My impatient, anal-retentive
program director took his job a little too seriously. I just worked
Sunday nights, after we cut the AM power down to around one-millionth of
a kilowatt. Still, the level of professionalism expected of me was
intense, and, although I had reported news on the campus radio outlet in
Denton for a little while, I was overly nervous about jumping into a REAL
station. I'm sure the world of automation is not a good way to get
indoctrinated into a radio station environment, as I was left to work out
all the logistics of commercials, programs, newswriting and newscasting,
etc. I had never even timed myself reading! Nevertheless, the
PD expected perfection, and I tried my best to oblige. It didn't
work. Here's my harriedly-assembled 'cheat sheet' for programming
a Sunday night in 1988:
One night, Brian, the PD, stayed around for a while to do paperwork. He came charging in about five 'til 7PM, and told me to throw together some news for the 7PM slot. The past few weeks, I had filled that time with commercials, per his orders, so forcing a first-time newscast on me with no notice was, honestly, pretty damn scary! As I scotch-taped some various wire reports together and got re-seated and ready to go on the air, he came running into the tiny studio and told me we had to cram in some commercials around the newscast. While I'm nervously counting down the seconds until my cue, he began this frantic swapping of reel-to-reels right next to me, slinging tapes, bobbing around, cussing the machine, bumping into me and my chair, and trying to cue up a reel through the speakers (instead of using headphones.) Mind you, this room was about 25 square feet, and one person in it was too many. Already very nervous at this point with all the franticness and noise going on, my cue came, I 'potted up' the mike and....FROZE!! I couldn't speak. I couldn't do anything! It took a few seconds for the PD to realize what was happening. He glared at me and kept shouting in a whisper, "READ!" "JUST READ!!" It didn't help. I got out a couple of, "uh....uh"s and finally got my bearings after about 30 more seconds of dead air and started reading off the news. I didn't keep track of time or anything. I finally got through it, turned the mike down and the satellite feed back up. Hoping for a little compassion, I was disappointed. "What the hell was that?" I think he shouted. I told him he got me 'all nervous' with his jumping around and creating havoc in the studio when I was about to go on. He went on and on about what I had done, and then chastised me for reading the news too long! From that point on, I could never do anything right in his eyes. If there was any confusion about this job being a place for me to learn the craft, it was resolved that night.
The next week, there was
a problem with one of the prerecorded, lame programs I had to run on my
shift. It was called "Wax Works." One of the cassettes kept
having this 'warped' sound. The music portions of it sounded like
a warped record. Well, there was no procedure in my little handbook
to cover this occurrence, so I let it run, figuring it would either straighten
out or I could make it to the next tape and have better luck with it.
Instead, I get an angry phone call from the PD telling me to throw it into
satellite immediately and forget the program. You know, a college
kid of 23 doesn't have the best judgment skills yet, so what was I to know?
The following memo was left on my chair when I came in the next Sunday:
OK, so that's my story. Maybe it was a hasty decision to quit, maybe everybody in broadcasting went through something like this when they started, who knows? In retrospect, it was simply the wrong place to start out. I was trying to learn, and it was an environment that just didn't foster that. But it's those small-town stations that serve as a training ground for beginning broadcasters to get experience, right?
Of course, that's my side of the story, though I've been as objective and honest as I can be! I'm sure it's been long-forgotten by the PD, who probably couldn't even recall my name today if asked. I daresay that others who worked under him might have similar stories to tell!
Today, Brian is a news
director for an AM station outside of Texas. As for me, I finally
got over those jitters 15 years later, and performed over 30,000 traffic
reports over WBAP-AM and WFAA-TV from 2003-09, with nary a pregnant pause
or a stumble. I can even ad-lib a little when needed! I also
took on hosting duties for a radio show, "The Hi-Fi Club," in 2006, which
is still running today. Honestly, I never pictured myself EVER being
back on the air after KDNT.
Bad weather was treated in much the same way. First, a great reminder to all broadcasters, "Our responsibility is to get the information out in a calm, professional manner. Report the information you have without getting overly dramatic. Let the situation speak for itself. If it's a dramatic situation, you will not need to add to it." I could picture myself calmly 'potting up' the mike, and saying, "The roof has just blown off the station, but I'm not allowed to overdramatize the situation. Please tune to another station for updates. We now return you to important satellite programming."
I think these edicts underscore
what Mike Ehrle mentioned in his article about the early days of KDNT...a
loss of local flavor after the stations were sold in 1972. KDNT was
not a rimshot contender in the Dallas market, but in 1988, it was vaguely
treated as though it was. One would think local people would want
to know about local events and calamities, regardless of size or perceived
importance. Denton's own representative in the radio world fell short
of that, and now Denton has to rely upon its campus station or Dallas stations
to cover its news.
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