When I was 11, I was fascinated by the disc jockeys on the old, AM rock ‘n’
roll stations. They would “talk up” a record, pattering over the song’s introduction,
suddenly ending their spiel just as the lyrics were coming in. This tapped into my
very being, unearthing what has turned out to be a career in broadcasting.
If you feel the urge, whether you’re 21 or 41, explore it. If you think you’d be
good at voiceover work, start reading copy into a digital recorder. Use that same
tool if you’d like to be a news or sportscaster. Aspiring play-by-play announcers can
take that same recorder, buy a cheap ticket to a minor league baseball game,
I often tell people that while NBA players have had plenty of organized play
and coaching through high school, college, AAU and other leagues, much of what
they do is rooted in what they did as kids playing in parks and playgrounds.
Recently, I unearthed an old cassette from when I was 14 years old, “announcing” a
baseball game into a tape recorder. Except for being a few octaves higher, it
sounded strangely like the guy who’s been doing 76ers games on Comcast Sportsnet
for the last 18 years.
He was crusty, old school, smoked English Ovals, had a gray toupee and
seemed to yell a lot. But as a young broadcaster, if you were patient and looked past
the bluster, Bill Bransome could help you. By the time I became his desk assistant
in the late 70’s, Bransome had already spent “forever” in the business. Newscaster.
Sportscaster. DJ. Whatever you could do behind the mike.
This was KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia when, moments before an 11:45
sportscast on a Saturday night, Bransome yelled through a studio intercom. “I need
to know how to pronounce this kid’s name and I need to know now!,” he
commanded. The kid was a second string defensive back for a local Division 3
school that had just won a national title in football. Nobody, except perhaps the
young man’s mother, would have known whether or not his name was pronounced
correctly. But to Bransome, it mattered. And so I was the guy who woke up the
school’s sports information director to find out how to correctly pronounce the
name of a second-string defensive back on a Division 3 football team.
Recently I marked the tenth anniversary of Bill Bransome’s passing with that
memory. It reinforced an important credo for all broadcasters, that no fact is too
small, too insignificant to go unchecked. Never underestimate your audience. And
never underestimate who might help you in this crazy business.
Leaving yourself open to criticism and suggestions will make you a better broadcaster.
In 1982, I was literally learning about television while working in television– the old PRISM–forerunner to today’s Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia. I was editing a feature on the 1946-47 Philadelphia Warriors, the NBA’s first champions. A gentleman by the name of Roy Hensel suggested the concept of “audio sweetening,” that is, adding crowd noise or other effects to old black-and-white footage that was without a sound track.
It’s common practice of course, but being relatively new to TV, I had no idea. The suggestion—obvious and simple as it was—added depth to the feature, literally bringing the past more alive.
Leaving your ego at the door and being open to feedback from anyone you work with can only help YOU.