Saturday, April 30, 2011


This is a letter I got from one of our Dial Global Radio Network affiliates. I'm not sure who wrote it or when, but it has some really good points.

I was totally enamored of radio when I was a kid. It was far and away the coolest thing I had ever stumbled across. I would dial around at night and knew the addresses and store hours of more businesses in Oklahoma City and Minneapolis/Saint Paul than my own town. I would listen until the moment I had to either turn the radio off or risk perishing from a lack of sleep the next day, and even then if it took me too long to fall asleep I'd flip it back on… just in case I was missing something really great. I had cousins who lived outside of San Francisco. They used to send me cassette recordings of Dr. Don Rose's show on a regular basis. And I couldn't wait for our trips from my hometown to the big city of Denver so I could glue myself to the mighty KIMN-AM. In an effort to sincerely give up for Lent that which meant the absolute most to me, I spent the Lenten season of my 14th year on the planet not listening to radio for 40 days. It damn near killed me. Did you ever feel like that about radio?

When was the first time you ever walked into a radio station? Ponder it for a minute and fix the experience in your mind. Spend a few moments remembering how you were really feeling at the time. Were you nervous? Excited? Awe-struck? Think back to your very first time with your hands on the controls. Your hands. Running the board. How did you feel? Thrilled? Paralyzed with panic? Confident? On the verge of passing out?

Later, I changed my major to Mass Communications. My parents completely passed out. I blew full steam ahead. I had my first full-time radio job within one semester. Before that, though, I remember taking my own vinyl albums over to the campus station to spend time in one of the "practice rooms" — crappy little boards and crappy little turntables hooked up to crappy little cassette decks. One night as I was leaving the dorm a friend asked if I was going to be on the air on the campus station. "I wish," was my answer. At that point I couldn't even conceive of being paid to do radio. My only goal was to actually get on the air, even if it was for free, on a low-power FM that had approximately 12 listeners. Were you ever that focused? Did you ever feel that excited about pulling an airshift?

Edward Deci, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, conducted an experiment that revealed an almost universal human foible: What used to be fun turns into drudgery once a paycheck is attached to it. His research was among the first of literally hundreds of studies showing that our internal drive to achieve that which we genuinely love can get very easily sidetracked. Just find a way to get paid for it.

Deci found a group of college students who loved solving puzzles. They were divided into two groups: Those who would continue doing the puzzles on their own time, and those who would actually be paid to do them. After evaluating the test subjects he found that those who were being paid to do what they used to really enjoy grew very resentful of having to solve the puzzles. Even though the people in the "paid" group originally expressed just as much of an interest in working these puzzles as the "unpaid" group, they very quickly lost their interest when they HAD to do it.

Consolidation, fears about the economy (and about losing a gig), non-radio people buying radio stations… it's all added up to equal a big ol' Politically Correct Ball of Blah. And if what you're presenting on the air is a Big Ball of Blah, what on earth is keeping your listeners from turning to their iPods? Why would they choose to spend their time with someone who doesn't even sound interested in being there? Think back to your first real radio gig. If you've been in this business more than a few years, you probably remember all kinds of crazy stuff going on… things that would probably get you fired now. But you probably also remember actually liking the people with whom you worked, and you might even remember hanging out at the station during your free time, just because it was fun and you felt alive and you were having the time of your freaking life.

Remember when you first got your driver's license? How you would BEG your parents to let you go to the grocery store just so you could have a few solitary minutes behind the wheel? What do you think about driving now? Probably not much, and you might even resent it. It's become one of those things that we adults have to do to get through our daily routines. Equate it to your work in radio. Has that which used to be such an absolute blast turned into just another task, or even worse, something that you really don't even enjoy doing?

Yes, the industry has changed, but perhaps your attitude has changed, too. Perhaps you now take for granted that which would have blown your mind back when you put your hands on that control board for the first time: You get paid for this. You probably don't get paid much, but that's not why you got into this business. Take a few moments focusing on why you did get into this business, and ponder how those very things never did leave. You just stopped paying attention to them.

1 comment:

  1. John Paul: LOVE your blog... and if there's a book you might want to recommend? ( )
    with many thanks!