by Sterling Tarrant

Sixty-three words! Less than thirty seconds worth of words. That's all that was used to describe the duties of a radio Production Director in a book (copyright 1994) about broadcasting that I found in my local library. Sixty-three words, mind you. Already, I've used forty-five in this column. Hey, I say that anything you or I write in any given day couldn't be done in less than sixty-three words -- except maybe a resignation letter. "I quit...Love, (your name)." Hmmmm...four, maybe five words.

Okay, I was wrong. But I do know I'm right about this: Production Directors contain a vast sum of knowledge. At least more than sixty-three words worth. What with dealing with programming, sales, the front office, the agencies, the clients, the jocks, the engineers and Mrs. Fogle who calls to complain we put her phone number at the end of a call to action about a Rent-a-Santa service, we know a lot! This column is presented to tap that knowledge. The knowledge we gather from everyday situations, from acquired skills and from the deep crevasses of the cerebral cortex where creativity claws its way out of the goo. (Watch where you fling that stuff, will you?!)

Here's how it works. Each month, probably a day before deadline, I'll be calling at random a handful of RAP members, and I'll ask them that month's question. I'll compile these bits of wisdom and frivolity into this inverted Tips & Techniques column where, instead of you sending in your knowledge, I'll siphon it off in globs of about sixty-three words or so. Of course, if you still have tips and techniques, send 'em in, along with Mrs. Fogle's phone number. One other thing: you cyberspaceheads can E-mail me through CompuServe at 73542,1454 or on the Production Room Board BBS.

Now, here's this month's question: What does your station do for Christmas? Changes in format? Christmas party? Community events? And, if your management could give you one thing for your department for Christmas, what would it be and why?

Our first contestants:

Craig Rogers, WHO, Des Moines, Iowa: Our morning team does a warm and fuzzy show on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day where they bring kids in, share stories, that kind of thing. Our Ag Reporter does Christmas on the farm, where he uses a lot of good natural sound. He'll have actual sounds of a one-horse open sleigh or chestnuts roasting over an open fire. We do a half-hour production of the Christmas Carol and the air staff plays all the characters in the story. For example, our sportscaster, who's been here for fifty years and who's literally known as a skinflint, plays Scrooge. Our morning team plays Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. We've updated personnel for the past five years, as they would change, but this year we're reproducing it brand new. Thank you, Orban! Speaking of which, if management could give me anything, it would be a second Orban DSE-7000, 'cause the first one gets so much use. Oh, can I qualify that? A second DSE and a studio to put it in.

Kathy Morgan, KOSP-FM, Springfield, Missouri: Our big project again is the Christmas Wish. We work with agencies around the area and with our listeners who write or call in and tell us of somebody who needs help. Our clients, too, get in with donations of things. We don't do any remotes or sponsor contest stuff unless it has to do with Christmas Wish or giving back to the community. In fact our tag line for all PSAs during this time is "Giving Back to the Ozarks." We throw in fun little sounders, liners and jingles and, of course, all the oldies Christmas music. Something really fun we do that culminates at Christmas is trap everybody's outtakes and embarrassing moments from all year long and then play back this "gotcha" tape at the Christmas party. I don't know how long the tape will be this year, because everyone's kinda learned to delete the files as they go along. If I could have anything at all, it would probably be the ability to help alleviate everybody's stress. We're a small staff; everybody here is constantly going to the limit all the time, and it pays off very well. But, if there was a way that I could wave a magic wand and say, "Okay, everybody, you're stress free now, have a happy life," I would be happy.

Jim Graci, KBSG, Seattle, Washington: For Christmas we'll structure our contests and on-air presentation in a giving kind of atmosphere. We'll mobilize on the spur of the moment if a family has their house burn down -- collecting clothing and food, collecting presents for those who have experienced tragedy during the holiday. We're also doing a 5K "Jingle Bell Run" in downtown Seattle to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. Our company usually takes very good care of us for Christmas. This year everyone gets the day off on Friday, and they're going to bus us up to a ski lodge where we'll also have a banquet. We're a duopoly, so there's about one hundred people, plus spouses. So it's a big thing.

And now, here's next month's question: You have a client or a person from the office who you need to use for voice talent. They haven't done voice work before. How do you make them feel comfortable? What tricks do you use to get a good read out of them? Be thinking of an answer and if your receptionist gives you a phone message from me, don't throw it away! Till next month, have a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, and don't write any short resignation letters.