Holy Everything: There’s more to radio than you might realize

January 14, 2019

At the age of 12, wearing a white button-down blouse and a new blue skirt from The Limited (my first outfit purchased at a “grown up” store), I experienced the morning of my dreams.

My mom and I woke up at 4:45 a.m. that day. She drove me from our home in Fairbank, Iowa, to Waterloo, so I could spend the day job shadowing at KWWL, the local NBC affiliate.

Mom dropped me off at the entrance, and I arrived in time to see everything involved in the production of the early morning news. For a kid who couldn’t get enough of television and radio, the day was a dream come true. I’m forever grateful to my elementary school for making such a unique experience possible.

Job shadowing remains a highly enjoyable pastime. If I could make a living from spending time with people while they work, I’d do it! However, since “job shadowing” is not currently available as a full-time gig (and I love the job I have), I’ll instead squeeze it in when I can.

When the opportunity recently arose to shadow my pal, James Rabe, a Rochester radio broadcaster, for a morning, I jumped at the chance. I emailed James and asked, “Hey, over the holiday break, can I come and hang out at the studio?” He said, “Absolutely.” My childhood broadcasting dreams came true — again!

I arrived at the Townsquare Media building in downtown Rochester early on a Thursday morning. James met me at the entrance, and his vocational joy was immediately evident. After a quick tour, we stepped into the booth for Y105 FM. Having never stood inside a professional radio studio before, I was full of butterflies and afraid of accidentally bumping into an important button.

“I’m going to put you on the air,” James said with a jovial smile. Pretending to be the easy-going, free-spirited journalist that I’m not, I said, “Sure, that sounds fun.” Panic. Fear. Worry. And then excitement. “This could be fun,” I thought to myself, “you have nothing to lose. Be cool!”

Over the course of my time at the station, we played a few games on air. There were about 12 seconds in which I forgot how to speak while live on air, but other than that, it was a total blast, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

James made it all look fun. Later, when I asked him about it, he said, “What gives me joy is connecting with people. Sometimes you can amplify their voice, sometimes you can help them find a needed service, and sometimes it’s just people getting to know each other.”

During my morning at Y105, I was amazed by the amount of work that happens behind the scenes! It was clear that James had done a lot of audio editing and preparation in advance, and there was more that happened on the spot.

“I think what would surprise people the most about radio personalities is how much goes into the few hours we are on the air. And how much we do off the air,” James aid. “Outside the writing blogs, doing social media, and that sort of thing, almost all of us (on the air and in the sales department) have people and causes about which we care deeply. We serve on boards, we volunteer with organizations, we really get invested in our community.”

Walking down the station’s hallways, I felt like Dorothy getting a glimpse behind the curtain, and what I witnessed was even more magical than I had imagined. Watching a broadcaster in action definitely expanded my appreciation for the world of radio. Thanks to James and Y105 for a morning I won’t soon forget.

Holy Everything is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor serving at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod Office in Rochester. Visit her blog at emilyannecarson.com.

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