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T H E E S T A B - L O I D --------------------------------- Issue #9 3-29-86 --------------------------------- A weekly electronic magazine for users of The Establishment BBS (894-6526) owned and operated by Thane Smith Editor - Gene B. Williams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . You may share this magazine with your friends under the . . condition that the magazine remain complete and intact, . . with no editing, revisions or modifications of any kind, . . and including this opening section and statement. . . If you like the magazine, the Sysop and I would appre- . . ciate it if you would let your friends know where they . . can log in to find the magazine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (c) 1986 THIS ISSUE: School is coming to a close. Some of you will just be off for the summer. Others will be heading to college next year. And still others will be starting a life of work, work, work. But that work, work, work can turn into fun, fun, fun - IF you choose your career wisely. There are a number of job categories. These can be everything from the job being great and money great to the job being lousy and the money lousy - and everything between. Obviously everyone wants a job that is great and that pays great. Very few end up with such jobs. Most will end up in the middle of that employment bell curve, and get a job doing something you don't mind doing, and that pays well enough so you can live and even save a little. There are several problems that job seekers have. First, some have unrealistic goals. They want that top job, but don't want to spend the time and effort to get there. Second, some set their goals too low, and accept anything just because it's easier and more available. Third, quite a few people look at certain jobs, and then go for those, thinking that particular as glamorous, or as something that it's really not. (For example, those who know me often look at the freedom I have. I work from home, at my own schedule, can take off whenever I wish, and have a fair degree of national fame. What they *don't* see are the years of work to get to this point, of missed sleep during that period, of working virtually around the clock at deadline time, and of the financial shakiness of the business.) Over the next few weeks, I hope to concentrate on careers and jobs in general. If everything goes according to schedule, this week is the article by Chris Mitchell on jobs in broadcasting; next week will be my own article on how to be a writer; we might or might not have other guest articles from other users about their careers; then an article on finding a job in general. Your response is important. What kind(s) of careers are you considering? Which ones would you like to see covered here in the magazine? As an introduction to this week's article: The guest author is Chris Mitchell. He has been involved in broadcasting most of his life. It is even a family tradition for him. At present he is the midday DJ on KUPD. If you haven't already done so, listen in. It's just my opinion, of course, but to me Chris is one of the best in the business. If you have dreams of getting into broadcasting, listening in (and paying attention to what he does) is an education all in itself. GETTING STARTED IN RADIO BROADCASTING by Chris Mitchell "It all started at a small 5,000 watt station in Fresno, California..." If you ever saw the popular TV situation-comedy "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", you're probably familiar with that line from one of "ace anchorman" Ted Baxter's rambling speeches. In my case, and now we're talking real life, it was a very small 1,000 watt station. In fact, we had to turn the power down to 250 watts after sundown to avoid interference with other distant stations on the same transmitting frequency! You see, during the daytime hours, many stations around the globe can share the same "dial position" without bumping into each other... but once the sun goes down, elaborate precautions must be taken to ensure that stations sharing the same frequency do not interfere with one another. (The FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, is responsible for trying to keep everyone properly separated.) This has to do with some basic electromagnetic phenomena that allow literally world-wide communications for some radio services, while at the same time complicating matters of others... but we digress. We'll touch on the subject of electronics at a more appropriate time. When I was trying to start out in this crazy business of broadcasting, in late 1969-early 1970, I was very lucky to get a full-time radio job with very little experience. Of course, anyone is lucky to be hired the first time out, at ANY job! I didn't know how fortunate I was at first. I found out much later that there had been a big shakeup at this first radio station I applied to. Many people had quit or had been fired--that very day--and the station's management was desperate for any "warm bodies" with FCC broadcasting licenses. I happened to walk in to "the right place at the right time". The ink was barely dry on my FCC license. (Licensing requirements for commercial radio operators--including DJs and "board operators"--have been almost completely eliminated over the last few years. Most radio stations' chief engineers have much more stringent standards for making sure you're qualified than the government does anymore.) My first radio station had a very simple format at the time. We'd play `0pre-recorded tape for the first 30 minutes of each hour, and then play sets of 3 pre-selected records in a row to fill the remaining half hour. The only "disk-jockeying" required was reading the legally required station I.D. at the top of the hour, and a few minutes of live news each hour. Pretty simple, but as I recall it felt to me like