Last month, somebody asked about the process of preparing a radio show. Every jock who cares enough to do it has his or her own method, but here’s mine.
I often joke that my entire life is show prep, but it really is. As I routinely travel the Internet, watch TV, or listen to the radio, I keep an eye out for stuff that might be interesting to talk about the next time I’m on the air. In addition, about an hour before I go on the air, I cruise through a short list of websites I have found to be useful sources.
For any jock on any station, what’s “interesting” is determined by who your listener is. I am interested in craft beer and college hockey, for example, but not necessarily to the degree that my listeners are. The stations I’m on are targeted to adult women, so I’m always thinking about what someone with an office job, a spouse, and/or a couple of kids is likely to find interesting. This is not to say that I’m never going to talk about craft beer or college hockey, but it will have to be filtered through the prism of the 40-ish woman I imagine on the other end of the transmission.
The stuff I prepare has to qualify under one of two basic rules: A) it’s got to be stuff my listeners need or would want to know about and/or B) stuff they’re already thinking about. There’s lots of overlap. Weather can fall into both; if people know there’s a winter storm coming, I’ll talk about it in more detail than I will if the forecast is for sunny and 75. Stuff they need or want to know includes serious things: a traffic tie-up due to road construction, for example, but it can also include fairs or festivals or places to take the kids on the weekend. Which are also things they might already be thinking about. Rule A or Rule B bits generally run about 30 seconds, and I like to have one for every hour I’m on the air.
My goal is to be as topical as possible. What do listeners care about right now, today? It’s why I don’t like to voice-track a show more than a few hours in advance, or 24 hours before at most. Any farther out and you risk missing that “right now” connection. An even-greater risk is that you’ll miss some transcendent event. Imagine tracking your classic-rock Sunday show on Friday afternoon and then a Mick Jagger or a Paul McCartney dies on Saturday.
I’ve written before about my guiding question: “What can I do on the air today that nobody else can do?” It’s why I’m prejudiced in favor of local material, and against the celebrity news/junk so many jocks rely on. That’s not to say I will never do a celebrity story or something from halfway across the country. If it’s a viral story, it may be something listeners are already thinking about (see Rule B above). But I have to come up with an original take, a local angle, or at least a punchline that’s entirely my own.
Some jocks like to know in advance the songs scheduled in their show to help them prepare, but I don’t care. I have lots of music-related bits floating around in my head, so that kind of thing is easy to come by if I need it. Also, the new album by so-and-so can be pretty far down the list of things that meet Rule A or Rule B. Not always, but in most cases.
Not everything is a “bit.” If I have 11 seconds over the intro of a song, there’s often not time for anything more than title and artist. But even those short segments will be better given advance thought. I recently mentioned that I’ve become a big believer in scripting. As I prepare, I write my 30-second bits as I will deliver them on the air. When I get into the studio, I start scripting the rest of the show. Since where I talk is specified to me by the format clock, I can script ahead, sometimes as much as an hour, although some days I barely manage to stay one break ahead.
To keep this post from getting any longer, I’m going to stop here. If you have questions about any of this, please ask in the comments. And if you’re a jock with a method that works for you, or advice for other jocks, please include that, too.