I wish I could say I had something to do with it, but honestly, I didn't.
My daughter Alyssa got a part-time job this week in the business. This business. The one that her mother frets about her becoming part of. The one that's been known to eat it's young.
She'll be working the weekend assignment desk at WLUK/Fox 11 in Green Bay, and she couldn't be more excited.
Alyssa is a senior at St. Norbert, so any kind of a job is welcomed, even if it's only part time. It'll eat up a good chunk of her weekends, but it's a good lesson: entry level jobs in this business have a tendency to do that. They also have an appetite for holidays, too. I remember spinning discs of pre-recorded Yuletide specials and tapes of church services on more than a couple of Christmas Eve nights at WHBL in Sheboygan. Sure, the Mueller holiday tradition was to open gifts on the 24th and suck old fashioneds, but I wanted a taste of radio so bad I really didn't complain. I was on the air. I was working in radio! I was where I wanted to be!
Did I mention that I was making minimum wage at the time?
We've all been there, in order to land the job we wanted, or at least, get an entry level spot in our chosen career field. Crappy hours, lousy pay, rookie hazing: it's all part of the real-life workforce experience.
Our industry doesn't offer many of those any more. For all of the Sheboygan and Stevens Point opportunities I received when I was coming up, I wonder how many still exist for today's communications newbies. Weekends and late nights were perfect times to learn the ropes, get your sea legs, and make mistakes when no one was really listening. It was a chance to find out if this is REALLY what you wanted to do the rest of your life, while meeting some of the most colorful characters you'd ever come across. It was an opportunity to work with real, honest adults who'd seen and done it all: big people with kids and mortgages and maybe even a divorce or two along the way. They were folks who told you how to write, report, edit, cut tape, schmooze contacts, work phones, and stay awake at school board meetings that seemingly had no end. They'd teach you the subtleties that you wouldn't learn in any college classroom--such as when NOT to air the interview some drunken local official insisted you record with him while you were working late one night and just happened to pick up the newsroom phone. And, those same vets would be the first to offer up a recommendation when it was time for you to spread your wings and try to find a better job in a bigger market.
All this, while making minimum wage.
Places like that are hard to come by in this era of vanishing small-town radio newsrooms and computers that take the place of pimply, wanna-be disc jockeys. Management runs leaner and cleaner now, not just in major markets but in places like Point and Sheboygan and Rhinelander and all up and down the radio dial. The result: the end of a farm system that taught big-city skills at small-market wages to the broadcasting talent of tomorrow.
I'm proud to say my daughter got her job on her own--she took an internship and worked it into an employment possibility. Dad didn't push, nudge, cajole, or even lift the phone. The only thing I added to her skill set was to cultivate her dark sense of humor so that she is neither shocked nor surprised at what gets discussed off-air in the average radio/television newsroom.
She may work a few weeks and decide that t-v news isn't her calling. If and when she leaves, I hope it happens only after she's met some of the same colorful characters that I came across when I was learning the trade. My wish is that she gets a full taste of the industry--the good, the bad, the rewarding and the disappointing. I hope she gets the adrenalin rush that comes with handling a big story, as well as the soul-crushing boredom that is your partner as you stare at a silent police scanner, hoping that something would happen. It's all part of the business--one that she's now a part of.
All while making minimum wage.
Enjoy, kid. I can't wait to share war stories with you.