by Sterling Tarrant
At my place (a satellite network), everyone is required to do voice work and production. A part-time copywriter and myself do most of the writing, and I do most of the production, but everyone else is required to chip in. This has led to some interesting discussions about, “What it’s like at other stations.” So I decided to find out with this first ever Q It Up e-mail poll. Here’s the question: “What extent are on air people required to either write, voice, and/or produce spots? My guess is that at the mega markets, not much. My other guess is that as markets get smaller--and as such, less people wear more hats--we would see on-air people more involved in the production process. Anyway, that’s the hypothesis, and I’d like to see what the situation is at your station.”
Here are the responses:
Dennis Coleman, Production Director for three (soon to be four) stations in Austin, Texas: Here in market fifty-one, our on-air people aren’t generally required to do more than dubs and tags. The morning folks voice stuff that I produce...ditto the middays and afternoons. None of the jocks write or produce (other than write their own promos which I produce). Sorry to go against the grain on your hypothesis, but that’s the way it is here.
Fred Cunha, CKNQ/CFMI-FM and CFUN/CHQM-FM in Vancouver, British Columbia: Here (and at CJEZ-FM in Toronto where I used to work) on-air people don’t write or produce spots. They do voice them, even though the morning talent isn’t used as much (due to their superstar status and because PDs don’t want their voices all over the place.)
Kevin Minatrea, Production Director of KLDE, Houston, Texas: In a major market like this, there are very few on-air talents who are involved in the production rooms. At KLDE we use them occasionally to voice a spot or tag, but they very seldom produce the entire thing. There is one exception...our morning guy gets some production time in on spots for clients that he does live spots for during the show. He then takes his live copy and produces a spot to air during other dayparts so he doesn’t always sound “live.” That’s about it.
Flip Michaels, Production Director at WGMS-FM, Washington, D.C.: “Imaging” plays a rushing position in my game of production. The coach is always looking for new and creative ways to communicate to our classical audience. When the opportunity arises, an occasional pass of a dub/tag or straight read to air talent or programming/marketing can occur...but his is (usually) by choice only. As for script writing...I do about eighty percent with the other twenty percent being split by two (recently discovered) nut cases in the facility.
Jon Hogan, Creative Director, XS Radio , Ltd, Palmerston North, New Zealand: In New Zealand, on-air talent doesn’t write or produce much in middle to big markets, although ours do write their own promos. However, as they are not necessarily thirty, forty-five, or sixty seconds in length, it doesn’t train them to be good editors. Should on-air people write? If they want to be able to read an ad properly...yes! Only when writing day-to-day can they learn the devices writers use to impart a message. If more jocks wrote, the overall quality of their reading would also improve.
Dan Culhane, Production Director, KEEV/KFAN/KTCJ, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: Our morning team only “writes” their ad-libbed personal endorsements. They wing it off a fact sheet from the client. They are asked to do no other production, unless a client pays for an endorsement to run in other dayparts. Some of our other jocks have special relationships with clubs and offer to write and voice their spots. Otherwise, sales and the client do the writing.
Pete Jensen, KXLY and others, Spokane, Washington: We have five radio stations and one TV station with over two hundred employees. Theoretically, everyone who does an airshift is responsible to do production when asked. There are those who do it better than others, and it’s usually those people I rely on. I try to work with the people who need help/encouragement/a kick in the pants. And, of course, there are those like the morning show people who work real hard on other things, so I don’t ask them to do production. Both of the morning teams on our FM stations do their own promos, so they stay pretty busy without doing any commercial production. There is a guy who takes care of imaging for our AM newstalk station, and the guys on the sports station usually take care of their own imaging. So I mostly handle all commercial production/assigning and some TV voice-overs. Our salespeople write their spots, but I’ll rewrite when necessary. Or sometimes we’ll start over from ground zero when one comes through that I know just won’t work as written.
Finally, Hal Knapp, Commercial Production Director, Z-100, New York City, New York: I handle and voice all the commercial production at Z-100. Our morning show only does prerecorded reads for big live read clients like Vermont Teddy Bear and Nutri-system. Our midday jock does some work since she’s the only female voice talent in the building. The jocks have it built into their contracts to do production...but it’s a timing and quality control issue, as well as a programming decision.
Q it Up next month will examine the answers to part two of this question which is: How is the position of Production Director or Creative Services Director perceived at your station? Do you do mostly imaging? Do you provide marketing expertise for your sales staff? Do you do a little of both, have an airshift, recharge the fire extinguishes, and throw away Q-Tips loaded with ear wax that the overnight guy left on the counter top? I’m curious to see if the position of Production Director is evolving where it deals more with imaging, or if it’s maintaining a more traditional role of servicing clients.