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Two Great Books For Podcasters Or Aspiring Radio Folks

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NPR

Talkers Magazine (“The Bible of Talk Radio and The New Talk Media”) recently published an article called “The Young Guns of Talk Radio” (the article featured Ian Freeman of Free Talk Live). The piece basically said that old people on talk radio are on their way out, and younger, hipper people are going to be needed to take their places. Maybe you’ll be among them. The Feens will be.

With the Freedom Feens having impending RADIO syndication, I’m on a sort of crash-course of home schooling myself in J-school. (J-school is Journalism School. Both Neema and DJ went to J-School.) I’m trying to catch up on what I don’t know, and learn the rules so I can properly break them from time to time, rather than just winging it. I find it’s a good tack to take: learn the rules well, then break them. I do that in all areas of my life.

The thing is, there isn’t a lot out there in the world of books for aspiring radio hosts. I’ve looked on Amazon and also gone to a chain bookstore. Larry King’s book or Howard Stern’s book isn’t going to help you. On the other end of the scale, there are a bunch of self-published books written by guys who have one local sports show in a tertiary market, they can’t write and would rather tell funny stories than give any useful advice or instruction.

Two books that do NOT suck are The Radio Producer’s Handbook by Rick Kaempfer and John Swanson (on Amazon, HERE), and Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production by Jonathan Kern (on Amazon, HERE).

Both of these books are written for producers more than for hosts, but have a lot of good info for hosts. And if you’re making your own podcast or radio show, you likely ARE the producer, so there’s a lot of helpful stuff.

Neither book is aimed at liberty people. The Radio Producer’s Handbook is written by the producer for a syndicated general-interest radio show. The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism is kind of the style guide for everyone at NPR, which is the most Nanny and Leftie network in the world. But both books are great. Until someone (probably me) writes The Anarchist Radio Cookbook or $30 J-School, these two are about the best thing out there.

Don’t worry that the NPR one is going to turn your show into the liquid Valium that is NPR. It’s mostly about writing for radio in general, and using planning, sound and editing to make a show to flow, which NPR does extremely well. You don’t have to talk or think like NPR (lowest common denominator for wannabe high-brows) to take good advice from their style guide.

One big complaint I DID have about the NPR guide is having to read the examples they use. Every sample copy is “Today in Chicago, the teamsters did this…” or “Now an interview with Cass Sunstein…”, and stuff that I wouldn’t actually listen to if you paid me. Even when it’s not a lefty bent, it’s always a statist bent, i.e. stories on “…and here’s why it’s important to have the government steal more money to correct this injustice” (and it’s usually an injustice CREATED by the government!). But if you can practice a little bit of “suspension of statism”, there’s a lot of good to be gleaned from this book.

The Radio Producer’s Handbook suffers a little bit from the author occasionally trying to be funny when he’s not very good at it, but there’s a lot of excellent info in this book on what it takes to “put on a show.”

Both books have a lot of stuff that I already knew, or instinctively do, but I’m an extraordinary person, and have been, in my own way, studying radio for over 40 years. But I even found a lot of new info in both books. A person who hasn’t studied on his own as long and hard as I have will find even more.

I learned a lot from both books, and highly recommend them to anyone interested in getting their voice out into the world. I’m passing them on to Neema now that I’m done, even though he’s already great and he went to J-school. There’s so much information in each book, I’d be amazed if there weren’t SOMETHING new and useful in each for anyone interested in radio or podcasting.

Be sure to read the Glossary in both books for a list of radio terms. Some of the terms in the NPR book are NPR-specific, but most aren’t. And the other book’s glossary is excellent, though the examples are a little out of date….Like saying XM and Sirius are “the two satellite radio networks.” (They’ve since merged.)

In a few years when The Feens have the most popular talk radio show in the world, and NPR tracks us down for an interview and asks us how we did it, I’m going to say “I READ YOUR BOOK, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARDS!”

–Michael W. Dean

2 thoughts on “Two Great Books For Podcasters Or Aspiring Radio Folks

  1. Great blog here, Michael. I think Angel Clark really shares my opinion on talk radio. She expressed it pretty well during the Friday, Oct. 12 show from the start of the second hour,

    Angel Clark: “Well y’know I’ll be honest with you. First off I don’t listen to NPR because I believe in this thing called inflection. Right inflection. When I get excited about things my voice may rise occasionally and that is not allowed on NPR. You cannot speak loudly on NPR. So I cannot. I cannot listen.”

    http://www.radiofreedom.us/

  2. Just don’t start using the standard, run-of-the mill radio and TV news reader voice and intonation, unless of course it’s part of a ‘bit’ or in sarcasm. Neither MWD nor NemaV use ‘the voice’ now, which I do appreciate.

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