I was cross between Dick Clark and Walter Cronkite! It's not easy to "luck into" full-time broadcasting jobs that easily. Starting pay: $1.75 an hour. Shockingly low, isn't it? I was ecstatic! A true success story started in an even more off-hand way a couple of generations earlier. Hugh Downs, a veteran of well over 10,000 hours on the air as host of TV's "Today", the game-show "Concentration" and, of course, "20/20", actually applied for his first radio job on a whim. He was passing by a local radio station when he decided to stop in and try for an announcing job. To his delight he was hired, and thus began a fantastic career which has spanned nearly 5 decades. Starting pay: $12.50 a week. Mr. Downs went on to an announcing job with NBC just a few short years later, and is now reportedly earning over a million dollars a year. Naturally, the days of snagging beginning jobs in the ways just described are pretty much over. In the modern world it takes a lot of hard work and careful preparation to even get a chance in the world of broadcasting. It might be helpful to know something about my personal background. I've had one year of college, which isn't very much. And that was during the time that I was already working in radio professionally. However, I come from a "radio family", so I had an advantage in that respect. My dad was an owner/operator in a nation-wide chain of radio stations for over 30 years. (In fact, my mother was an officer in the corporation.) My brother has been in broadcasting since 1963. He earned his bachelor's degree--in philosophy no less!--while spending 4 years sharpening his skills at his college station. After working in literally every phase of the business, he is now a consultant, advising many different radio stations instead of plying his trade at just one. Looking back now, I must say I regret that I haven't earned my college degree yet. Not necessarily a degree in broadcasting... but a diploma can be a valuable addition to your repertoire. It also looks dynamite hanging on your wall! Let's assume you're really serious about going for a career in the broadcast field. First of all I would say, and this is my opinion only, avoid broadcasting schools. Sure, you may get some hands-on experience with the equipment and some time in front of the microphone, but you still have to start out at or near the bottom when you get a "real" job. It's almost a standing joke among professionals who came up through the ranks "the hard way": some broadcast school graduates think they know more about various aspects of the business than people who've been doing it professionally for many years. They feel that they should be promoted to the top echelon immediately, and without having to "pay their dues." This is a really good way to get started on the wrong foot with your potential peers! This phenomenon has also been noted concerning nightclub or roller-disco DJs who can't tell the difference between a Saturday night sock-hop (200 paying teen-age customers) and a Saturday afternoon major-market radio audience (2,000,000 potential listeners who could care less about the color of your skates). Naturally, some people progress much more quickly than others. Some become "stars" at age 20; some never quite make it at all. Ego is a large part of it. Everyone has an ego, but learning how to deal with it properly, exploit it, respect it and nurture its health is not so easy. Laying the proper foundation can help. Let's talk more about education. Perhaps you're enrolled in a regular four-year university. Naturally, you'll want to take some mass communications courses, and trq uo get on with the campus radio station (if there is one) or score a part-time job with a local commercial station. However, you might be better off majoring in the business or business administration fields. This will teach you things that you can use no matter what career area you ultimately decide upon, and will prove invaluable if you ever rise to a management position in broadcasting. Another alternative would be community colleges. They're less expensive, and many of them are very good. As I mentioned, while you're completing your degree in college you can go for that part-time job in radio. You'll probably start out "running tapes". You know--the public affairs or syndicated programs that you often hear on Saturdays and Sundays. You don't get to talk much at all on the air, but you get to hang around, learn the equipment, and generally get exposure to the industry. Then maybe after a while an airshift will open up (usually midnight to six, once per week, to start with.) From there, you just progress with your talents. There are several people where I am employed who've finished their college while working for us part-time. In fact, two of them just graduated last spring. Oddly enough, the one who got his degree in broadcast journalism is now working in real estate, and the one who was taking pre-law is still in radio! You see, by the time your four years are over, you may decide that you don't like broadcasting or just aren't very good at it (a hard decision to make). If you have a degree in computer science or forestry or whatever, it's easier to switch gears and go in a different direction. Radio and TV are great, but certainly not for everyone. Another way for young people to get going is through internship. Nowadays, many stations utilize interns for research, news, promotions, sales, engineering, and other duties. School credit is often given, and it's another good way to get exposure to the industry. (The pay, however is lousy. As in zilch.) To find out more about becoming an intern, contact the program directors or operations managers of the radio stations that interest you locally, or discuss it with the appropriate department heads at your school. Here are some basics that any potential broadcaster should be thinking about: