by Laura Sposato
Radio. We use it to hear our favorite bands. We tune in to see what new gossip is being told. We rely on it during times of disaster and during rush hour. It tells us whether or not we should wear a jacket or sunglasses. We trust it to tell us who won the World Series in explicit detail. Radio even sends us goodies if we can manage to dial in as caller number nine. It is in our cars, set up in the garage, on every alarm clock and heard in almost every store. Radio runs with us.
A videography professor of mine said that unless students had a solid appreciation of radio and sound they have no business touching a video camera. Television relies on the cooperation of pictures and sound, whereas radio can stand alone. It was the original outlet for broadcast reporters, and it must not be buried under the explosion of television reporting. There are broadcasting jobs available in both radio and television.
To gain a better understanding of careers available in radio and the type of people that work in radio, I spoke with three journalists. Each fell took a different path in order to get into radio. Two were from Phoenix’s 91.5 FM KJZZ. KJZZ is a public radio station that operates out of Tempe, Ariz. NPR programming broadcasts throughout most of the week, and jazz and blues music plays when news updates are not being reported. The other, Miguel Otárola, is a college student.
Otárola, 19, is a freshman at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is studying journalism, and although he says he plans to embark on the print side of journalism he got involved in radio this year because it spiked his interest.
Otárola said his participation in the radio broadcast, “The Rundown” was his first radio experience.
“The thing I enjoy most about it is having a product at the end of every week,” Otárola said.
He said it is easier for him to jump from print to radio because he already has a writing foundation. It is not something Otárola plans to make a career out of, but he said he enjoys learning and gaining the experience while he can.
Mark Brodie is KJZZ’s government and politics reporter. He has been working at KJZZ for the past decade, but his previous home was Syracuse, N.Y. He attended Syracuse University and received degrees in both journalism and political science.
“I was a little bit of a dork,” Brodie said. “I was a serious student who, you know, actually did things on time.”
Brodie said that he had wanted to be a journalist since the early age of six. He said he watched the CBS evening news with his parents and could name all the correspondents by age five. He enjoyed learning about new things, and he enjoyed talking to people.
His career path was set from the start, but reporting in what format and on what topic was still unclear for Brodie by the time he reached Syracuse University. Brodie said he originally wanted to be a sports reporter, but then he realized everyone else wanted to do the same thing so he became hesitant.
It was an internship at Connecticut Public Radio that opened his eyes up to the rest of his life.
“They gave me a recorder and said ‘go out’,” Brodie said. “I really liked the format.”
Throughout college Brodie was involved in radio, and he had a lot of support. Brodie said his mother used to tease him and say that she was probably the only mother of a 22-year-old who knew what her son was doing on a Friday night because she always listened to his broadcasts.
Brodie said he enjoys working with KJZZ because it presents something new each and every day. He compares it to New York as being more accessible. Brodie said in Arizona it is a lot easier to get in touch with sources.
He said he takes his work very seriously, and believes his co-workers do as well. Credibility is important to him and his station, and they work to supply the best information to their listeners.
“KJZZ is the place in this town that people can go to to really hear in depth stories about what is going on locally and in the world,” Brodie said.
Unlike Brodie, who jumped into the radio world at an early age, his co-worker, Al Macias, took a different route.
Macias said he had no idea what he wanted to do as a child. It wasn’t until college that he decided he might give broadcast journalism a try. He spent three years at Arizona State University before deciding on a major. He landed his first job on what he accounts to “just a matter of good luck.”
Macias said he headed into his last semester not really that certain about where to head next. He considered going to Mexico to brush up on Spanish before he heard news that his friends boyfriend knew a guy at Channel 3 who had just quit.
“I had no business applying for that job. I was still in school,” Macias said. “I had virtually no experience, but I applied anyway.”
Macias’s professor at Arizona State University put a good word in for him at the station, and upon graduation Macias was hired.
He said that he, a Latino reporter, and a young African American man were both hired around the same time. Together, they had no experience on television.
“It was what the world was headed towards, a break up in the vanilla faces,” Macias said. “Now, I don’t know if that’s ‘right’ or not, but I knew that was my opportunity, and I took it.”
Macias said everything he learned about television reporting was learned as he went. After about 6 years with Channel 3 he decided to make a career change.
“I started to realize that the people who made the decisions aren’t in front of the camera,” Macias said. “It was the people behind the camera.”
He became the assignment manager at Channel 12 in 1981. There he spent the next 13 years of his life.
Once again, Macias decided to make a career move and transferred to Channel 15. He took a break from the broadcast industry in 2000.
In 2010, Macias was hired on with KJZZ. He was 58 years old. Macias realized his age was higher than other broadcasters, but he did not see it as a problem, especially in radio. He knew he had talent.
“I would say there is a timeline certainly in television,” Macias said. “I’m arrogant enough to think that if I wanted to, I could do television again, but I enjoy radio, and you don’t see the gray hairs on your voice.”
He compares his radio experience to the learning as you go process he encountered with television.
“I was new to public radio, and I was totally new to the technology,” Macias said. “I at least knew what news was at that point though.”
Macias says he prefers radio now because he can report on events that really impact people’s lives. Macias said they do not cover every car accident in the valley, and that is why he likes radio. The content is much broader. He said it reaches out beyond the street corner and nabs at bigger issues.
For students or young journalists hoping to enter the broadcasting industry, Macias said radio and television are really one in the same.
“It doesn’t matter if you can see your face or not. If you want a job in this industry you need to learn how to write. You won’t get a job unless you can write. It is that simple,” Macias said.
Three journalists in radio, all three at different stages in their life, agree on the fundamentals of radio. Learn to write. As long as you can write, people will always listen, and the radio will always be in business.