As a career news anchor and radio host, on-air mainly in Los Angeles and on a national network, I never thought I would wind up working at a university — or in college radio.
But, after more than two decades in live commercial radio, the jobs I worked in Los Angeles went away due to financial cutbacks in the industry. When an NPR affiliate offered me the position of local morning host in Santa Barbara, I took it.
After a few months in town, I heard the college/community FM radio station at the university in Santa Barbara was looking for a career staff news and public affairs director. I applied and — after many months and several interviews — landed the job.
What a change! Suddenly I was advising, training, and mentoring teenagers, college students, and community volunteers of all ages on how to be news reporters. As the news and public affairs director, I worked with two student news directors and nearly 20 students who held various paid part-time positions at the radio station, such as general manager, program director, and promotions coordinator.
There were many firsts for me in this new career. For the first time, I was the most experienced newscaster on-site; for the first time, I was working in a more public arena. This college station had dozens of “programmers,” or hosts, who did radio shows for one hour or two a week, or reporters who submitted stories in-between classes or while studying for exams.
In commercial radio, the news team was much smaller. I worked behind locked doors, often in a room alone, with a microphone. All my closest working colleagues were like me: A news anchor or on-air personality. Now, I was collaborating with radio hosts who worked at the university as staff, researchers, professors, or scientists, as well as community members from all careers and walks of life. For years, our senior news reporter was an octogenarian from the UK who had retired as a French and Italian professor.
While the college radio station has had its share of programmers who have gone on to hit it big in broadcasting, virtually all the students participating in news training and contributing to the evening newscasts are not interested in an on-air career. They joined the radio station merely for the college radio experience.
And what an experience it is! Several station alumni who went on to become attorneys said their on-air experience gave them the courage to stand up in court and make their case to defend their clients.
While passing along the skills, knowledge, and wisdom I’ve learned from more than two decades in broadcasting to our station volunteers, students, and reporters, I have been given the opportunity to learn and grow with them. I go where our reporters’ curiosity takes them.
Helping reporters learn more about different topics or find interview subjects, often professors and researchers on campus, has led me to meet professors and staff in various departments. I’ve also gotten to know members of the close-knit community adjacent to campus and watched local civic leaders, many of whom were either still in school or recent college graduates, fight to create their own local government. I am in awe of their dedication to making the community a safe and welcoming place for all.
My “second act” in broadcasting has come with plenty of sideshows along the way. I’ve been fortunate enough to follow my dreams and have the freedom to explore passions and projects. To this day, I also use my broadcasting skills to produce voice-over narrations.
My voice has been heard in some interesting places along the years, from a fleet of buses shuttling passengers across Los Angeles to technologies like fax machines, telephones, call-waiting, and voicemail systems. Using a journalist’s research and production skills, I started hosting podcasts from their inception (when everyone listened to podcasts on their iPods). I also work with executives and career professionals to help them show off their talents and expertise through the spoken word.
I’m still passionate about what I am doing — and am already working on projects that could turn into my third act. Who knows!
My advice for anyone interested in a media career is to follow your dreams — and lay the groundwork. Hosting your radio show or podcast will take more time than you think and be more work than you anticipate, but the tools are there to allow you to develop your voice so that others can listen and learn.