio, most of my time is spent in the newsroom, with my focus being firmly on delivering fact-driven news in a way that’s as understandable for the listener as possible.
Listeners are led to believe that both 101.5 and FOX News are more on the conservative Republican side of things. If that is true on the inside, how do you as an openly gay man feel working in that environment or at least knowing what listeners think about those media outlets?
JV: Both media outlets certainly attract right-leaning audiences, but the dynamic on the inside might not be what you would expect. At FOX News Media, I work alongside the most diverse group of people I’ve ever had the privilege to share a newsroom with, across every spectrum you could think of, and everyone is astonishingly professional and friendly. At New Jersey 101.5, there were instances where showcasing all sides of an opinion or a news item was encouraged. People are going to have strong opinions either way regarding any major media outlet, but I think working closely with people who see the world differently than I do helps me gain an understanding of the world around me and what it takes to truly have productive conversations, which includes all sides of the political arena.
Give me a fly on the wall moment while working as a FOX News Radio producer.
JV: Big news items like the overturning of Roe v. Wade or the FBI raid of former President Trump’s estate can flip a news day upside down. Picture a glass vase breaking, and 30-50 people working tirelessly to get every last shard of glass back in its original place. That’s us sifting through sources trying to discern fact from rumor, toggling through tabs on our computers with reactions from supporters and detractors, all while coordinating how to best deliver the news. We’re not going to display that vase until every last piece of it is perfectly where it needs to be.
What was your coming out story?
JV: I was a bit of a late bloomer, not coming out until I was 24. I came out first to my friends, family, and New Jersey 101.5 coworkers. I was met with endless kindness and acceptance. When I came out publicly on the radio at New Jersey 101.5 about six months later, the process wasn’t as great, but it was overall positive. My announcement allowed for homophobic people in our audience, or otherwise ignorant people, to come out of the woodwork and hurl slurs my way. I was called every name you could think of, but the experience sparked a fire under me, and made me confident I wanted to use my platform from that moment on to raise awareness of issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community, and perhaps educate those who were never exposed to people like me. Some people are just afraid of the unknown.
What are some other passions outside of your career?
JV: I am a huge nerd when it comes to sports and music. I spend hours sifting through albums and Spotify artists’ pages on an endless quest to find my next favorite song. Several friends of mine have collaborative playlists with me and we build seemingly endless hours of songs we love and want each other to love too. With sports, my passions are with baseball and football, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also become a huge fan of fantasy sports. Otherwise, I’m a road trip enthusiast, and am always interested in trying new food and finding that perfect cold brew coffee.
Would FOX let you use working there as a platform for speaking about issues within the LGBTQ community?
JV: Yes, I absolutely think they would. But I would have to be responsible in how I handle such an opportunity. I would have to make sure I am doing so in a way that would allow people who disagree with me or don’t have an opinion on the matter to understand my perspective in a way that’s thought-provoking and level-headed.
What opinions do you have after the recent news about the Roe v. Wade issue?
JV: I must be careful here because right now FOX News Media is employing me for my abilities to deliver balanced and fact-driven news, as opposed to commentary like I’ve provided in the past. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is an intricate issue, and the results of this year’s midterm elections will likely reflect where a majority of the country stands on an issue as important as this one.
Do you believe that the rights for same-sex marriage will be taken away after the above news and what is your feeling on the subject being an openly gay man?
JV: I’ll defer to the Supreme Court majority opinion regarding Obergefell v. Hodges, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988: “Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.”
What do you see for yourself in the next chapter of your life? Career? Personal? Love?
JV: I’m still adjusting to this new chapter, between moving out of central Jersey after over 20 years and leaving my position at New Jersey 101.5 after over a decade. My next move is likely going to be getting a cat, though I am still debating which breed I am most interested in. I was a dog person my entire life but am now a full-fledged cat guy. As far as love, I think my thumb might be broken from unfulfilled sifting through Grindr, Tinder, and Hinge. But it’s probably better if I give it a rest until I’m more settled.
What experiences do you have that you would want to share with the younger generation of the LGBTQ community that could be struggling with their sexuality and/or identity?
JV: Many experiences of rejection come to mind immediately. Rejection in the romantic sense. Rejection from potential new friendships. Rejection from opportunities to advocate for and within the LGBTQ community. Once you come out and break out of the so-called box, you are then put into another series of boxes based on how people perceive you. You don’t have to change who you are to fit someone else’s idea of you.