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Austin American Statesman 01/1997

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Radio: Tough work if you can get it


Radio jobs are hard to get, harder to survive, but usually worth it
BYLINE: John Herndon DATE: 01-02-1997 PUBLICATION: The Austin American-Statesman **COVER STORY**

The eternal trick question of the job-of-your-dreams hunter: If you can't get the job without experience, how can you get experience without the job? The answer, for those who wish to get a job in the glamour industry of radio, is surprisingly simple. You simply have to be willing to work long, impossible hours for little or no pay. That may not sound like much fun, till you reflect that in few other below-entry-level jobs are you required to meet such intense professional standards in such an exciting atmosphere. Radio remains a young person's game. The hours are weird, training is on-the-job, and pay, at least at first, is low or below low. Turnover is volatile, and many give up in disgust. But the few who are drawn to radio -- compelled, obsessed, those who need to be in radio -- tend to thrive.
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BEN BRYANT, PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR KJCE-AM, DISC JOCKEY FOR MAJIC 95.5. For Ben Bryant, full-time responsibilities as program director and on-air personality came in a mad rush. ``It was a wild ride,'' he says. Last summer, Bryant was a journalism student with a problem. He needed experience in the communications field, but he already was working two part-time jobs. ``I couldn't quit,'' he says, ``because those were what paid the rent and my tuition.''

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Austin American Statesman 01/1997

Then last July he learned of an unpaid internship with Majic 95's morning show, which seemed perfect. The hours, from 4:30 to 8 a.m., were discouraging but would not interfere with his other jobs. He didn't know when he would sleep, but at least he could get some experience. ``The first week was crazy,'' Bryant says. He had to (got to?) write news stories on the downing of TWA Flight 800 and the opening of the Atlanta Olympiad. The next week things were calmer -- until the Olympic Center bombing. Bryant heard the news that night, and even though he'd been working since 4:30 that morning, he returned to the station and prepared hourly news reports for Majic (KKMJ-FM) and sister-station Mix 94.7 (KAMX-FM). When listeners responded, that got the attention of management. The next week, Bryant was asked to fill a suddenly vacant on-air shift, and his performance led to the offer of a regular spot. With his foot firmly in the door, Bryant began to take an interest in Majic's other sister station -- KJCE -- which airs urban adult contemporary music. As a student member of the National Association of Black Journalists, he felt the station was not getting the right kind of promotion and was not fully serving the needs of Austin's black community. Two weeks later, the program director of KJCE quit, and, Bryant says, ``it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.'' Within six weeks of showing up at Majic for his first radio job, Ben Bryant, 19, was named program director of KJCE.
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