Friday, December 09, 2005

RETURN TO RADIO?

I've got to try and get back into radio, at least on a part-time basis somewhere. I dunno why I feel this way, in fact I have mixed feelings about wanting to pursue radio again. It's such a lousy stinking low-paying field, which explains why I haven't pursued it very seriously to this point. Maybe I should do this part-time and try and make my real money elsewhere in another field, that's what a lot of hosts do. Maybe I'll just do radio during the weekends. Who knows.

I interviewed with radio stations in town last year and they told me how bad the pay was and so on and how they had no opportunities. But they did tell me I had potential for the business. Moreover, radio is a blast to do. When I was in campus radio I took the DJ training program that was offered and got to sit in the studio learning the ropes. Unfortunately there's a lot of CRTC regulations requiring you to play Canadian content, so it's a lot of paperwork for these hosts who sit and spin the records. They don't even play records anymore, anyway, it's all computerized. This was at CHRW Radio in London where most of the people who finished the DJ training program went on to sit and rot in the music library, and waited their turn. It was very difficult to become a DJ there, there was a long waiting list. Many headed straight for the CHRW news department instead, which was an easy way to get on the air.

When I was there the advice I got from a few people was "don't go into radio!" One guy told the story of some poor schmuck who moved to work in Barrie and was now stuck in Barrie, spinning crappy tunes and doing lousy radio. Besides, there were other things I was more interested in pursuing at the time, so I decided to give up on radio. I'm realizing, though, how much I miss being on the air, doing real broadcasting. I have not been on radio in several years but I have transferable skills from my time in TV. A lot of people have switched from TV to radio so it shouldn't be so difficult, in theory. Question is where. Preferably I'd want to do news/talk/sports or something like that but I'm not very picky, I could probably like it at an oldies station or somewhere like that.

Having done both radio and TV and being immersed in the two cultures I can say the differences between the two mediums are becoming quite pronounced. For one, TV news people in local markets are doing a lot less "broadcasting" and a lot more grunt work: carrying TV cameras around and one-man-banding. As well, increasingly, the only job in TV news to be had these days is coverage of the news. Usually this consists of covering crime and other dreck, and regular readers of this blog know that I rant about this all the time. Radio people, on the other hand, are decidedly more interested in sports and entertainment. Yet sports and entertainment reporting is being cut by TV. Moreover, it seems people who are interested in sports and entertainment are being treated like lepers in a non-leper colony at these TV stations. As if they're unworthy of being on the air because they aren't interested in the news. These folks have no choice but to get into radio, just so they can talk on the air about sports and entertainment again.

I have found myself increasingly uncomfortable with pursuing traditional TV news for all these reasons. I am much more comfortable with the "broadcasting" and "on-air" elements and find myself hating the grunt work and videography typical of local news. This is one reason, perhaps, why I'd be interested in working in TV for places like ESPN or CNBC, because they do a lot of live stuff and live broadcasting where people get the freedom to talk and rant. I suppose I have a lot of concerns about TV and about reporting in general.

The real reason I'd want to do radio is so I could get on the air and talk and develop live hosting skills. I'd want to do long-form interviews and things of that nature, and have the freedom to be entertaining on the air. You even see these TV folks like Keith Olbermann going back to do radio talk part-time (he's hosting again on ESPN Radio with Dan Patrick); plus a lot of these TV talk show hosts have radio backgrounds. Billy Bush, big entertainment reporter, used to be in radio. He was a DJ on radio for several years. Now he's chasing starlets in Hollywood on TV for Access Hollywood. I'm convinced that for what I'd want to do in the business that radio would be a better bet right now.

I read that Holly Firfer, who was this big correspondent for CNN, left CNN and now is a morning show DJ in Atlanta doing morning drive radio and being a big personality. So radio has its attractions for people who'd rather be a host or personality.

I should try and find some people to talk to at these radio stations and get some tips about what I ought to do to break in with one of these stations. Step one for me is to figure out what to do to get in the door again. Maybe I'm just influenced by all the ads I'm seeing on TV for these XM and Sirius satellite radios. Maybe I'm influenced by the interview 60 Minutes did with Howard Stern this week. Who knows.

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