Following is the text of my "final analysis and evaluation paper" (required of all students participating in the Hunter College Inservice Learning Program) describing my radio station internship in 1991.
According to the school's guidelines, "The paper should help you to examine and reflect upon what you have learned from the experience, the impact it has had on your career development, and how it has affected your personal, educational, and professional outlook in general. . . . Papers should be between 4 and 7 pages in length, carefully thought out, typewritten, and proofread." For additional guidelines, see footnote 1.
Please excuse the overly-dramatic tone. The writing style (and especially the excessive use of bold text) was an intentional parody of the many press releases we received at the station; also, I was young.
Inservice Learning Program
Analysis and Evaluation Paper
K-Rock and Z-Rock
by Thea Kacalanos
[now Theodora Michaels]
When I wrote a letter to Z-Rock, it was mainly to tell them how much I liked a show they had recently broadcast. Almost as a postscript I asked whether they needed an intern. When Steve Aprea called me soon after to ask me in for an interview, I was pleasantly surprised. I was even more excited when I went in for an interview and saw all the guys in Megadeth standing around in the station, and realized I would get to meet many of my favorite artists if I got the position. (My enthusiasm was only slightly diminished when I heard Megadeth conversing, not about some exciting rock adventure, but debating whether chiropractors are any good, as all their backs hurt.)
I knew that working in radio would be fun and that there would also be many surprises. I also looked forward to meeting many of the K-Rock people, as it is in the same offices as Z-Rock. (They are both owned by Infinity Broadcasting, along with many other stations in other cities.) I was, however, somewhat worried about working for Steve: I could tell that he was an interesting character just by the way he answers the phone. Instead of saying "Hello," he makes various enthusiastic rock noises which are not adequately reproduceable on paper. I was also confused because, while I knew that Steve was an important figure at Z-Rock, he never seemed to be in the office. I assumed that the station must run itself to a large extent. To what extent, I would not have guessed.
On my first day as an intern, Steve brought me into an on-air studio with equipment far surpassing that of Hunter College Radio (WHCS). He pointed to a phone and instructed me to answer it when people call in to win on-air contests. Since there was no DJ in the room, I assumed that this was where they tape prerecorded shows with guest DJ's, and there must be another on-air studio currently in use nearby. Steve left me feeling confused about how to use the many-buttoned phone, what to say to people when they called, and what all this equipment around me was for. Luckily, soon an engineer came in to check something. I indicated my confusion, and he got Diane Iriarte, the assistant promotions director of K-Rock, to come in and explain to me what I was supposed to do.
She gave me a computer printout of a list of the day's on-air events, with the contests highlighted. Since the next giveaway wasn't for another hour, I took the time to figure out the equipment around me. While WHCS has one machine that plays three carts (prerecorded loop tapes), I saw two such machines in front of me. I was impressed by this until I realized that the system behind me holding about 100 carts, which I had assumed was a storage cabinet, was actually a huge cart machine. Then I was frightened. There were also CD players (which WHCS still does not have), turntables, reel-to-reel, etc. The only equipment currently in use were the cart machines, which seemed to be turning themselves on and off. I assumed that the DJ must be able to access the equipment from another room. Slowly, with a growing feeling of horror and wonder, I realized that the DJ was in the room with me: a Tandy 1000 SL2 computer in the corner. As the day progressed, I realized that if Steve left the building, I would be the only living presence in Z-Rock. And Steve is only there a couple of hours a week. This explains the complaints that I had been hearing from many of my friends: that Z-Rock often has unexplained periods of silence, or there is some other obvious technical difficulty, which goes uncorrected for hours at a time. I suppose it isn't worth it for the station to hire engineers or DJ's to sit there 24 hours a day in case something goes wrong.
The reason they needed an intern is that the computer had been running album and ticket giveaways without anyone being aware of them, so when listeners would call in no one answered the phones.
After this realization that the station does completely run itself, I concentrated on figuring out how the equipment, including the computer, works. The screen shows a list of events, like this:
|**air**||14:15||2 48||Crankin' Craig promo|
|14:23||2 33||RECORD GIVEAWAY|
The top line shows what is currently playing, and underneath is the next event. In the lefthand column is military time. The next two numbers are a code telling the computer which cart to play. Craig is a DJ, but I am uncertain whether he actually exists other than on tape. Testimonials are fans talking about why they like Z-Rock. The on-air equipment (board, turntables, reel-to-reel, etc.) is similar to what we have at WHCS, but with additional controls for receiving satellite signals from two different sources (the main one in Dallas and an emergency one in New Jersey), overriding the computer signals or controlling the computer directly from the board, and monitoring the sound from a number of different sources: directly from the satellite, from the transmitter, or tuned in from the actual radio signal. I figured most of this stuff out on my own on the first day, but felt uncertain if I would know what to do if the computer or cart machine suddenly malfunctioned. I did have a brief moment of subversive thought: "I'm the only one in here! I'm in the DJ's chair, in front of equipment that controls this whole station, which I'm almost certain I know how to use! I could shut off the power, or make some revolutionary proclamation, or play any record I want!" Needless to say, I decided to wait until I'm certain of how to use the equipment and/or I need to say something so important that it's worth risking my future for.
