There are some things they don’t prepare you for in radio school.
I traveled from Los Angeles to a tiny town in Virginia for my first radio job.
My first day on the air was a Saturday.
The jock before me split as soon as I cracked the mic, and I was alone in the building.
The first hour went pretty well. Didn’t “wow” any records, no noticeable dead air.
And then, from inside the studio, I began to hear a competing radio station.
I’m not talking about some annoying RF interference. I mean another radio station was blaring from a speaker in the on-air studio.
You see, in the U.S. we had something called the Emergency Broadcast System. Within each county, one station was designated the EBS station. In case of emergency, everyone was supposed to tune to that one station while the others suspended their regular programming.
Actually, it was kind of cool. We had a sealed envelope with the secret authorization password and everything. (Just like in FAIL-SAFE.) It was begun during the Cold War, and fortunately it never needed to be employed.
Our studio (and I guess all stations’ studios) was equipped with an EBS monitor. I was hearing our local EBS station through the monitor.
Four things you need to know about that EBS monitor:
1. It had no “off” switch.
2. It had no volume control.
3. It was hard-wired into the circuitry.
And most importantly:
4. It did not mute when I opened the studio microphone.
So for the rest of my show, every time I cracked the mic to read a live commercial, spot tag, PSA, news, etc….My audience heard a tinny version of the “big” station 15 miles away, through the EBS speaker and into my microphone.
A less than glorious start to my career.
As I write this, suddenly I’m visited by the long-buried memory of returning to my new apartment in that tiny town, filled with despair and thinking, “I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’ll never be able to do this.”
But tomorrow was going to be another working day, so I tried to get some rest.