Quick! Name five people you admire in your field. Pretty easy, isn’t it? I ask this question to someone like Mr. Anderson, who wants to write and draw comics, and he can rattle off five names with no problem. But, sadly, it is a task I have great trouble doing in my chosen profession. An upcoming assignment sounded rather simple at the outset. We have to do a profile on a DJ we like. Naturally, this means talking to said DJ. The instructor asked us which DJ we each were going to contact. She didn’t want us all swamping the same one, after all. She went around the table, and each of my classmates proudly yelled out the name of the DJ they were going to talk to with nary a thought. And then she came to me, and I was left struggling to find a name.
I’m unusual among my classmates. You would think that a person studying broadcasting would listen to the radio at every available opportunity; just listening and learning. Hell, I’ve got classmates who’ve gotten into trouble because they’ve got their headphones strapped on, listening to their favourite DJ rather than learning about the history of the CRTC. And there I am, dutiful student as always, taking notes and learning that yes, 50% of a television station’s programming in prime time has to be Canadian content. When I do listen to music, I always prefer to listen to a CD full of my favourite songs rather than a radio station that just might play one song a like in an hour. And we all know my love of the cinema. Think I’m listening to the radio as I write this? Heck, no. I’m watching Back to the Future Part III. So, how does a man with so little interest in radio want to make a career out of it?
I mean, as this second semester goes on, it seems that at every turn I’m learning exactly how much I hate everything about radio. The writing classes seem more focused on formats than style and creativity. I have a similar problem in production, where I get obsessed with technical perfection rather than coaxing a good performance out of my talent. Journalism is so concerned with angles on stories that I often wonder if I wandered into a trigonometry class by mistake. And let’s not forget everyone’s beloved anxiety generator: promotions. All I know is that a person shouldn’t walk to work or school filled with dread, and that’s the one thing I’m doing right now.
Then, there are my shifts doing announcing. On Wednesdays, I do remotes. Fridays, I do shifts in the station. Right now, because I’ve had so many Fridays off and shifts postponed for classes, I’ve only been in the station twice. I’m going to have nothing to hand in in two weeks. I loathe doing the remotes. That’s what you occasionally hear on the radio: “Hey, I’m Bob, and today I’m at Crazy Arnie’s Used Cars, where Arnie’s got some great deals….” This being NAIT, I’m doing things like the bookstore and the upcoming sock hop. Nothing like turning into a talking advertisement to brighten your day. But that is the easier shift. You’re not running around all panicky because the CD is missing.
But the one aspect that’s destroying me right now is the fact that I’m not building up the all-important network of contacts. We all know the adage that it’s not what you know but who you know, and they’ve been drilling into my head since day one that that is more important than ever in radio. It’s a small industry, so the only way you’re going to hear about job openings and such is if you have the friend of a friend working at a hiring station. Apparently, that was the sole purpose of the “field trip” class last semester; go to all these radio stations and build your network of contacts. That’s the whole point of this “interview your favourite DJ” assignment. It’s not about meeting your favourite local celebrity, you’re making a contact! But I don’t have a favourite to contact.
How can I be any good in this industry if I don’t have any favourites? It’s the best artists who know the most about their art. They follow the industry; they know the trends and how to apply them. But me? I’m not following. I’m hardly interested in following. I’m an old man who’s set in his ways. My radio is locked on one station and that’s all I listen to. If I were serious about doing this, I would shut off the TV right now, turn on the radio, and sit next to it with a notepad absorbing all I can.
Am I really serious about going into broadcasting? Is this really my heart’s desire? How come I’m not immersing myself? I mean, it’s strange that I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to an industry that I seemingly have no interest in.
If I did enjoy this industry; if I did want to be a part of it, I would naturally have someone that I want to be like. People like things that fit into nice, neat categories. No one wants me. They want someone who’s like someone else. When I first started doing this whole announcer thing back at Augustana, I mentioned that my whole inspiration was Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam. Naturally, people started saying, “You should be more like that!” I’d always politely refuse. I don’t want to be like anyone else. I want to be me.
But that’s no excuse. Even if I don’t want to be like anyone, I can learn from those who already exist. The head of the program has said from day one that radio is an immersive experience. How come I’m not immersing myself in it? That fact is I find the majority of radio, well, boring.
I have accepted the fact that I am going to fail in this. I’m not into it to the extent that I should be. I still don’t have a name to give to my instructor. Heck, today, even Mr. Anderson gave me the name of a radio documentarian that he feels he can be like. The fact is, no matter how hard I work in the classroom, I still can’t come up with five names.