Since then he has worked as the news director for WTTT in Amherst, MA, WHYN in Springfield, MA, KVIL in Dallas, TX, WPJB in Providence RI, and WVBF/WKLB in Boston. As I said earlier, he is currently a full time member of the radio faculty at the New England Institute of Art and Communications. Aside from being a teacher, Len owns his own voice over business based out of his home studio in East Providence, RI. He has also taught at Emerson as an adjunct professor for Radio I. He hopes to return to Emerson when he receives his master’s degree in education next year.
As a news director for various stations, he was responsible for all of the information programming. His duties included hiring of staff, development of the news philosophy, on-air anchor work, writing, gathering and reporting news, and the development and production of public affairs programming and documentaries. It is clear that a media professional needs to possess many skills.
He was particularly proud of the fact that his reporters and anchors were always encouraged to get the “impact” side of every story. He always wanted to cut out the fluff and get to the point. He aimed for the stories that affected people. This is encouraging after hearing of so many people in charge of news being corrupt, such as in the videos we’ve watched in class.
While he was KVIL in Dallas, his news department became the first radio news operation in America to incorporate the use of color weather radar, which greatly impacted the weather and information image in that market. This started a trend among radio stations across America to do a better job of pinpointing weather coverage to its audience. This was especially important in Dallas, which is in the heart of tornado country, where reliable weather information can save lives.
While he was with Fairbanks Broadcasting (KVIL in Dallas, and WVBF/WKLB in Boston), Len helped develop a style of conversational, listener-focused news reporting. This aimed to replace the stiff, formal news style used in the industry with a more user-friendly style that centered on a one to one delivery. This style influenced other news operations in radio throughout the country.
Many stations and individual news directors copied the Fairbanks news style and philosophy at their stations due to its effectiveness. This helped to make people feel more like they were a part of the news rather than hearing it from a source that both lacked emotion in their delivery, and didn’t connect to the listeners on an emotional level either. I feel that making your audience involved is important in all aspects of the media, whether it be in radio, television, music, or books.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get any failures or “war stories” out of Len. Maybe it’s because he was just that effective, or he was afraid of damaging his successful newsperson ego (saying this half joking). He used to admit that just about all media professionals had huge egos. He obviously said this in a joking manner, but I really do believe there’s a lot of truth to it. I’m not taking anything away from Len as a person, but it’s the truth. People in the media need to portray an image of confidence, or else their information won’t seem as credible.
I was able to get him to give some tips for students exploring the field. He said that students who are interested in radio and journalism jobs have to become aware of two things; one being the world, and the other being the industry. He says that young broadcasters need to understand the complexities of a world shrinking in size due to technological advances. Also, they need to understand both the wants and the needs of their audience in this time of global conflict and instability.
He says that they also need to become as industry aware as possible. He stresses the importance of getting involved with working at stations from the ground up, and working to understand all aspects of the radio industry, for it is important for anyone who wants to try and create a career in radio during the next several years. Being efficient with computers/internet, writing, and critical thinking are all very important skills when entering the field.
Len loves his job as both a broadcaster and an educator. He has observed many changes in the industry of the past 30 years. He has enjoyed being on the cutting edge of many changes in the gathering, interpretation, and delivery of information. As a teacher, he feels that he has at least a small impact on the thinking of tomorrow’s broadcasters. He also enjoys his work as a voice-over artist. His work includes commercials, narrations, on-line lectures, medical programs, and books on tape for the Library of Congress.
He expressed a few concerns regarding some issues affecting the industry. One problem was the change in focus from news to a more soft-edged “infotainment” product. The news is more worried about entertaining and getting ratings then it is delivering the best news is can. It’s sad that the ratings show that people actually like watching this kind of news better. He thinks that this has resulted in a lack of awareness of major world/national/local issues that are of importance to the general public.
I was glad that he got right into media conglomeration, after all of the talk we have done in class about it. He worries about media giants controlling the messages we are given. The interpretation of these messages can easily shape or misshape public perceptions of major issues and priorities. Those who control the message also control the opinion, and if large corporations have that control, he fears that only their message (the agenda of the corporate giants) will be offered to the mainstream public.
It is the mainstream public who will pay dearly for bad business, and social and governmental decisions. It’s the average worker that has his/her retirement fund gutted by greedy corporate big-wigs, and it’s the average person who will be on the front lines of any military conflict. They will be sending their sons and daughters into those conflicts to fight for the wishes of those who control the message. The public needs balanced, unbiased information, and he thinks it’s getting harder and harder to get.
I thought that Len gave a great interview (except for not giving me any past failures!). He touched upon some great points that were relevant to what we’re discussing in class currently. He is very smart and I value his opinions regarding the media. Like I said earlier, he’s been exposed to this for the past 30 years, so he’s definitely a reputable source.