For about 7 years I worked as a radio anchor and, a week ago, I just remembered how it all started.
I was a student at the Faculty of Journalism, in the post-Decembrist Bucharest, circa 1992. I was part of the second generation of students, working with a new set of teachers and curricula, which were just replacing the old propaganda school called “Stefan Gheorghiu” (that was what journalism was in communism: just propaganda). Everything was starting from scratch in that school, and we were all learning as we went along.
During the last few months, a new type of radio appeared: the FM radio. There were just a couple of them in Bucharest, and the whole thing was something very new and cool: the studios were almost improvised, the DJs and anchors weren’t trained before and just did whatever they thought was right and everything had a vibe of brand new, and a lot of opportunities and possibilities.
One of these radios just opened in a building adjacent to the Faculty of Journalism, at the top floor. It was called Radio Delta. During one of the radio classes (we were learning all kind of journalism, written, TV, radio, etc) I understood that we can go and visit that radio for free, as we were students. Even more, we could even do some stuff there (had no idea what kind of “staff”) and it will count towards our practice hours.
So, one day around noon, I decided to try my luck. I went in that other building, found the room were the radio was and knocked at the door. A guy my age, still sleepy, opened and asked me what I wanted. I told him in a few words that I was a student at the Journalism faculty and I could use some practice hours. He nodded and then invited me in.
The studio was just a small room, a mixer hooked to a microphone in another room, separated by a huge glass. There wasn’t anything going on yet, they were supposed to broadcast only 2 hours per day, starting at 6PM. I started a bit of small talk, met the other two guys working there and learned that they didn’t really have a news room. There was a news bulletin at 6PM, but they were just using news from papers and someone was reading them. I asked a few more questions about the duration of each news, the structure of the bulletin (internal, external, sport, etc) and then asked if I could start my practice by providing them these bulletins. They agreed and told me to come back at 5:30, with a first draft.
I went back to the Faculty library, looked over today’s papers and wrote (by hand, we didn’t have computers back then, not even typewriters) a small bulletin consisting of 4 news. I calculated the entire bulletin to be around 3-4 minutes.
At 5:30 I was back in the “studio”.
The guy that opened me in the morning briefly looked over the papers I handed him. I remember I used 4 different pens (even different colors) and the writing was confusing, to say the least. He looked at me, then he looked at the bulletin again. Then he said:
— Do you want to read this?
— Like, live? I asked and felt my knees melting.
— Yes, live, we’re starting the segment in about 15 minutes.
I don’t remember exactly the reasoning behind my decision, but it was something like: “Hell, let’s do this”.
— Yes, I answered, although my knees were still shaking. Where do I read it?
— Here, he told me and we both entered in the microphone room. I still remember how it “sounded”: empty, like even my breath was silenced by the walls. Later on I was about to learn how these rooms are isolated, and I was going to spend a lot of time in many rooms like this one.
He told me a few words about how all this worked, insisting on the fact that every communication must be done by hand gestures. Since I was live, I couldn’t use words, because everybody will hear them. It’s a bit funny in the beginning, but you get used to it.
— 30 seconds, he told me, at some point. I’m going out. Remember to give him the hand gesture when you’re finished, ok? He’ll take care of it, and he pointed to the guy behind the glass, who smiled at me.
I put on my earphones, heard the jingle and the recorded voice announcing a new bulletin and then my introduction. And then I started to read.
It all took 3-4 minutes, as I predicted and I still remember the smile of those two guys after I finished. I don’t remember how I felt, or what I read. But I still remember their faces.
From that day on, I read the news every day for 9 months. I wasn’t paid for this, as this was practice, but I learned tremendously. After these 9 months, I heard rumors about a bigger radio opening, with a lot of money and newer equipment. It was called Radio ProFm. A guy from their team approached me and asked me to work for them, for a salary bigger than my parents salary at that time. I was 22.
For the next 6 years I worked in various radio stations, on various positions, even helping building new radios from scratch, putting teams together, etc.
Just Dive In
What happened after that evening – when I read live a news bulletin, for the first time in my life, without any previous training – is not that important. From that point on it was just learning. Sometimes it went ok, sometimes it was boring and sometimes it was really nice.
But it was somehow predictable. There was a certain amount of certainty about it.
Whereas during those minutes when I decided to go live, nothing was predictable, nor certain. In that moment, in that precise moment when I decided I’m going to do something completely new, and terrifying, a huge fracture happened in the structure of my life.
Of course I couldn’t see, in that moment, where it will lead me. I had no idea I was going to work 7 years as a radio anchor. But I was willing to do something new, something I have never did before.
I was willing to dive in.
I cherish a lot this “just dive in” approach. And I’ve been doing it a lot since then.
Sometimes, I know it’s risky and I know it just won’t go in the right direction. I’ve been “diving” a lot in the wrong waters, the wrong businesses, the wrong relationships. Those dives were difficult. I felt lost, suffocating, almost drowning and I had to struggle to get out, at times. Other dives, well, went really nice. I felt like the risk paid off and I received rewards and treasures hard to even imagine before deciding to try.
Being present, being in the action – without any attachment to the outcome of that action – is probably the most authentic way to live our lives.