Friday, October 20, 2006

Why some of us never became broadcast journalists (and the world should be thankful)

Soon more of us will be carrying the torch … er, keyboard, when it comes to Blogriculture.

Gary West continues to inspire the troops here in our Salem, Ore. office but also our staff who work in other states. We hope soon they will join us with their news and views of agriculture.

While he strongly declares he really did not want to start a podcast for Capital Press (I believe it ranked right up there with root canals and attending back-to-back Barry Manilow-Bobby Vinton concerts), Gary has bravely shown us that life does go on even when a print/online journalists ventures forth into audio and reveals what his or her voice sounds like.

Could be worse. We could have made him try inhaling some helium first and doing the intro of his podcast with a Barry Manilow song like Copacabana, and then fade out in the end with a Bobby Vinton song. Obviously with Feelings, of course.

As we traditionally print journalists venture into more online and audio offerings to entice, entertain, inform or occasionally torture audiences, I am reminded of my former journalism school.

It was a wonderful university that attempted to teach us print and broadcast journalism, as well as public relations work if we wished.

Some of us felt we just were not born to be television or radio journalists. Our mantra was “we have a face for radio, and a voice for print.”

Some of my classmates truly loathed (and that’s putting it mildly) the broadcast classes.

They protested loud and long, and often the professors shook their heads and noted if these students would put half their vocal energy and volume into the assigned voice exercises each day, they would be much better broadcast journalists and might even desire to be in TV or radio some day.

One professor encouraged us to keep a journal, to record our thoughts, feelings, and what we did each day to prepare ourselves to be better journalists.

This one particular friend of mine (who swore he would never be a broadcast journalist) wrote up his whole assigned month-long journal in probably 20 minutes the day it was due. The professor was suspicious that each entry had him start with “did my voice exercises out loud this morning in McDonald’s. The manager was very unhappy and threatened to throw me out. AGAIN.”

But perhaps the memory of this friend that most sticks in my mind is the day that he was assigned by another professor to be more creative than saying vowels and tongue twisters out loud: the assignment was to do an interview about one or two people and their hobbies or jobs. THEN find a piece of music that relates to what these people talked about. Tape both these items. Then use two tracks, blend them together, and have a very nice five-minute feature piece than any public radio station would love and be proud to play.

I had classmates who sought people like the mayor or local celebrities. I can’t recall if that was the assignment that I profiled the university wrestling coach, or the local TV celebrity host who liked to always do interviews while accompanied by a rubber chicken, but I do know these were serious audio documentaries I did. And which probably have influenced me to continue to be in print in my career.

My friend decided to interview someone different.

He picked a funeral director.

Which would not have been so bad except for one thing.

One should always check the batteries on a tape recorder BEFORE going to do an interview…

So there we all were later in the classroom, eagerly or maybe not so eagerly waiting for the return of our marks on the assignment.

When the professor reached the desk of my friend, she stopped, glared down at him and it was clear he probably hadn’t received the top mark of the class. Or anywhere in the top 15 marks. And there were 15 of us in the class.

In fact, she decided a lesson needed to be made of this poor guy. We must all learn from his mistake and never ever dare do anything like what he did.

She announced she would play the tape to the class.

We all were thrilled. Hey, how bad could it be?

First, there was the interview itself. Not bad. Relevant questions. Okay answers. About as stimulating as a reporter can get in an interview with a funeral home director.

But then there was the wee problem with weak batteries.

The day of the interview, my friend had gone home afterwards, and played the tape only to hear a reallllly slllllllllllllow drawwwwwwwwwwwwwn oooooooooooooooout soundtrack.

He changed the batteries.

The result? Suddenly the soundtrack sped up, and the poor funeral director sounded like the cartoon characters, the Chipmunks — but on helium.

There was no way to save the interview unless … My friend got a brilliant idea. Of course! The assignment was to have another track, some music to play underneath. He still sincerely believed the interview could be saved.

And, as all of my classmates listened, we heard the funeral home director, with a very fast, high-pitched voice, tell seriously what it was like in his line of business to help grieving families and friends at funerals.

Underneath the interview was the music my friend had so carefully selected, but which now was the final straw that led the professor to officially fail my friend on the assignment. The rest of us roared with laughter when we heard his choice.

Another One Bites the Dust, by the band Queen.


Gary L. West said...

"Her name was Lola. She was a showgirl. With yellow feathers in her hair, and her dress cut down to there, she would merengue and do the cha cha...."

I guess I need to add that song to my iPod.

Did I ever tell you about the time I had dinner (at the same restaurant) with Barry Manilow?

Anonymous said...

Once again, cracking up and reading your post outloud to the family.

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