During the late 1970s, student disc jockeys controlled the airwaves in a somewhat chaotic format at Temple radio station WRTI (90.1 FM). With the station now taking a more professional approach, five alumni agreed taking untrained students off the air is not the only thing that has changed since their graduation nearly three decades ago.
A panel of five broadcast journalists gathered at KYW News Radio (1060 AM) at Fifth and Market streets on Saturday before six broadcast journalism classes for a two-hour discussion on the changes in their field. Each of the five served at WRTI together during their Temple careers.
The five School of Communications and Theater alumni included Vince Hill, KYW business editor; E. Steven Collins, national sales manager of Philadelphia Radio One; Kevin Magee, senior vice president of FOX News Radio in New York; Steve Butler, KYW news and programming director and Paul Gluck, station manager of WHYY (PBS-12) in Philadelphia.
In addition to the roundtable talks, the students, who numbered several dozen, were treated to a tour of various television and radio studios as well as a workshop on video editing.
The KYW class trip originated “about 15 years ago,” Hill said. Hill, an adjunct professor in the broadcast journalism program, designed the field trip as a student tour of his workplace. As more journalism professors came on board with Hill, the idea of a roundtable discussion soon surfaced. Hill, a 1975 grad, said breaking news had kept other guest speakers from appearing in past years.
The five started off by talking about their first jobs. Gluck, who graduated in 1976, said what got him his first gig in the radio industry was tenacity.
“Tenacity is not giving up,” Gluck said. “‘You can close the door on my face, but when you open it, I’ll still be here.’ That’s tenacity.”
Gluck’s own tenacity carried into his personal life at an early age. Because of work, Gluck had to tell his father, who is Jewish, that he could not attend celebrations for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s most solemn holiday. He credited this experience with teaching him the importance of a job.
Magee emphasized salary, which he said is not always negotiable, as the selling point for a job in the industry. Because radio and television jobs are in short supply, wage sometimes takes a back seat to experience. But the 1981 graduate said it should not.
“Never don’t get paid,” said Magee, whose first job was a minimum wage position in New York. “Internships are great, but you can’t eat a tote bag.”
While the majority of the panel cautioned students against poor work schedules, because most journalism jobs are not 9 to 5. Collins said he wouldn’t mind waking at 3 a.m. every day.
“My family doesn’t understand why I have to get up on Sundays and work, but I love what I do. It’s in my blood,” Collins said.
Along with their non-traditional work schedules, journalists often have trouble defining their personal lives. The panel provided their own experiences of postponing vacations for breaking news stories, or taking unconventional Tuesday-Wednesday weekends. During the early stages of his career, Gluck said he would bring a suitcase to work. He would sleep on an office couch and shower in the station’s dressing room. Even still, Gluck said he’s experienced much worse.
“The worst is to be in the living room on the phone, occupied, while your child is staring at you, needing help with homework,” he said.
Shifting gears, the panel then conversed about technological changes. With the influx of satellite radio and television stations that air wall-to-wall newscasts, there is an ever-growing body of competition. Collins said broadcasters should embrace technology instead of rejecting the inevitable.
“No matter how we feel about it, it’s technology. It’s only going to get better and it’s going to happen no matter what,” Collins said.
The panel concluded on the topic of compromising integrity, citing how one slip-up – like falsified details or derivatives of the truth – could ruin a career.
“When unemployed, a broadcaster has only his integrity,” said Butler, a 1974 graduate. “It’s something that means a lot, that you never want to let go of.”
Despite all the hardships mentioned during the discussion, each of the Temple alums expressed a passion for their profession. Some said they enjoy waking up everyday not knowing what’s on their schedule. Magee spoke of his experience this past summer.
“I’m from Northeast Philadelphia, and I had lunch with three [past] presidents while working on a series,” he said. “In the real world, that isn’t supposed to happen, but in mine, it’s possible.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.