Many times over the years I've been asked to give advice to young people eager to enter the field of broadcasting. Where should I go to school? Should I go into radio or TV? How much money do you make? Isn't it cool to be on the radio and play your favorite music? Isn't it fun being around sports all the time? ...they ask.
All of the answers to all of these questions make no difference unless you're willing to live through a day like a group of talented people did today at KTRS. Because one of those days will undoubtedly come. Not once, but likely several times during a career in radio or TV. The person who gets to the top quickly and stays there is a rarity. It's very likely you'll get caught up in sweeping format or personnel changes like today's "Black Friday" at the Big 550. Or you might just happen to have a boss that doesn't like the way you pronounce "Wednesday". Or you might make too much money for the big boss in Dallas. Or your ratings (which many times are bogus numbers) are down. Or you might just be the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place.
I'm not saying that these kinds of things don't happen in other professions. It's just that in broadcasting it's such a public "execution". And in broadcasting, many times, it seems so personal. You're work is out there for thousands of people every day, and when somebody passes negative judgment on it, it's a hard thing to live down within the business. Many times you must re-locate to an entirely different market and start over to keep working. Especially if you specialize in a certain format. How many talk stations can there be in a given market. St. Louis is actually quite different than most markets. Here there are two major talk stations where you can actually make a decent...if not great...living.
I knew it was coming today at Westport. But I feel very badly for each of the professionals sent into broadcasting oblivion by the management people who felt the necessity to purge KTRS of it's short-lived "tradition". Oh, the philosophy behind the change is understandable. But that doesn't make it any easier for the people who were handed the pink slip and thought they had a promise of employment they could count on.
I hesitate to discourage any young person who envisions a broadcasting life for themselves. But I also urge them to understand what they might be getting into. So, I tell them... before you choose that career in the sexy, glamorous, "out there", edgy, and not-as-lucrative-as-you-might-think world of radio or TV, make very, very sure you have what it takes, and can take what it gives. Either that, or buy your own station.