By Joel M. Vance
What you probably don’t need is advice on doing radio from someone who doesn’t do it anymore, but I learned a good bit about the game during few years of doing Field & Stream Radio spots.
Others on the shows did the how-to, where-to things, and I quickly realized there are two sides to the fence – the side with the know-alls and the side that listens to them. Having made a living for about 60 years in communication, I’ve realized that my strength, if you can call it that, is in being Everyman, the guy who doesn’t get a turkey or a deer or the guy whose bird dog eats his lunch just before he pees on the boss’s leg.
So I wasn’t likely to be as convincing as the expert. But, depending on species, hunters and anglers fail on average at least half the time and usually more than half. Someone has to represent the ones with the slack stringer and empty game bag.
We all too often forget that the outdoors is an entertainment exercise. We get wrapped up in the minutiae of mechanics and while it’s important, it also can be incredibly boring.
I figured there must be a place in radio for the lighter side and so I sought out those who had something funny to say. One story I remember was inspired by … a radio interview. I heard Michael Feldman on National Public Radio’s “Whad’ya Know” interview a fellow who loads the ashes of the dear departed Joe Sportsman into shotgun shells so his buddies can launch him piece by piece over his favorite hunting ground.
I tracked the guy down, called him and arranged to interview him the next time I was in Des Moines, where he lived. Not only made a print story, but also a radio spot, a double dip.
Some stories were easy. My son and I waded around our pond one evening with him catching bullfrogs, me commenting as we went. There were good sound effects (always important in outdoor stories) and good quotes from him.
Whatever the story, I’d do the interview first, prepared with a long list of questions (you never, ever interview cold), then write an introduction and what explanatory transitions were needed, then a close. I’d record my parts in the quiet of the house, assuming I could get it quiet long enough, then send the tape to the producer to assemble into airworthy shape.
I used a Marantz tape recorder, one of the standards at the time for radio guys, but if I were doing it now it would be a digital recorder. The late and much lamented Tony Dean recommended a Zoom recorder in a craft improvement piece a few months back and I purchased one that has proved very satisfactory.
My ideal radio job would be doing the light, bright spots that would illuminate someone else’s radio show. I have no desire to produce an outdoor show, not to mention lacking the technical know-how. But a five-minute outing on someone else’s time would be serendipity, not to mention a few extra bucks.
Think Andy Rooney on “60 Minutes,” Bill Geist on “CBS Sunday Morning,” the late, wonderful Charles Kuralt in “On the Road” or any of a multitude of such mood brighteners on NPR’s “All Things Considered” or similar shows.
You’re not likely to make the kind of money they did and do, but radio is an expansion of the communication field for us writer types and, before I forget, I have microphone and will travel.
Joel Vance is a past president of OWAA and the author of “Grandma and the Buck Deer” (softcover, $15); “Bobs, Brush and Brittanies” (hardcover, $25); “Down Home Missouri” (hardcover, $25); and “Autumn Shadows” (limited edition, signed $45). Available from Cedar Glade Press, Box 1664, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Add $2 per book for shipping and handling.
By Joel M. Vance