This morning was my debut as a fill-in on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio’s “The Media Project” — a weekly, half-hour discussion among four local news people about media coverage of current events.
I have no idea what I said, how I said it, how I will sound or how it will be perceived.
But I do have renewed respect for anyone whose job is to wing it on radio and TV.
I’m a print person from way back. If I have 15 minutes to turn around a story, I can write it in 15. If I have five hours, I’ll take all five. If I have three days, I’ll eat up all that time trying to improve the piece. You get the idea.
I love to write but I’m rarely satisfied with something I’ve written. I have yet to meet copy (written by me or someone else) that didn’t cry out to me to proofread, reorganize, rewrite, revise, tighten. Make stuffy sentences conversational. Scrap excess words. Dig up and move up buried leads and nut grafs (the sentence or paragraph that makes clear the point to the story). Massage or totally rewrite leads right up until the absolute deadline. That’s writing.
Then there’s radio.
Although “The Media Project” (airing on 90.3FM at 6 p.m. Sunday, 3 p.m. Monday and anytime on podcast) is taped, it’s basically an unrehearsed straight run.
Senior Producer David Guistina, who is also the “Morning Edition” anchor, preps participants on Wednesday by sending emails of stories that could be fodder for Thursday morning’s taping. I highlighted and scrawled side notes on printouts of articles related to coverage of the Trump-Putin meeting, a study about news credibility, a report showing most Americans get their news on their phone, and three or four other items. I showed up 15 minutes early, which gave me a chance to catch up a bit in the beige green room with regular panelist Cailin Brown, head of the College of St. Rose Communication Department.
A few minutes past the 8:30 a.m. taping time, the show’s host, Times Union Editor Rex Smith, strode through the front door, WAMC President and CEO Alan Chartock strode out of his office, the four of took our seats in front of our mikes, baseball-capped Chartock mocked Smith’s crispy plaid button-down and, unbeknownst to me, we were off to the races.
I was silently congratulating myself for wearing a sweater, heeding previous guests’ on-air comments about the chilly studio, when Rex Smith asked me about the blog post I’d written about Trump, CNN reporter Jim Acosta and Spartacus. Huh? Are we on? Done with Deadlines! Oh yeah. Wish I’d re-read it!
My mouth opened and words came out.
What I said then and over the next half hour will be a surprise to you and me both. Did I misspeak? Did I make any sense? Did I speak in complete sentences? Did I avoid double negatives? Was it obvious I’d had only five hours of sleep and two cups of coffee? Is my longstanding dislike of the recorded sound of my own voice warranted? Don’t tell me.
Know this: I’ve long been impressed with the thoughtful, cogent comments of “The Media Project” regulars and admire them all the more after sitting in their place this morning. And I can’t wait to hear the show, which David Guistina will magically sandwich between verses of Pete Seeger’s snappy “Newspaper Man”.