BE WELL-ROUNDED. LEARN HOW TO WRITE. GET YOUR TYPING SKILLS UP THERE. You may not be in the news department, but learn how to WRITE news copy and learn how to READ copy COLD (that is, without having pre-read it.) Learn how to WRITE commercial copy. Learn how to SPELL. Learn how to READ -- OUT LOUD. (This may sound weird, but when I was a little kid I would practice reading out loud while sitting on the john. Magazine ads, tissue boxes, anything. Plus, the acoustics in the bathroom are pretty darn good!) If it seems that I've put a lot of emphasis on the above points, it's because they're very important. It's amazing how many people don't know the basics, and they suffer for it. A colleague of mine recently was talking to a representative of a major advertising firm who didn't understand the meaning of the term, "simulcast". That's not a word you hear at the grocery store every day, but it's one that you should certainly know if you're involved in broadcasting. The bottom line here: build a good foundation with the basics. Simply listening to the radio is a part of the educational process that many people overlook. For Pete's sake, resist the urge to limit your listening to your favorite station! And turn it UP when the song ends and the announcer goes to work (the average listener does just the opposite.) How did s/he get from music to a commercial? When was the commercial scheduled in the hour? Why do you suppose that is? What did you like or dislike about the DJ's delivery? What stood out about the commercial? Then back to the music, smoothly we hope. Why is that record on? Why don't they play heavy-metal music at 11 o'clock in the morning? What's the ratio of "new music" to established hits or oldies? I'm not going to answer these questions for you... you've got to be able to think for yourself in this business or you won't advance very far. The knowledge is in books or can be picked up by keeping your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut--unless your microphone happens to be turned on! Learn as much as you can about the equipment, too. You don't have to be a whiz of an engineer, but some people find it very interesting, and everyone should know the fundamentals. How does a microphone work? How does a speaker function? What's the difference between AM and FM radio? (Hint: the answer to this last question is not, "FM plays better music"!) Having some sense of the equipment and your responsibilities for its operation can actually be very important. Remember that small station I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article? Once, someone forgot to reduce the power output of the station at sundown. At about 9 o'clock that evening we received a frantic call from some announcer in Hawaii--we were in Reno, Nevada--and he couldn't hear his own station because we were coming in on top of him so loudly! (Remember, radio signals can travel fantastic distances and do strange things when conditions are right.) We apologized, turned the power down immediately and all had a good laugh about it, including our new friend in Honolulu. Luckily the incident went no further than that. The operator on duty (who forgot to reduce power) could have gotten into very serious trouble with the FCC, not to mention with his employer. It's very possible to find yourself facing up to $20,000 in fines and up to 10 years in Federal prison for major infractions of the FCC's Rules and Regulations. When a station manager is informed of gross misbehavior by an employee, the first (and natural) reaction is to get rid of that person instantly. Usually, "walking papers" are issued as soon as someone can be called in to cover the remainder of the airshift. Remember: a $10 million radio station is not a toy! Now let's say that you feel ready to step out and launch your meteoric rise to fame and fortune. There's an important point that should be addressed along these lines. Your first job or jobs might not be in the exact area that you're interested in... perhaps not even in the ball park. You can't just waltz in and become the morning DJ at your favorite station in Los Angeles or New York simply because you're such a devoted fan and a nice person. Your chances of landing that critical first job are much better at smaller stations in smaller, outlying communities. Are you getting into this business because you want to be a big "star" right away, or because you feel you're an effective communicator? There's some amazingly good radio going on in smaller towns all across the country, and the experience can be very rewarding. In fact, many people find small and medium markets perfectly suited to their needs and talents, and have no burning desire to join the rat-race in the top 5 or 10 markets. My first job was at an Adult Contemporary station, sort of "light rock", in the 154th largest radio market in the country. It was a little boring to me, but time well spent. The same station subsequently changed to a Modern Country format. I survived the changes, and even learned to appreciate country music! Then I had several part-time jobs with various other formats, including MOR (middle-of-the-road) and classical. My first salaried job was News and Public Service Director at a Top-40 station. This may sound impressive, but it was mostly "rip 'n read" news--straight off the wire service with no time for re-writing--followed by endless hours of typing 3x5 file cards. (Remember what I said about typing? And learning to read copy well without having seen it before?) Then on to various air-shifts with that station, before ultimately being "blown out". In this business that means "fired"--usually with little reason and no warning. Looking back, and listening to old tapes of myself, I realize that I was canned for a simple but brutal reason: I was pretty horrible on the air in those early days! I went "across the street" to another station