Monday, June 1, 2009

Sometimes You Have To Suck Before You Can Go Forward...

I made my on-air debut this morning on XM Satellite Radio, filling in on the POTUS Channel (Politics Of The United States for the People Of The United States) at Sirius 110 and XM 130!

I am spending the week (and Monday of next week) filling in as the host of "The Morning Briefing", a three-hour morning drive news program that features newscasts and interviews focusing on American politics. No fluff - no Susan Boyle - no car crashes... but LOTS of Obama and Congress!

Politics is not my natural forte, and neither is long-form talking (at least on the radio), but POTUS' Program Director, Joe Mathieu, who hired me for the job, has a similar background to mine in traditional commercial radio, and he swears that after the initial panic attacks, everything gets better. So, taking Joe at his word, I started training last week to become a satellite radio political analyst/radio talk host.

Now - I want you to imagine driving a Hummer when you're used to driving a Prius. Every few minutes, as you are driving this large and unfamiliar car, you will be required to find the glove box, reach inside, and read a road map, all without stopping the Hummer. On top of that, you'll be required a couple of times each hour to pick up a passenger whom you've never met, and carry on a conversation for 7 or 8 minutes on a subject you know nothing about... all while driving this big car and consulting your road map AND not taking your eyes off the road. THAT's what hosting this show was like for me - at least in the first hour.

Working with an unfamiliar audio board in an unfamiliar studio, following an unfamiliar format, and discussing unfamiliar topics with unfamiliar guests can be a bit intimidating. I found myself speaking with an expert on North Korea, and fighting the urge to make my very first question "So where exactly IS North Korea? " I should note for the record that I was properly trained... It's just that sometimes you have to suck before you can go forward. And boy - did I suck!

I went on the air at 6 am, and everything went flawlessly - for the first 30 seconds or so. My show intro didn't play, so I continued on, introduced myself and ran down the list of stories being covered today. Then I began my newscast, and things really went to Hell. The audio clips for the newscast run on a computer screen, which by default, runs in "autoplay" mode. Which means that once I played my first cut, the audio just kept on playing. And playing. And playing. By the time my producer, Joanna, figured out what was going on and stopped the audio, my newscast was completely ruined. On top of that, I really struggled to regain my composure until I arrived at my first break, which in commercial-free radio is TOO DAMN LONG FROM NOW! Suffice it to say... Hour one of the John Matthews satellite radio tour was a "MUST MISS" extravaganza.

Thankfully, my boss, Joe decided that one air play was enough for this abomination. When it came time to repeat the first hour of my show, he took mercy on the audience and substituted another hour in its place.

After the hour one disaster, things got much better. I still made a couple of mistakes, but they were less noticable, and I became more comfortable in trying to move past them. By the end of the show, I was feeling almost competent!

But I don't want to get ahead of myself... After all - in the words of Scarlet O'Hara... Tomorrow... is another day!

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