Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Back to basics

Young and talented - don't you just hate them?  I got to meet some radio students recently and was most impressed by the quality of the content they were producing and the way they worked as a team.  I do hope they all get the careers they deserve in the industry.

They did make a few tiny mistakes in their presentation and content, As a veteran Radio producer I thought I would compile a basic list of stuff that makes good radio.

1. Confidence and enjoyment - it's an entertainment medium (even when you are presenting news shows) so remember to enjoy what you are doing and have confidence.

2. Structure and time - structure is everything and timing of items should be carefully worked out in advance - there is nothing worse than discovering you have a 4 min gap with nothing to fill.  My old mentor Linda Gage (Pic above) used to say 'Always have a plan B.'

3. Cadence and tone - Look out for gear changes particularly if you are going from a light to a serious story or vice versa.  Nothing worse than a hearty laugh over a story and straight into another about death and destruction.

4 Scripts - a good thing but they can sound too scripty.  Light material like showbiz needs a light touch script, made more conversational almost to the point of the odd ab lib.

5 Mistakes - I have made a few, too many to mention, and I still keep making them, I am only human, but if you make a mistake just recover and carry on and always, always own up if you caused the cock-up.

6 Tell em  - Tell em you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them you told them.  The mantra of the blind medium that is radio.  Guide your listener with your cue and always back announce material and tell them where you are off to next.

7 Teasing - a bit like Tell em - teasing is a vital part of keeping your audience on side.  Grow expectation and desire by honest but interesting teasing of subjects to come.

8 Communication - I hate wearing headphones, particularly in a control room with others around - you need to communicate quickly and efficiently - everybody needs to know what they are supposed to be doing before they start to do it.

9 Attribution - Who said that? Where are they from? And the order of attribution, which should always be - what they do/are followed by who they actually are.  (Their name)

10. Linda Gage - Who taught me - good radio programmes have beginnings, middles and ends, they also have light and shade.  Stick with that mantra and you will not go too far wrong.

About Linda Gage 1947-1995 (Source www.lindagage.co.uk)
Linda Gage was widely known among broadcasters for her work as a radio producer at LBC and as a trainer.
Linda's career in broadcasting started in 1966. She first broadcast in Denver, her home town, before moving to Los Angeles. During the 1960's she became involved with the civil rights movement before moving to London in 1970. It was through her involvement in civil rights that she met her husband, Larry Grant, then legal officer of the National Council for Civil Rights in 1972. As a leading member of Agit Prop, Linda needed help in drafting a pamphlet on rights concerning arrest, search and seizure. Sparks flew between the two at their first meeting but out of the heat emerged a strong and lasting relationship based on shared values and principles.
Linda joined the NCCL as a press officer before moving to LBC for its launch in 1973. Her American training in both radio engineering and production was invaluable to this new commercial radio station, the first in Britain. She was a meticulous radio producer, always conscious of the importance of the use of sound and able to make even a dull news story sound interesting. She was quick to put the nervous at ease and always able to handle even the most difficult radio 'personalities' through a warm sense of humour and her own outgoing personality. In the late 1980's she took on the role of Head of Training at LBC and in 1989 wrote  A Guide To Independent Radio Journalism which is widely used as a textbook for media courses.
She left LBC in 1991 to train a new generation of broadcast journalists. She helped create one of the best equipped student radio studios in the country at Vauxhall College (now Lambeth College).
Linda Gage died unexpectedly from lobar pneumonia on February 8, 1995 aged 47.
Brian Hayes wrote at the time of her death; 
When I was at LBC, I was lucky enough to have Linda Gage as one of my producers. Linda was happiest when she and Larry were at their Kent cottage in Ickham. This was their time for recharging batteries for the next week of demanding work in London. She loved village life and the people of the village were her friends. Her hospitality was unlimited; guests were treated more like temporary members of the family and found it easy to behave that way. She is missed at the local pub.
Linda Gage, radio producer, civil rights worker, born July 21 1947; died February 8, 1995.

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