We are all familiar with how effortless it is to dial into our favorite radio broadcast; or better yet these days, tell “Alexa” or “Siri” to do it for us. However, things are altogether different on the production side of the spectrum, where various professionals work hard to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch.
According to Dr. Jan McBarron, an acclaimed and award-winning physician who championed the practice of non-surgical weight loss in the U.S., and who co-hosted along with her husband the popular “Duke & the Doctor” radio show that was repeatedly recognized by Talkers Magazine (a.k.a. “The Bible of Talk Radio and the New Talk Media”) as one of the top 100 most influential nationally-syndicated radio shows in the country, here are some key behind the scenes pieces of the puzzle that comprise an outstanding, professional-grade radio broadcast:
Perhaps the most unheralded professionals in the radio industry are the engineers, whose critically important job is to ensure that the thousands of wires and cables that pass through a centralized engineering room are in place, safe, and doing what they are supposed to do: transmitting the signal from the studio to a small room (often called a dog house in the radio world) that contains studio transmitter links, which in turn route the signal to each listeners’ radio.
Dr. Jan McBarron explains that radio engineers are highly trained and well-versed in advanced technology and play a pivotal role in ensuring that any broadcast is successful. Additionally, sound engineers also make sure that the sound quality is consistently high, which is vital for radio.
The idea that individuals and groups pitch one great radio broadcast idea after another to producers is a myth. For the most part, producers — and often other colleagues, such as editors and researchers — spend a big part of their day (and often their night) trying to connect with sources and develop storylines that might end up making it on the air. Dr. McBarron adds that, producers also need to ensure that contributors are reliable and show up on time, which can be easier said than done when dealing with very busy people.
Just like the best athletes and musicians, the best on-air talent makes radio broadcasts seem and sound easy. However, make no mistake: their skills are rooted in hours and hours of preparation; everything from analyzing trends and reading reports, to researching guests and identifying interview questions. Dr. Jan McBarron states the keys to her successes are credited to always making sure team members are exceptionally well-prepared for each Duke & the Doctor broadcast, and that they always knew what had to be covered in each episode.
For recorded shows, editing is another critical behind-the-scenes aspect of radio that makes or breaks broadcast success. Dr. McBarron highlights that editing is also a matter of ensuring that broadcasts do not run over the allotted time. Often, this can involve cutting out content that is interesting or entertaining, but unfortunately lacks relevance to be part of the final cut. It is difficult to make those edits, but necessary.
Once a broadcast is aired, then it is necessary to evaluate and identify strengths and, at the same time, highlight any mistakes or errors. Dr. Jan McBarron believes that there is no such thing as a perfect radio broadcast. She elaborates to add that there are always opportunities to do things better, and this includes everything that happens behind the scenes, as well as what happens on the air.
Dr. Jan McBarron’s Final Thoughts
Broadcasting is a difficult and rewarding job, every member of your broadcasting team must be aligned with a common goal of accurate and entertaining reporting. Dr. McBarron reminds aspiring radio broadcasters that success comes from preparation, accurate and ethical reporting techniques, excellent production and editing strategies. Do not rush your editing or engineering process it may be fatal to your success. Remember to evaluate your shows and determine how you can alter your show to be the best it can be!