Last week's blog entry, "The Graveyard Shift," struck a responsive chord with many of you. Bill Figenshu chimed in with some comments of his own, well worth taking a few moments of your time to read (below). We appreciate his views as someone who has spent much of his career in leadership roles in radio, but who has the added perspective of being able to step outside the foul lines and see the media world through a different prism these days.
We also heard from many of you, eager to tell your own stories of starting in radio in obscure markets, and in overnight or weekend shifts. We invite everyone who reads this blog to send along your own tales of how you broke into the business, especially if it involved the entry level route that has virtually dried up in recent years, due to voicetracking and cost-cutting. How would many of you gotten your starts, had it not been for these part-time, on-the-job training opportunities? In this case, I believe we can learn a lot about where we're headed as an industry, by gaining a better understanding of our past.
And now, a few words from Fig...
I noted your overnight blog regarding the “dearth” of a talent gateway into the radio business. (BTW, that’s $80.00 a week before taxes for me at WMID! Yikes!) You are so correct. And true, by eliminating the overnight shift for financial reasons we have closed the pipeline to new talent. But wait! There’s more!
I believe we in management have failed the process. Today, managers and program directors are spending MUCH more time on administration, and much LESS on the creative process. Who was your mentor? For most of us, someone took our passion under their wing and taught us the basics of the business. (For me it was Norm Feuer.) Today, managers are so busy; they have no time for the content or the people that create it.
Whether on air or behind a desk, hours were spent training, discussing, teaching, and mentoring us. How is it that most of the talented radio people of our generation were successful in their early 30’s? Many “product people” were either running radio broadcasting companies or support companies such as yours by the time we were 36. We were the first generation of “FM” radio management. We could not get jobs at KHJ, WABC, WFIL, or CKLW. We had to develop those FM stations to be successful. We built stations and companies around the new technology. Nurtured by our managers, supported by the companies, we were allowed to experiment with formats and ideas. “Give the kid that FM station, how bad can he screw it up, it has no listeners anyway!” “As long as my friends at the country club don’t hear that awful “progressive rock” crap we will be OK.” We were taught the basics of radio, applied them to the new band, and the rest is history.
Can you name the next generation of company presidents, or successful consulting firms such as Jacobs Media? Where will they come from? Who will give them a chance to make mistakes? Most general managers and program directors are so busy managing the business of the business that there is no time for mentoring. Running 2, 3, 4 radio stations or more in one market, in addition to web sites* leaves no time to mentor. Many of the management decisions come from “corporate” not the local station. Pride of authorship is locally lost when formats are dictated from above. Local managers can’t mentor someone in corporate. Corporate has no time on the schedule to mentor local managers. The pressure for success is now measured in weeks, not months or years. Ask any manager in Houston or Philly who now lives with PPM. Results are delivered weekly. (BTW, having lived with diary ratings, I support PPM. As with the diary, Arbitron will make it work over time.)
As you suggest, there is a clear pipeline available to us if we would only use it. Rather than have a “coalition” select the HD formats for major markets, broadcast companies could allow local stations to develop HD and create the “vibe” necessary for new audio products. Taking advantage of “MySpace/Facebook” and blogs, the viral effect will create the “underground” formats necessary to launch the people and formats we so desperately need in 2008 radio. Given the right environment for experimentation, some kid somewhere will slip the HD radio “under the pillow” at night and dream of running one successfully someday. As was the case with us, the passion for radio could be re-kindled if given the chance. The next “Jacobs Media” or successful talent lies in the dreams of new ideas applied to new technology. “Give the kid that HD station, how bad can he/she screw it up?” “It has no listeners anyway!”
Thanks for letting me vent Fred.
Bill "Fig" Figenshu