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by Dan O'Day

A few years ago I received an aircheck from a female jock in a medium/small market. Let's call her "Jackie." Jackie was one-half of a morning team, and she was funny. She did interesting characters, had clever ideas, and was blessed with good timing. Her partner - a male - was not as talented as she. As a result, the show suffered.

I wrote back to Jackie, suggesting that she try to land a morning gig of her own...or form a new team in which she was the lead player. Her personality was too strong to be relegated to just being "the girl" on a morning show.

A month later, Jackie introduced herself to me at a radio convention. She thanked me for my feedback and excitedly informed me that she'd just been offered a job as part of a multi-person morning team at a legendary, large-market AOR station.

"Don't accept the offer, " I said.

"But....But it's a large market," she protested. "And famous call letters. And the station has good ratings."

"The station also has a large morning show with a revolving door - especially for females," I replied. "You'll be the token woman, the fifth jock. You'll have no control over the program's flow and not much input into its content. You'll be wasting your talents, and you won't be happy."

I knew Jackie respected my opinion. Indeed, I had become acquainted with her work because she wanted my advice. So when I recommended that she refuse the job offer, I had no doubt what she'd do.

She'd take the job.

Of course. How could she resist?

She was there for a few months and hated it. Eventually she was let go.

Since then she's worked at several other stations in large markets, including a stint as one-half of a team. I know the (male) jock she was teamed with - talented, personable, a real pro.

And I knew that situation would be unhappy, too. Because he has the kind of strong ego that needs to dominate a show. So does Jackie. The show went nowhere, and again she was out of work.

Jackie had another, short-lived stay at a well-known CHR station as the morning show's token woman. And she's become publicly vocal about how tough it is to be a female personality.

Of course it's tough. In addition to all the crap that all disc jockeys have to put up with, women also have to cope with the prejudices of a male-dominated industry.

And it's the narrow thinking of so many program directors (both male and female) that makes it vital for the female jock to assume responsibility for her own career.

The overwhelming majority of female air personalities have been faced with gender bias sometime in their careers.

If you're a male disc jockey, think back to the last time you went looking for work. Remember the frustration, the rejection, and - especially if you were unemployed at the time - the feeling of isolation?

Now imagine how, in those circumstances, it would have felt to apply for job after job, only to be told, "I like your tape, but we already have a male on our air staff."

With a quick substitution of "female" for "male," that's what female jocks have heard for years.

If you're a male disc jockey, reflect upon all the arguments you've had with program directors and managers regarding your show's content. If you were a female jock, you'd also have experienced this on a regular basis:

"Oh, you can't do that on-the-air. It would be okay if you were a man, but women can't be that way on the radio."

Women "can't be"






*"Men will feel threatened by you."

*"Women listeners will feel you're competing with them.

*"That's the way it is. Everybody knows that."

*"Research says so." (The person saying this has never seen that re-search, but he's been told that somewhere, someone did some kind of research and it proved that women "can't be" that way on the radio.)

*"We once tried a woman in the job, and it didn't work."

I see it in market after market: a successful morning show that includes a female....either as quasi-news person (disparagingly referred to by some radio people as "news bimbo") or as female sidekick. I call these "side-chicks." They're not really newspeople, and they're not considered full-fledged personalities.

Instead, they're there to lend a female voice to the proceedings and to laugh appreciatively at the real entertainment provided by the male team members.

Often when the "sidechick" works with (or, more accurately, works for) a very successful, well-known disc jockey, she mistakenly thinks his reflected glory will illuminate her career even after she no longer is part of the show.

She doesn't work to improve her craft. Why should she? She's already one-half of the most successful show in town! It is not uncommon for her even to become a bit arrogant, to treat others condescendingly because she is, after all, a star!

But then, inevitably, a change is made in the program, and suddenly she's looking for work. Certainly she won't have any trouble landing a good gig; after all, she was a well-known part of the #1 show in town.

But then she learns the cold, hard truth: Yes, people have heard of her. But few are interested in hiring her - certainly not in a position of equal status.


You know you've got a job and not a career when:

1. You're referred to on-air by your first name only. With few exceptions, male jocks have both a first and a last name. Note how often you'll see a station's line-up in the trades: "Steve Shannon does mornings, Bob Roberts mid-days, Sean Michaels afternoons, Carl Baker does nights, and Lovely Lisa holds down the overnight shift...."

This tendency is incredibly patronizing toward women. Think about it: Children are introduced by first name only ("Bob, I'd like you to meet Tommy; he's one of your biggest fans"); adults are introduced by their full names ("Bob, I'd like you to meet Paul Dixon, one of our newest clients").

Would Jonathon Brandmeier have such a high-profile career if some PD long ago had forced him to use only his first name?

("Hi, I'm Jonathon!" Sounds like it should be followed with, "...and I'll be your waiter this evening.")

2. You're referred to by a first name only, and that name is an artificial, little girl-type name (Bam-Bam, Barbie, Muffy).

3. You're the only female on a team show, and your duties consist primarily of being the focus of cheap sexual innuendo and/or acting as a cheerleader for the boys on the team - i.e., reacting from the sidelines but never really participating as an equal.

4. You can't clearly define a specific, creative, vital contribution you make to the show.

5. You are expected to follow orders but never are asked for creative input.

6. The lead roles on-mike are always taken by others; you never begin or end a break.

7. You rarely find yourself thinking, "I can't wait to get on the air tomorrow and talk about this..." - because you rarely affect the show's content.

8. You often marvel at what an easy job you have, because all you have to do is show up for the shift. You never need to do any show prep, because you don't really do anything on the show.

9. You make far less money than anyone else on the show.

10. When you lose your job, the only other jobs you're offered in your market are part-time.


How can you avoid the sidechick/news bimbo trap? By caring enough to build a career, rather than settling for just a job. Determine what your most valuable radio skills are and what you really want to do in the industry, and direct all your efforts to achieving that goal.

There's nothing wrong with being a news bimbo - if that's enough to satisfy you. But if you want to do topical satire, you won't get there by providing a human laugh track for "the boys." If you want to want to host your own nationally syndicated countdown show, reacting meekly but good-naturedly while "the boys" joke about how you've slept with every guy in radio probably won't speed you along the career path you seek.

If you're already working on a successful morning show but not in a capacity that affords you self-respect, you can explore other air shift possibilities at your station ...or, more likely, at a competing, less successful station in your market...or in a smaller market.

"But why should I consider going to a smaller market? Isn't that a step down?"

It can be. But if you're trying to climb to the top of a building and the ladder you're on goes only to the top of the basement, you might need first to step down and then start climbing a ladder that takes you where you want to be.

(Excerpted from PERSONALITY RADIO, Volume II: The Dangerous Air Personality, by Dan O'Day)

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