Illinois Entertainer July 2017 - Page 16

By Rick Kaempfer RADIO U hen Len O’Kelly was working in all Star Wars talk show. It ran two and half Chicago as a music director and years. It was outstanding, and a lot of fun. disc jockey for radio stations like Another group did ‘Bedtime stories for WJMK (104.3), academia was the furthest grownups’– interpretations of literature. thing from his mind. At the time he was a Some want to play music, and they play all college dropout and working in one of the kinds – rock, country, hip hop. That’s what top markets in the country. He thought I want. I want them to communicate with he’d be doing that the rest of his life. But a the audience of their peers in the language stint in Grand Rapids radio led to a post at they want to hear.” This led to the development of a more Grand Valley State University, and before he knew it, the college dropout had advanced curriculum. “We did an advanced radio course for the first time become Dr. Len O’Kelly. “While working here I finished up my last year, and it filled right away. We start- masters, and I wanted to teach full time, so ed studying things like National Lampoon’s they said I needed to get my PhD. I was Radio Hour, Firesign Theater, and the Conception Corporation, and they ended up motivated to do that. My dis- sertation was about '60s rock Len O'Kelly and roll and whether or not there was racism in those playlists, and it gave me an opportunity to talk to the all- time radio legends – John Records Landecker, Ron Britain, Herb Kent, a lot of the Grand Rapids guys.” He is now teaching sever- al media courses at Grand Valley State, and loving it. The best part of the job, as far as O’Kelly is concerned, is mentoring the next genera- tion of broadcasters. His background gives him some credibility. “I do let them know I was on the air in Chicago, but I don’t like to share too much. I don’t want it to be me telling war stories. I’m seriously trying to teach them what broadcasting and media is all about. I take them through every aspect of the radio station. writing their own comedy and long form We cover on-air performance, news, segments. There is a lot of interest in want- sports, ratings, and as part of that course ing to do radio, and wanting to tell stories. they are required to work at the campus The interest really isn’t so much in music station. As their final project, they have to formats. They feel like their generation is not being heard, so they want to do talk apply to me with a demo and resume.” That kind of hands-on experience is radio. Talk radio has been relegated to the really what they need if they’re serious 65 and older set, and you’ve got a bunch of about pursuing a career, and O’Kelly does- 20-somethings who want to consume it, n’t pull any punches when he explains the but they are forced to go podcasts to get it. current reality. “I do let them know it’s You don’t get the same sense of communi- gonna be tricky for them to get started. Big ty there.” That’s something the broadcasting companies like iHeart [Radio] aren’t tak- ing internships anymore because of the industry needs to hear. O’Kelly is working corporate rules. That has caused me to get hard to get that message out there, and his creative and go to little stations in places students are his best messengers. “There like Holland, Michigan who still allow stu- was a girl who was on our station for a dents to come in and learn every aspect of year – Ashley Z – and she’s now doing the station. I’ve been working with the nights in Atlanta. Last year one of our (syndicated) ‘Free Beer and Hot Wings’ entertainment show demos was entered show and they’ve been great about bring- into the Michigan Association of ing in interns and allowing them to do Broadcasters competition and they took more than just get coffee. They’re good to second place for best radio personality in the kids, they leave their egos at the door, the state. A lot of them want to do it. It’s and they actually teach the kids a thing or not a dying medium in their eyes at all – two along the way. I’ve had more than one the reports of radio’s demise are greatly student come out of there saying ‘Boy I’d exaggerated. Generation Z (the generation after the Millennials) has exceptionally really like to do this.’” The students also get to experiment on high usage for radio – AM & FM – because the campus station. That’s where many they came of age during the recession. Free more of them develop their love for the entertainment was part of their lives. They medium. “The radio station is internet listen to radio, but they are looking for only and delivers it directly to phones ways to engage with it. They are clamor- where is where students are listening any- ing for that. Radio has to figure out a way way. The station doesn’t have a format. I to give them that o չ今t)5ٕͅɕ]ѥѼ͕)݅ЁѡѼݡЁѡ䁅ɔѕɕѕ)$䁄܁啅́ݡѡ́ͅɕٕ)\(؁͕ѕхȹձ