and got my first taste of AOR, or Album Oriented Rock. That was during the super-laid-back "underground" days; the format was, "Play one of the new records about once an hour, if you think of it." After a year, I left that station (philosophical differences with the management, ha ha) and went back to the Top-40 station which had fired me. It may seem odd, but in this business you often see the same people drifting in and out of the same stations over and over again over the years. Actually it's not so odd, considering that in this country there are only about 10,000 radio stations total. It's a relatively small industry, job-wise. I wound up staying with the Top-40 station for nearly 9 years, eventually attaining the position of Operations Manager for the Top-40 AM and its newer, automated FM sister-station. I then moved to a larger market, where I recently ended a five year stint as a DJ with one company. Over those five years, I was assigned to every full-time shift at various times: the morning show, mid-days, afternoons, evenings and overnights. In addition, I was called on to do "remote" broadcasts everywhere from shopping centers to recreational areas on the river, as well as hosting parties in local nightclubs and appearing at movie premiers in New York, Los Angeles and around town locally. I recently felt it was time to make yet another change, and accepted the position of Production Director for a popular Contemporary Hit Radio station in this area. This is as much an administrative (middle management) position as it is a creative one, and the opportunities for growth are that much better. A Production Director needs to be able to work with the DJs, the salespeople, the programming department and top management, as well as the various clients--the people who actually buy commercial time on the radio station (and ultimately make it possible for you to get paid!) As you can see, there are a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs in this business. Those two long stints, 9 years and 5 years, are fairly unusual. You often have to move around a lot more than that. (Like it says in the theme song to `WKRP in Cincinnati', "...town to town, up and down the dial.") In my 17 years in broadcasting, I have worked for 9 different companies. I have also worked as a janitor and a warehouseman between radio jobs, among other things. Now more bad news. Being a disk jockey or news person is fun, but unless you're very talented, very lucky and very persistent, you won't make very much money. The financial potential is better in sales and management, especially in television. Or in real estate... When it comes to on-air personnel, or "talent" as we're called, I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to say that 20% of the people are nailing down 80% of the money, and the other 80% of the people are competing for the remaining 20% of the money. One avenue that's open to the successful broadcaster for augmenting his income is talent work outside of his regular station duties. Many advertisers like to have one person act as their spokesperson on radio or TV, and many times they'll use known radio personalities for the job. It sometimes takes years to cultivate these arrangements, but it's a fun (and lucrative) side of the business. If you still think the broadcast industry may be for you, and want to get started now, here is a short list of books to buy, or at least borrow from the library: BUILDING YOUR BEST VOICE, by Henry Jacobi. You don't need a great big booming voice to make it--just learn how to use what God gave you to best advantage! THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STYLEBOOK AND LIBEL MANUAL. A reference book put out by The Associated Press. Consists mostly of accepted forms for the news writer, but is a good thing to have on your shelf. PROGRAM DIRECTOR'S HANDBOOK, by Bob Paiva. A good introduction to the subject of being a P.D. A BETTER WAY OF WRITING, by Edward Goldfinger, should be looked into if you would seriously like to sharpen your writing skills (and you should.) It's more of a self-study course, and a tremendous bargain at only $55.00. There are many more very good books out there. Check your library under BROADCASTING, RADIO AND TV, and anything else you can think of. If you can afford it (they are very expensive), subscribe to one of the industry's trade papers. "Radio & Records" and "Billboard" are two very good ones, published in the L.A. area. If you'd like subscription information, you can contact "Radio & Records" at: (213) 553-4330, or "Billboard" at: (213) 273-7040. To sum up, it's not all glamour. When you look at a movie star, you see glitter and mansions in Beverly Hills and lots of money. What you don't see is the years of acting school while waiting tables, the years of starving while doing community theater or off-off-Broadway, the hundreds of guys and gals who don't make it. It's not fun and games all the time, but if you are prepared with a well-rounded education and learn the ropes carefully, you can build a career in the entertainment industry that can be very satisfying. Remember: the key word is "industry". Why do you think they call it "show business? There are millions of advertising dollars on the line every day. Good luck! UNTIL NEXT TIME Next week we'll cover writing and journalism as a career. As Chris mentioned, solid writing skills are important. It doesn't matter what your career is. Almost everything has a requirement of being able to communicate. The higher you want to go, the more important that becomes. Hope to see you here then. Remember, if you have a particular career you'd like to see discussed in the magazine, DO let me know. Also, if you are involved in a career and would like to do a guest issue, drop me a note. For both, preferably do so in the mail section.
Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.