|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
May. 18, 2004 - 2:34 p.m.
Radio Ga Ga
A few people in my "Notes" section voiced an interesting question (a feat in itself, considering the caliber of people I get leaving scribbles there *coughPoolycough*). To wit: As a core member of the largest all-news radio conglomerate in the free-ish world, why wasn't the story of me being nearly obliterated by TWO birds of prey being trumpetted in dozens of media outlets?
Simply put: the Media is a bunch of clueless, heartless, ratings driven morons who are too jaded to mention anything on their airwaves unless they can find some way of exploiting the story for advertising dollars. And I should know.
Does this suprise anyone?
Lemme tell y'all - I certainly did try to grab my fifteen minutes of fame when this story broke. I figured I could probably parlay my unfortunate Wild America encounter into a guest shot on "Good Morning America", minimum. Then, seeing how glib and photogenic I was, I'd be pegged as Simon's (handsomer) replacement for next season's American Idle...er, Idol.
Seems a natural progression, no?
Alas, I couldn't even get to first base (not the first time). Monday morning, when I could finally focus through my Demerol glasses, I dialed up the news desk and spoke with an editor. There followed an exchange remarkably similar to this:
DS: Hey Jim, it's Dangerspouse, and -
DS: Uh, listen, I have something here you might want to throw on. A human interest kinda thing, a bumper story. See, I was attacked by vultures yesterday, and I'm in the hospital right now with tubes and sponge baths and everything. I figure it's an odd enough story that -
DS: Yeah. See, my dog was trying to eat their chick, and when I went to pull him off they swooped down and pried open my back. Why don't you send Terry out here with a DAT and I'll give him some heart rending sound?
E: Look, Danger...Gwyneth Paltrow just named her kid "Apple", fer chrissake. We've gotta lead with that every ten minutes...then tastefully detail how Abu Ghraib prisoners were forced to give each other hummers... AND get this story on about the duck in Central Park who adopted a kitten. I'm sorry, but a story about one of our reporters being attacked by...vultures...well, we're gonna pass, thanks.
DS: But -
If only one of the vultures had been named "Apple". I bet they would have gone for it then. And you would have heard about it on your local news.
Three other Nose-To-The-Grindstone moments, in case you're interested in this sort of thing. If you're expecting humor, hit the Back button now. I just feel a rare, actual, work related vent coming on. Blame the hellish, unrelenting itch as my back continues to scab over.
Ok, I warned you:
1. A new station was added to my schedule this month, a Long Island business format AM dial pea-shooter. When I was given the initial info sheet from the Program Director - what roads they want covered, what sort of delivery style ("...and no Michael Jackson jokes." Damn.), etc. - it all looked pretty typical. There are four main east-west routes across Long Island, and they wanted all of them mentioned plus the connecting highways, and the LIRR (railroad). Oh - and for the business types who commute to Manhattan, Queens traffic mentioned every other report (7 main highways, plus 4 river crossings). Plus a 10 second commercial every time. Six times an hour.
Well, that does make my schedule rather hectic now, but it's nothing I can't handle.
Then I read this: "Reports are to be no longer than 30 seconds. However, the top of the hour reports can only be 20 seconds in length to fit in with our network feed."
Twenty seconds? Twenty seconds??
That's WITH the 10 second spot, and 5 second outcue ("I'm Dangerspouse on Long Island's business news and information source radio...etc.").
I have 5 seconds to cover 11 roads and 4 river crossings, plus train delays.
It's nearly impossible to accomplish that in the overly generous 30 second reports. Strike that: It IS impossible to accomplish that in 30 seconds (really 15 seconds when you factor in the spot and outcue). I basically have to, well, lie. And omit things. Like actual traffic.
The 20 second reports all end up sounding like this:
Listeners would probably get a more accurate picture their commute by calling the 1-900-PSYCHIC TRAFFIC hotline rather than listening to me. But...I'm just the hired gun. What the client wants, the client gets. I can't let professional ethics get in the way of a paycheck.
2. Every Monday morning a brandy new packet of commercial copy is placed in each of the studios, along with a log that tells us what copy to read, when, and on which station (I'm on 8 different stations every morning). All the announcers then file them alphabetically in their master copy book.
Many times the client will have several commercials on one sheet of paper, with instructions like "Read the first one on Monday, and the second one Tuesday through Friday". They are what is called "time sensitive".
Just as common are instructions to alternate the commercials on a page. For instance if there are two commercials, the instructions would say "Rotate Equally 50%". In that case we read the first copy, then the second, then back to the first, etc., each time that commercial shows up in the log. See? Each one is read 50% of the time. Simple. Even for me.
Three months ago a new client signed on, and things started to get a little wacky.
