Ever wonder what it's like working as a radio producer? English alumnus Emily Alfin Johnson '12 shares her experiences working for WBUR Boston.
I was one of those lucky few who had a dream job lined up months before graduating in the Fall of 2012. After turning in my thesis, and leaving Tacoma, exhausted and raw, I immediately went to work as a producer for the National Public Radio show, On Point, a live, two hour, call-in program produced out of WBUR Boston. I had gotten this lucrative gig after a interning with the program the summer before, and by entirely being in the right place at the right time (I cannot stress this enough.)
For those who are not familiar, a radio producer’s job, for the most part, is to do everything but be the voice, live on air. We pitch topics, conduct research, find and interview guests, write scripts, record sound, and run around frantically in the minutes leading up to the show (and on rough days, during,) to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, so that all listeners hear is an hour of great radio. And all this is accomplished within about 48 hours (if we’re lucky,) at least twice a week.
Needless to say it was an exhausting and harrowing job, but for every sleepless night, and looming deadline, there was an equally amazing moment. Like the time author Neil Gaiman joined us in studio and we deeply bonded over our mutual love of the British TV show, Doctor Who. Or when Doris Kearns Goodwin came in the day before Thanksgiving and tried the crème brûlée I had come in at 3am to make for the second hour of the show, and loved it so much she hugged me, despite the fact I was covered in sugar and flour and eggs. Or the fact that I on a regular basis got to work with and learn from incredible people like Jane Clayson (formerly of CBS,) John Harwood, Ken Rudin, Jack Beatty, Kelly O’Donnell, Kristen Welker, Robert Costa and easily two dozen more insanely talented journalists, not to mention my amazing fellow producers.
There were a few especially challenging moments, like when Jeff Bridges swore twice during a live hour I was producing my second week (that took ten years off my life.) And moments that sent me desperately reeling back to my foundation in the Puget Sound English Department, like when producing an hour on James Franco’s challenging debut novel, Actors Anonymous. In no one moment have I ever been more thankful for Mita Mahato, Julie Christoph, and Priti Joshi, because without what I learned in their classes, we could have never survived that interview! Truly!
Producing is not for everyone - it’s often a thankless endeavor ill-suited for the ego driven, or the easily rattled. But I cannot imagine a way I could have excelled in the public media world, without my Writing, Rhetoric and Culture background, and the liberal arts education I got at Puget Sound.