I remarked yesterday here about the supposed death of journalism and how I’m not all wrapped up in it. I decided that perhaps a personal perspective is required to exaplin myself;

Me at OTB yesterday:


You may or may not know I used to work in radio, from the early 70’s to about 1987. Certainly, there was a mystique, an aura of ‘public service’ etc to the profession. And on air folks used to get huge amounts of money for their services.

When I was growing up, and getting my chops together, there was a bunch of people I later on in life got to work with, who I greatly respected; they were the local greats around these parts. I was honored to work along side these people who I grew up listening to. I won’t bother mentioning their names, you wouldn’t know most of them, and this thing’s going to get too long as it is. One of them even got to be one of the best freinds I ever had in the world, and I miss him terribly today.

They all told the same story.. In their day, time was you could make a comfortable living behind a mike, but that those days, at least for most of us, were coming to a close. I got on the train just as it was slowing down, if you will, and managed to ride the thing for 15 years or so. I was lucky; I had the skills and my voice wasn’t bad at all… I made it into that comfortable inner circle around here, for that time. I made a fair buck, and was never out of work for longer than I wanted to be. In those days for everyone who ‘made it’ there were perhaps 20 or 30 who didn’t. I worked (among other things) full service tations and busted my bump to make sure our listners were informed and entertained, and took what I saw as my job very seriously. Gained a lot of respect from my peers, and those folks I spoke of that I admired.

Now, all that’s changed. With satalite delivery (Both direct and indiriect through terrestrial stations) as well as automation, only one station in 10 has any live people running the place anymore, and that means there’s now 200 or 300 hangers on for every person who’s ‘made it’.. and the ones left are not making all that much, trust me.

And what I did all those years, running a hot control board manually, is an art that is all but lost.

But you know what? It wasn’t till near I dropped out of radio that it started occurring to me more frequenly that this was all about selling ads, and the content as automation and ‘da bird’ took over, meant less and less to owners. I was in the advertising business all those years… and here I thought I was in the radio personality business.

And the reason for the changes? The costs of the old model were far too high. Someone doing a local radio show manually, and taking care to do it right, will get more listeners, perhaps, but will never be able to make enough money for the station to justify his being there, on most stations today. The owners can make as much money, or more, ¬†letting the machine do all the work… and most, alas, do.

A lot of the reason for the shift was lower listenership across the board. Television.

I’m sure the reader will see enough of the parallels I’m playing to to suit their own vision of the thing.

Old radio, (And old radio PEOPLE) like old newspapers/old newspaper people, I think, hastened their own ‘death’ by way of their own image of themselves and what they were doing. In short, they over-valued their own importance to the effectiveness of the finished product… remembering, again, that the finished product was advertsising.



So tell me again, how much a tragedy it is for the American public that newspapers are in a downward spiral. Seems to me a little focus on reality there would benefit us all. It’s not a higher calling. It was an important job, certainly, but no more so than what I was doing… and certainly not nearly as important as your average Jschool grad will tell you.

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