Dennis-Daniel oct90There's nothing more satisfying in this business than being given the chance to influence the lives of young people trying to get started in radio. I'm talking about interns. Whether they're from college, high school, or just people who walked in the door; the chance to teach and guide these young minds, molding them to your style of doing things in the hope that they will eventually find their own style, is tremendously rewarding!

Does your radio station have an intern program?

By "program" I mean a worthwhile system designed to teach. More often than not, intern programs are just a way to get "busy work" and "gopher work" done for free. God, I hate that! Can you imagine; here you have these eager young people, fresh with enthusiasm and a sort of wide eyed wonder at the magic of it all, and they're being wasted getting people coffee, filing and answering phones. Usually, the interns don't complain because they don't know any better. They're so happy to be at the radio station, they don't realize that they're being used.

If you do this to your interns, shame on you.

I have been teaching interns production for my entire ten years in the business. I think it's safe to say that over 80% of them have gone on to professional gigs. (There's even a good chance that several of my former interns could be reading these words right now. Hey, how's it hanging?!)

Let me give you a brief summary of what I believe a good production internship program is all about:

RULE #1 -- COMMITMENT TO PRODUCTION: When choosing from a fresh crop of interns, it's not unusual to find many who are undecided about what they want to do in radio (many of them just want to be DJ's. Ai Yi Yi!) It's been my experience that the production inclined interns tend to know right away that that's what they want! Try to avoid starting an intern who's undecided (you could be wasting your time!). Better to have someone who's raring to go! Fire! Desire! That's what we like!

RULE #2 -- SCHEDULING: When you've decided on your interns for the semester (three is usually the most I can handle), set a schedule that gives them the full benefit of your knowledge. I like interns to work at least one full day in the department. Sometimes, due to their college schedules, it's tough for them to give you a full day. If you run into this problem, tell them to come in on the day they have the least amount of classes. Of course, they would benefit more from coming in a full day because they'd see how the department runs in all kinds of situations.

RULE #3 -- THE AWE INSPIRING SPEECH: I give each one of my interns a speech that practically brings them to their knees weeping with joy! It's my "Magic Of Radio" speech, and it's a killer! I make it very clear that the adventure they are about to embark on will change their lives forever. They are about to enter the wonderful world of theatre of the mind; a place that has absolutely no boundaries! Anything you can imagine can come to life! I tell them, "You are all Frankenstein! You bring life to dead tape! You create images in the minds of men! You, and only you, are the creator of your world! And, you have thousands upon thousands of minds waiting out there, waiting with baited breath to hear your next God-like creation! Never lose sight of this my lads and lassies! You have been given a great gift. The power to communicate with the masses. Don't take it for granted! Use it to do powerful, memorable things! Create! Do the best you can with everything you do, for it will be heard over and over and over!" At this point, they're usually prostrate on the floor, a small puddle of saliva dripping from the corner of their mouth as they shudder in a fetal position. Hey! Radio is serious business! I don't want any interns who are just blowin' some time between classes. I want them to leave with the knowledge that we are all production deities!

RULE #4 -- GIVE OF YOUR TIME: Teach them everything you can. Make time for your interns. Realize that they look upon you with very high regard and are willing to learn. Teach them how to do a good solid straight read, how to write good copy, how to open up their imaginations. Show them the board and all its tricks. Let them experience what it's like to work with salespeople. Have them call clients for approval, especially if it's a spot they've written. Get them to voice spots (when they're ready). I tell you, the rewards are never ending! If you can, at the end of a semester, take them out to dinner. Ask them what they've learned. Welcome them back if they'd like to continue.

A good intern program can really make your life worth living. It gives you the sense that you are helping a voice of the future. At the same time, your department will benefit from new, fresh ideas. It's a tool no Production Director should work without.