Why ‘A Word on Radio’ is a must-read for aspiring radio broadcasters across the continent
Radio industry specialist Chris Jordan answers a few questions about his groundbreaking book ‘A Word on Radio’ , as well as touching on his extensive career in broadcasting and detailing his learnings over the last few decades in order to help the next generation of broadcasters across the African continent.
Why did you decide to write ‘A Word on Radio’?
By the time I had begun writing the book, I had been fortunate enough to work in the radio industry starting in the ranks as a campus/community presenter, all the way through to international work, and had around 10 years of broadcasting experience under my belt. I had also been a radio lecturer for about 3 years at that stage and felt it was time to test myself in a what I felt I knew about the industry. I had been teaching young broadcasters out of suggested material provided by the campus and was given free reign on how to and what to teach the students wanting to make a career choice in broadcasting. As I started to work on more and more case studies, I began to formalise a professional approach to our craft as broadcasters, and felt the book would be the best way to legitimise this notion. It was a pleasant discomfort to realize I would even learn a lot in the process considering there is so much existing literature on the subject out there, but I decided to focus more on the academic nature of broadcasting in conjunction with the practical application within the industry, and thus ‘A Word on Radio’ was born.
Who is the ideal reader for the book?
While it is an academic book on the programming nature of radio, I feel like a broad range of people could benefit from the content of the book. Whether you are someone who has no prior radio experience, someone studying specifically in radio or a similar field, a relatively novice broadcaster broadcaster or someone in commercial radio with a thirst for more knowledge – this book is for you.
What is the one thing you hope people will take from reading the book?
How to be a better broadcaster. There are many areas of interest in radio, but this book focuses on how to be a better one and help grow the radio industry in South Africa. I have not only covered a wide range of areas, from how to put your shows together, to how to write for news and even how to build your on air personality; I have also focused tried and tested tertiary institutions methodologies and models that assist in really refining the approach of broadcasting to the fine craft it is.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the radio industry?
The short answer is that I don’t know! (laughs). I studied a BSC in IT and a BComm in Knowledge Systems at Varsity and nothing in particular pointed me in this direction. That was until applications to join for Tuks FM (Pretoria’s campus radio station) opened up to the public. I went for it with everything I had to give at that stage and subsequently truly fell in love with the medium. It was something I did on a volunteer basis at first, but with no complaints as the experience I gained there was invaluable to my career. There was no carrot dangling at the end of a stick and it came from a pure place of passion.16 years later, I’ve made a life and career out of radio and also made a decision to actively be someone who propels the industry forward as a professional and not just a contributor.
How hard is it to get a foot in the door in the radio industry?
It depends on what door, what foot you’re using and how hard you are pushing. All are factors that will play a role in the progression of your radio career. Even if you get a lucky break and an ‘in’ to the industry via campus radio in your early twenties, it is incredibly difficult to stay in the industry, and takes hard work to remain relevant and ahead of the talented pack in the South African industry. You have to have a hunger to succeed and the drive to put in the work it takes to advance your career.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a radio presenter, news reader or content producer?
Be honest with yourself in confronting your talent and potential to work in these areas. Not everyone can be a doctor, architect, performance artist, or musician. Similarly, not everyone can be a broadcaster. Know what you’re proficient in, have a passion for and pursue these areas with everything you’ve got.
What else are you busy with at the moment career-wise?
I have started Chris Jordan Media, which has been a very exciting experience for me and a natural next step in my career. ‘A Word on Radio’ and any future publications will fall under this company. I’ve also been providing consulting, training and development services to online and community stations in the South Africa. I collaborate with broadcasters from both television and radio with their development in a private capacity and this is a very rewarding experience for me personally. As a next step and looking towards the latter half of 2017, CJM will release an eight week online broadcasting course in collaboration with some great professionals in the industry (who I can’t talk about just yet). Lastly, I’ve been invited to be a panelist at various radio conferences this year and am also assisting with RadioDays Africa 2017, so lots going on and lots to look forward to!
What do you make of the SABC decision from last year to broadcast 90% local music and how has it impacted the quality of radio?
The idea of promoting local talent is a first for anyone who is passionate about the arts in South Africa. I appreciate the sentiment, but stations work on formats that are methodically structured around growing listenership year-on-year. In my opinion, the formats have suffered as a result of a ripple effect of not having enough (and by enough, I mean “90%” of a formats music policy) well produced and marketed locally bred and funded talent. South Africa’s music industry has an abundance of talent, but not enough of that talent is commercially consumable to make the 90% directive appealing across a days worth of radio programming.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing the book?
I learnt that I had a choice in making radio a career, not just a flight of fancy. To claim authority on subject matter, is to commit to a life’s work in it and all these years later I’m proud of myself for sticking to my guns and pursuing my passion with everything I have.
Do you plan on publishing another book in the future?
Yes! I am currently working on a book that will be a first for teaching radio in South Africa, a course for secondary schooling students that will academically aligned to the correct NQF levels in education, as well as a first year textbook for tertiary institutions.’A Word on Radio’ is currently being used in media campuses around South Africa at a second year level and has sold around 1600 copies, also having been renewed until 2018.