"...And Make It Real Creative!": With Friends Like These…

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

I’ve found over the years that those who are most insistent that “radio is dying” are those who, whether by choice or company cut-backs, are no longer in the business. Lord knows they aren’t shy about their opinions…

“Consolidation screwed it up for everybody!! Less people, doing more… and all of the good people were fired! Who was left? The flunkies making jack squat per hour! Syndicated, automated CRAP, that’s all that’s left! NOBODY CARES ANYMORE!!”

And I wonder why I find it hard to talk to my ex-radio buddies.

I know they have some valid points, but I also know that they are being smug, condescending jerks.

I wonder where it began, this attitude of “I escaped radio?” Like it’s a second-class profession, which offered them little more than a paycheck… and a damned small one at that, to hear them talk (and yes, I’m not so naive that I don’t realize that many don’t make a fortune in the business). Why the distain, the hate? Why do they feel it’s their duty to bad-mouth it to anyone who will listen?

I have my theories. Those who were cut, no matter the reason, have obvious reasons for the loathing. Those who “move forward” are a tougher lot to understand. Perhaps they feel having radio in their past is a “black mark” that will keep them from moving on to “bigger Creative” goals. Like someone is going to say, “Oh, I’m sorry! I thought you were a SERIOUS Creative! But that time producing ‘little radio ads’ was SUCH a waste, and ruined you for anything GOOD!” Please.

I find these attitudes insulting and ungrateful, especially coming from those who should be the biggest supporters of the industry. Think about it, how many former professional sports players who retire or get cut go around bad-mouthing their sport? It seems to me that, instead of condemning it, radio veterans would be defending it!

Of course radio has changed, but you know what? If you look around, you’ll find EVERYTHING has changed, right? Some things for the better, some for the worst… and in radio’s case, a little of both. However it is still vital, still wildly popular, and those I know who are still in the industry, are serious professionals who truly care about their job and the industry as a whole.

Yes, today I am a cheerleader for radio, however, it’s true confession time… I suppose what makes me so mad at the anti-radio crowd is that I was turning into one of them.

It started when I was out of the industry for a couple of years, post-divorce. I was about as far out of broadcasting as you can be at that time, and was beginning to think I would never be back. I would listen to the station I used to work for and began to mentally pick apart everything on the air. It wasn’t long before I would share my “insight” with friends after 2 or 6 beers, thinking how much more clever I was than my former colleagues… turning into “that guy.”

Then an ironic thing happened. I fell in love with a Production Director, and moved to Raleigh, NC to marry her. Needing a job, I went straight to, you guessed it, radio, and I was back on the “inside.” Since that time I’ve again bounced in and out of the business, but never got back to the bitterness. Perhaps my wife is the connection that keeps me humble and grateful for what I gained from my time in the industry, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I appreciate what a gift I have been given over the years by working in radio.

Perhaps the most upsetting statement I hear over and over again is, “When a kid tells me they want to get into radio, I tell them to FLEE!” It’s usually followed by “knowing laughter.” Really? We want to discourage those who could be the future of the industry… who just might take it to new heights and keep it a marketable, viable medium? REALLY?

I know I’m not the only one beating this drum. What I suggest is, if you are passionate about radio, share that passion with the next generation. Look into broadcasting programs in your area, offer to speak, coach, mentor. At the very least, take that poor intern “nobody knows what to do with” under your wing and teach them not only what buttons to push, but why you love what you do. Because, judging from some of the jaded conversations I’ve had with the ones out of the business, radio needs all the love it can get!

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