Friday, December 16, 2005


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

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.


Steve Yelvington said...

I was a copyboy at KMOX-TV for one hot summer in 1970. Jack Etzel, then a reporter for Channel 4, picked me up in French Village and gave me a ride to work downtown every day.

On the ride he'd tell me stories about the revolving-door nature of the broadcasting business, about hard times as a radio reporter and about the time he was so poor that he had only one coat. It was a wool coat, and he hated the color, so he bought some brown dye. When he tried it dye the coat, it came out ... pink. He went coatless for the rest of that winter.

Maybe it was Jack's stories, or maybe it was just chance, but I wound up moving back to the relatively stable world of print (not counting the Globe fiasco) and avoiding broadcasting all these years.

Now, of course, newspapers are in deepening trouble.

Life is change, I suppose.

Randy Raley said...

It IS a shitty business, Tom, that is why I got out. In my last (and I mean last) attempt to do this for a living, I took the morning show at KCFX in Kansas City from 12th place 25-54 to 5th. For that, I got canned. As John Prine would say "That’s the way that the world goes ’round. You’re up one day
And the next you’re down. It’s half an inch of water And you think you’re gonna drown". My heart goes out to all of them. Great blog, by the way, may I link yours to mine?