Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Signing Off the Radio Show
Today I did my final "Hometown Alaska" broadcast. The show will go on, there are three other hosts to continue the weekly schedule, and I assume they will replace me with a fourth.
This was my decision, and it was a tough one. The folks at KSKA were supportive and dedicated to high-quality journalism. I also got good feedback from people I ran into around town. So given all that, why am I bailing?
Live radio, when done right looks easy enough. Doing it right however is not simple. You must be aware of the time, the callers on your first screen, the emailers on your second screen, meanwhile absorbing what your guest has to say and preparing your next question. Not to mention cuing and taking cues from the engineer. At the same time you want to avoid silence or "dead air". You also must avoid live air that involves any of George Carlin's seven words that are forbidden to broadcasters. All this is a mighty load of multitasking for a person whose ability to concentrate on more than one thing, and whose ability to even speak, has been significantly eroded by Parkinson's Disease.
There were off-air considerations as well. Rounding up guests was touch and go. Trying to give the person reasonable time to call back while sweating the possibility of having to put together something on quick turn around as an alternative was a fingernail biting exercise for me.
Was it ever fun? Are you kidding? How great is it to be able to sit and chat with NPR's BJ Liederman or Alaska novelist Andromeda Romano-Lax? It's stimulating and exciting. Which made the various mistakes and technical errors that much more painful. In the end, I was not improving fast enough to meet my own standard of what I would like to hear on the radio. The staff and the listeners deserve someone who is fired up and grateful for a tremendous opportunity. I am certainly grateful, but more toasted than fired up.
So is this a victory for Parkinson's Disease? Has it stolen something from me again? You can be the judge of that. But I will call it a draw, or maybe a tactical retreat. A victory for PD would have been to never try, to allow the disease to foreclose options without really testing to see whether they were viable or not. Instead I got to learn a few new things. One of which is I'm not cut out to host Hometown. I plan to advance on other fronts.
Thanks to Pat Yack, Kristin Spack, Bede Trantina and the other terrific folks at Anchoragepublic.org who all did their best to make a broadcaster out of me. They came pretty close, which, given what they were working with, is commendable. The final show, with the terrific Fred Newman is now posted here. It was nice to go out on a high note. Fred? (TWEWEEEEENNNGGGG!)