First Rule of Radio: Zip the *$#&@_$?!

Everyone remembers his or her first time behind a radio microphone, I reckon.

And everyone remembers the first time an expletive makes it onto the airwaves.

But I leap ahead.

My first time on the air almost a week ago wasn’t really my first. Just my first in some 35 years, when I interned as part of my journalism education at the J-School in Columbia, MO*.

*nation’s best!

Even back then, though a deer in the (radio) woods, I wasn’t that proverbial creature frozen in the headlights.

Apart from the initial uneasiness of “Oh my god, the town / city / county / state / world {fill in the blank} can hear me! What if I flub it?! Stutter?! Stumble? Sound stupid?!” I didn’t feel freaked out or out of place behind the mike.*

*I’m rollin’ with “mike” despite AP’s revision to “mic.”

No doubt it’s partly attributable to my ease speaking in front of groups — long as I have some grasp or command of my subject. Otherwise, dead brain air or sounding stupid, not my thang. I just don’t share that widespread fear of speaking in public — though I’m certain my mother, among others, wished I did!

That radio gig was decades ago in college and this is now, my new position as board operator at the radio station. On Saturday nights for now and it’ll grow as I grow into it. It rocks that I get to come on air at the top of every hour and announce the legally-required station ID!

Be they 7 or 8 or 10 or 20, those live seconds ain’t as easy as they sound! It’s all about developing timing … pacing … a rhythm gained only by doing. Let me repeat: Only by doing.

Because until you’ve watched a radio digital clock tick off the time down to the 10th of a second, you’ve no idea how quickly or slowly you speak.

And when your job is to ensure that complete sentences — be they yours or another’s — get on air before the station breaks or the news flares live, you …

… well, you just might get frazzled or freaked out enough to let fly a “shit!” … and discover you’re still live.

That’s what happened on my first shift at the mike. I was in the midst of airing the station ID. Then boom! Suddenly the national news feed fired at the top of the hour.

And somewhere’s in that split second between, I let out a “shit!” Fortunately it was subdued rather than shouted. And that may well be a first for me. Kidding! {?) Indication from the fellow / trainer at my side is that it didn’t make it on air. Still it was close. Too damn close for comfort.

Rule No. 1 of Radio, I told him: Learn to watch my mouth.

All the more imperative since I’ve got a bit of a trucker’s.

If I can embody that rule, all the rest in radio’s a piece o’ cake. A *$*(%_^ yummy and glorious piece o’ cake!

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