The six myths about radio hosts

There is a belief that working in radio is something of a cross between a hobby and a side job, as well as an easy path to fame and big money. Today, we will debunk the myths about being a radio host.

Myth 1: Radio hosts read from a script

It is believed that, for example, a news anchor is handed a sheet of paper with the prepared news every hour, and all they have to do is read it out during the three to five minutes of airtime, and then spend the next hour leisurely drinking coffee, browsing social media, and chatting with colleagues in the smoking area.

It would be a dream job if that were the case, but it’s not. A news anchor is their own editor and copywriter.

In one hour (and on information stations, even half an hour), they must rapidly review all the news feeds, pick out the main points, and compile their own broadcast.

And naturally, it’s not a simple “ctrl c — ctrl v” action. All news is carefully rewritten into a conversational format to make it easier for the listener to comprehend.

Typically, a good, high-quality news broadcast is ready just a couple of minutes before it goes on air, and after it is read, the whole process starts over. Therefore, the host does not stop working throughout their shift.

Although, of course, seasoned news professionals do manage to find time to eat or just take a few minutes to relax before starting on the next broadcast. But no, no one reads from a script.

Myth 2: Radio hosts work very little

The host of a morning show arrives for three hours, cheerfully jokes on air, gives away a few prizes, and then happily heads home, with the rest of the day off.

This is not the case either.

Firstly, the host of the morning show (which usually starts at seven in the morning) arrives at the station beforehand, around six, meaning they get up at about five (and women, who need more time to get ready, even earlier).

After the morning show is over, the host does not go home. Instead, they sit down to analyze the broadcast, dissect mistakes and errors, and then start preparing for the next day’s program.

Yes, the morning show is not entirely improvised. The program always has a “clock”—a minute-by-minute schedule of what will happen on air, who the guest will be, which band will play, which contest will be held, and what topic will be discussed.

All of this is meticulously prepared by the show hosts together with producers and editors. If lucky, this work begins immediately after the end of the broadcast; if not, it starts closer to the evening. The time spent at the station off the air is generally not paid.

The same applies to hosts of any show. Besides the on-air time, there is preparation, which takes far more hours than the broadcast itself.

Myth 3: Radio hosts earn a lot of money

Certainly, the work of famous radio hosts is highly paid. However, becoming a “superstar” in radio doesn’t happen automatically just by being on air—working in radio in this respect is not much different from other professions.

Payment for shifts is typically hourly, and at the beginning stages, it brings in very little money. Moreover, the work schedule of most radio hosts allows them to look for additional jobs, and almost no DJ works exclusively for a radio station.

Furthermore, living on a salary from a radio station alone can sometimes be very difficult—even the journey of “star” hosts started with long periods of self-improvement and not the highest salaries. For instance, in 2008, working at a regional relay station could be valued at only $100 per month.

Currently, for example, a newsreader at a capital city radio station might earn between $4000 and $6000, depending on workload and the financial capabilities of the station. For a capital city, this is also not the highest salary. But it’s important to remember the unstable schedule and late-night work, as many hosts practically “live” at their stations.

Myth 4: Talking into a microphone is easy

Such words might even offend, so don’t say them to your radio friends. First of all, regardless of experience, being live on air is always stressful.

The host must keep in mind not only the main point but also the overall plan, “clock,” call-ins, timing for sponsor messages, and fitting within the time limits. If they are operating the console (yes, it’s not always the sound engineer’s job), they also need to manage the sound, cue music, etc.

In most cases, the DJ acts as their own sound engineer.

Apart from needing impeccable speech (correct emphasis, pronunciation, accuracy of facts), there are numerous nuances: things that cannot be said on air (not just swear words, but also matters regulated by media laws and other legislation—like mentioning brands, discussing alcohol and drugs, or naming organizations banned in Russia).

Additionally, topics prohibited by internal radio station policies (mentions of unfriendly organizations or words banned by the general manager) should not “leak” into the broadcast. Now add a guest to monitor, and it becomes a demanding job that lasts several hours.

Even if someone professionally hosts weddings, corporate events, concerts, and parties, it doesn’t mean they can easily be put on air. Working live requires learning, a lengthy and meticulous process, and hard work.

Myth 5: You can only get into radio through connections

You can indeed get into radio if you have talent. The process is straightforward—write a resume and record a “demo,” a test broadcast, so the management of the stations can assess the future host’s voice.

Yes, as a rule, staff turnover in radio is practically zero, and on-air vacancies rarely open up, but anyone can apply for these positions.

If you’re keen on getting into radio, the best way is to keep reminding stations of your presence by sending demos to various stations. Of course, management primarily looks for someone with on-air experience because they won’t need much training, but there are cases where talented individuals from outside the industry make it onto radio.

If you’re called for an interview, there’s a high chance they’ll hire you. Most likely, you’ll need to record a trial broadcast using the station’s equipment and agree to the salary offered by the management (see myth 3).

Myth 6: Hosts fool around on air

This is not a myth at all. Radio hosts sometimes tickle each other, flick each other’s noses with papers, make faces, draw mustaches on the person speaking into the microphone, put pencils in their ears, sometimes even drink a bit of alcohol, pull on each other’s braids, and disrupt those reading the news (as depicted in the play “Radio Day”). But you will never hear this because the magic of radio is at work.

This means…

…that radio stations employ people who their colleagues liken to adrenaline junkies: they don’t work for money, prestige, fame, or free concert passes.

They work for the love of the idea, pursued by absolute enthusiasts of their craft.

They may complain about bags under their eyes, visits to the psychotherapist, and taking antidepressants, but radio hosts, if they have settled into their profession, would not choose any other job. Especially when there are so many myths about it that they’re not too keen to dispel.

WP Radio
WP Radio