In my book you can see my complete and uncensored views about my college radio experience at KCPR, San Luis Obispo—a radio station operated by the Cal Poly Journalism Department.
While I participated in the learn-by-doing experience at KCPR, I and others ultimately came to the realization that as much as we fantasized about Los Angeles radio careers, few if any of us who were on the air at the station would ever end up working there. I was wrong about myself, of course: I worked on the air in Los Angeles radio and lived to tell about it.
KCPR gave me and others the chance to develop our skills and talents on the air so we could aim for employment in major media markets.
When I was involved at KCPR, the music programming on the station and how the station sounded across seven days a week, deliberately emulated successful commercial radio stations of that era. KCPR was the exact opposite of free form radio, where the person on the air has the freedom to play or say whatever he or she wants. Free form programming on FM—particularly on noncommercial college radio stations—was very common in those days.
Young people in their college years tend to measure the value of their life experiences in terms of freedoms. If you mature emotionally, however, you may learn how shortsighted is the preference for freedom to do whatever you want on the air on a radio station. Without careful guidance from professionals who have worked in the real world of broadcasting, a college radio experience can become nothing more than a time of escape and play for people who may never intend to pursue professional careers in radio.
That’s fine if you’re young and you just want escape and to have freedom to put stuff on the air without the discipline of a format. But, all that essentially can be an unwise misuse of time, money, and state-owned facilities.
If you’re smart and worth anything professionally in communications, you should be able to sharpen your skills and talents while attending college, get your undergraduate degree, and then get into a professional career in a top twenty media market:
(1) New York City
(2) Los Angeles
(5) Dallas-Ft. Worth
(6) San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
(9) Washington, DC
(13) Tampa-St. Petesburg
(15) Minneapolis-St. Paul
(16) Miami-Ft. Lauderdale
(19) Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne
Working in one of these particular markets would be solid proof of your skills and talents. Even if you don’t remain in the broadcasting field, ending up with a professional career in a top twenty market speaks volumes about what you’ve got to give.