JV: What do most of the students in the course expect from radio? What are they out to get? Do they all want to be superstar DJs?
John: Well, I don’t know that the word superstar comes up, but in all honesty, even at this point in time, the magnet is probably the prospect of being an on-air performer in some way. Very few people come in the door predisposed to be traffic managers, Account Executives, Production Directors or anything else, because what they’ve grown up with, the younger ones in particular who are coming right out of high school, is that DJ mystique. Even though the technology and how radio is done behind the scenes has changed so dramatically in the last few years, it doesn’t sound any different. So they still imagine that there’s some person in there with a bunch of tunes, and it’s a real eye opener when they walk in and discover that it’s a room full of computer screens and a bunch of printers that are going all the time spewing out logs and schedules and people going from room to room with computer disks in their hands. That’s not necessarily the picture they had in their minds when they first came through the door.

I think what we do in the program is try to open people up to a lot of the possibilities in the business. We just put an Enco hard disk system on the air, and most of the time it runs in a live assist mode. But that has brought about a real shift in the students’ thinking because it really brought home the idea that the mechanics of shuffling disks and carts in the on-air studio are not really all that important as opposed to creating the content that goes on those disks. So having that system in place has quickly shifted the student interest much more heavily into the production side of the building from the on-air studios.

JV: What kinds of successes have you seen from the students over the years? Have you had some people get out and really do well for themselves?
John: Yes. I don’t know if we have any superstars, to use your term—I don’t know what that even means today unless you’re talking about Howard Stern or a Rush Lindbaugh. But there are people from the program all over the country. Sometimes I don’t hear from them for a long time, then they pop up. I got an e-mail a little while back from a guy who graduated from the program in the late eighties, and he’s working for the Clear Channel stations in Orlando, Florida. I had no contact with him for almost a decade. Suddenly, I got an e-mail, and it was a nice feeling to get an e-mail from somebody who says, “You know, if it hadn’t been for that program at Clover Park, I wouldn’t be doing this now.” When you get that kind of feedback from people, that’s as good or maybe better than a good rating book.

We’ve had people come out of here—and when I say “we,” there are some other part-time people who help me with this; I’m not alone. We’ve got a guy right now who went right from here to the Ackerly stations in Seattle, KUBE and KJR. We’ve had people go all through the Northwest, down into California, and as far as the East Coast. The fellow who e-mailed me from Florida actually went to his first job on Long Island in New York from here, and that’s really a kick to see that happen.

With the changes that have gone in recently at the facilities here, the changes we have planned for the future, and the curriculum that we have now, I’m starting to feel better about the fact that we’ve got people coming out of the program who do want to go into production work or directly into marketing and promotion, and some of them are starting to do that. So, yes, most of them come in the door thinking on-air personality, disk jockey, performer, but when they get exposed to what is really a full-scale working radio station environment and to all the other things that go on, a lot of them shift that direction while they’re here.

I’m really proud of what the students do here and what they accomplish. If an individual is looking to get into radio, maybe they can’t come here, but I’m sure there must be some other programs here and there around the country that are like this. If you can find a facility that is really trying to do real-world radio rather than a campus radio or the sort of stereotypical college radio kind of thing, then I would encourage people to go do that.