At first the signs of madness were muted. The client is a nationally recognized trademark, with familiar mottos and taglines. They gave us four commercials, with instructions to rotate all four equally throughout the week ("Rotate 25%"). No problemo. We read #1, then #2..#3...#4... then back to #1.
The next week came the first inkling there was going to be trouble. When we recieved our Monday morning packet, this client's copy again contained four commercials. But instead of saying "Rotate Equally", the instructions were: "Read 1st commercial 40%, the remaining 3 commercials 20% each."
Ok, that one took a bit of head scratching and lower lip chewing. But eventually the proper distribution was figured out and we got through the remainder of the week rotating smoothly.
Next Monday: "Read 1st commercial 20%. 2nd commercial 10%. 3rd commercial 45%. 4th commercial 25%." The spot was slated to run 17 times that week.
Almost as one, every studio door opened and 12 announcers gathered in a circle to discuss what was to them a very foreign subject: math.
Can you imagine? Not ONE of us had a slide rule!
At that point, since all had only a few minutes to Air, we gave a collective "Fuck it!" and just decided to guestimate. We figured the client probably had no idea how to distribute a rotation like that either, so we'd take our chances.
It paid off. The next week there were no memos curtly informing us that we were to be charged with fraud for signing off on spots that were read an improper ammount of times. Blood pressure returns to normal.
But then we opened our new copy packets. BP shoots to 220 over 170 in 12 radio studios simultaneously.
Client has provided us with FIFTEEN commercials to be rotated throughout the week.
Now had the instructions simply been to "Rotate Equally", we would have done just fine. But this time we were commanded to "Read 1st commercial 6%. 2nd commercial 6%. 3rd commercial 7%. 4th commercial 7%. 5th commercial 7%. 6th commercial 11%. 7th commercial 4%. 8th commercial 6 1/2%...." and so on.
6 1/2 per cent!
I saved a Xerox of all three pages for posterity.
Needless to say, we all rotated the spots equally. We still do, since our Monday morning packets ever since have been identical to that one. And we all still have our jobs, attesting to how universally ignorant anyone involved in radio in any capacity is.
3. Last week all of us announcers were given a memo informing us that one of our clients (Howard Johnson's) was extremely upset and threatening to pull their account. This doesn't really impress us announcers, since we're paid the same ammount even if there are NO clients left. But account execs have a slightly different perspective. A lost client means a lost Christmas bonus, and that could spell the difference between the 400, and the 500, series Mercedes next year.
So they had us all gather in the meeting room after Morning Drive shift to impress upon us the importance of keeping this client happy, and them drinking Crystal instead of domestic Korbel. We mustered the bare minimum feigning of interest while listening to their exhortations. It probably took them 20 minutes to finally get around to telling us WHY the client was unhappy with us.
It turns out we were ALL reading the copy wrong.
Here's the thing: "Howard Johnson's" (with an 's') is the name of the restaurant. "Howard Johnson" (sans 's') is the hotel. The commercial was for the hotel, but every time client reps heard any of us read the copy, we ALL read it as "Johnsons". They were not happy.
Well, we all kind of looked at each other with some suprise. This is not a criticism that most of us are used to hearing. At this level, in this, the nation's biggest market (reaches over and pats self on back) mis-reading copy just does not happen. We can cold read a roster of Eastern European hockey players, with their strings of uninterrupted consonants, as easily as reading a McDonald's menu. To be told that ALL of us were adding an 's', and thereby mispronouncing "Johnson", was mindboggling.
Cowed and chastened, we each of us returned to our respective studios after the meeting to highlight the word "Johnson" in our copy book with yellow marker, so we'd be SURE not to add the dreaded extra 's' the next day.
What did we each find in our copy book?
Yessiree, you got it. The copy that the client wrote, that the account executive approved, that our Operations Manager had left for each of us personally, read: "This report is sponsored by HOWARD JOHNSON'S Motels...."
WITH AN 'S'!
We were right!
We regrouped, and five minutes later were back in the meeting room shaking our vindicating copy in the boss' face. All the indignant account execs had left, so he alone had to suffer our righteous wrath. We were expecting a stammered, red faced apology, or at least a sheepish admission that, ok, maybe it was the client who'd had a, ahhh, slight oversight.
But he's not The Boss for nothing. His response in the face of incontrovertible evidence of our innocence?
"Howard Johnson's is the restaurant. The copy is for the hotel, which is 'Howard Johnson'. You all read it as 'Johnson's', so you're all wrong. Now don't fuck it up again or you'll be fired."
True stories, each and every one. There's no business like show business, indeed.
Ok, that wraps up my un-funny work rant for this sweeps. Sorry to bore all but 6 1/2% of you out there. Tune in next time for a return to form: sex and hijinx. If that's not redundant.