I learned more about the equipment on later occasions. Once when I was in Steve's office (and Steve was not, as always), the radio (tuned to Z-Rock) suddenly went dead. I ran into the studio and it was dead in there too. I ran to get an engineer (or no one would have known anything was wrong!). Once he understood the problem (I think engineers generally understand machines better than people) he shouted at me to put a record on. After I'd explained that no one had shown me how to use the equipment yet, he put on a CD (which I had to get from Steve's office as there were none in the studio!) and explained to me about sunspots. This is kind of like an eclipse: the sun gets between the satellite and the transmitter, causing dead air for a few seconds or a few minutes.2 It is possible to predict approximately, but not exactly, when this will happen. Z-Rock is consistently unprepared for this event.
Although Steve asked me to tell K-Rock that I am much too busy to work over there, even on the rare occasions when he actually comes in he doesn't give me anything to do. I was hoping to make some good contacts at this internship (as I'll need to get a real job soon) and a computer isn't exactly what I had in mind. Therefore, I took the initiative and walked over to K-Rock with the intention of asking if I could work over there, but no sooner was I seen than Diane practically grabbed me and began lecturing. She stated that if I only work when Steve has hours I would not be fulfilling the requirements of the internship program. Despite my lack of protest, she went on to insist that I put in as many hours as possible at K-Rock. Since then, I have worked most days in the K-Rock promotions department, using the most advanced phones, fax machine and photocopy machine I've ever seen. I also mail press releases (with all the important words in bold face) and am frequently pestered by Mark Volman (Flo) of Turtles fame. It's a good thing that I began working for K-Rock, since Steve is basically never in when he tells me to be there, and he doesn't leave any work for me to do. One interesting thing I've learned from my internship is that it is possible to keep a prestigious job which you never go to, except a couple of hours a week to use the phone for personal calls and to try to get concert tickets (which are supposed to be given away to listeners) for friends.
I think the only problem I encountered (other than Steve) is the power struggle that goes on between the employees -- whoever has the most interns following their orders feels powerful. Countermanding someone else's order to an intern is a way to show your power over that person. The result for interns is that we often don't know whose orders to follow. I think most interns attempt to give the same impression to everyone: "I follow your orders, and no-one else's." We stay very, very busy.
The most enjoyable part of interning at K-Rock is when I get to be in the studio during a show. So far I interned once for Flo & Eddie and a few times for Tony Pigg. This involves pulling CD's and carts (commercials and promos) from the shelves, cleaning the CD's and putting them in the order in which they are to be played, and going out for cappuccino. It seems that all DJ's drink cappuccino. I don't know why. The intern should also check to make sure that the DJ does play at least 20 songs in the 20 Song Music Marathon (or someone wins 20 thousand dollars)3 and answer calls during on-air contests. Tony is extraordinarily nice and I've learned a lot from him about the equipment and the 60's drug and music scene.
Another thing I've learned is that the on-air personalities (the ones who actually speak into the mic) do not necessarily cue up the CD's and records themselves. And the ones who do are not called DJ's by people in the know. They are called board op's.
Since I haven't taken any courses in radio, and the Hunter music department has yet to acknowledge the existence of rock 'n' roll, I didn't find too much relationship between my internship and my studies at Hunter. I might have found it helpful to take more media classes prior to interning.
I saw this internship as a way to narrow down my choices of what field to go into in the broad music industry. I had already ruled out publishing after working for two summers at Spin magazine. In contrast, I now know that radio is something I would enjoy as a career. I had worried that in a big organization like K-Rock, jobs might be so specialized that they become boring. However, now I see that everyone there has many different duties (and frequently related interests and/or jobs outside of K-Rock) and no one there (of the people I observed, not including production, advertising and administrative jobs) has a job that I would consider boring. I greatly hope that when my internship is over, K-Rock will want to hire me.
But wait, there's more! I've also posted some additional anecdotes and documents.
1 Additional text from the "Guidelines Sheet for the Analysis and Evaluation Paper":
Please address the following in the body of your paper:
- Where did you intern and what did you do?
- How did your responsibilities fit in with the on-going work (and objectives) of your host organization?
- What did you learn during your internship? (i.e., specific skills obtained, knowledge of the field, knowledge of yourself . . .)
- What were your most significant accomplishments?
- What difficulties did you encounter (e.g., with the work itself, your supervisor, other staff members, fellow interns, your schedule, office politics, etc.) and how did you handle or resolve them?
- Do you feel that your internship met, or differed from, your expectations? Explain.
- What relationship did you find between your internship and your in-class studies (your major and overall academic program) at Hunter?
- What impact did your internship have on your career plans and aspirations?
Message to Graduating Seniors
We hope that your internship this semester has been a valuable experience, and wish you the very best as you embark on your career or pursue further academic studies.
Please keep in touch. Whether it's one or five years from now, we would like to hear from you. Let us know how you are making out in the "real world". We would also like to know whether or not you feel that your Hunter internship was helpful to you, viewed in retrospect. Perhaps, if you will be working in N.Y.C., your organization would like to offer an opportunity to an Inservice student. So please, keep us in mind, and stay in touch.
I think I'll send them a link to this website. :-)
2 I'm curious if this explanation is accurate. If it isn't, I'll be happy to post the correct information if someone sends it to me -- see contact info. below.
3 This was a catchphrase: "We play twenty songs in a row, or someone wins twenty thousand dollars!"