Programming To Win

Here Come The Interns – Watch For The Fire and the Burning Desire

By Rich Van Slyke

Your interns are smarter than they look.  So, put them to work. And watch them shine!

Recently I was invited to speak on a panel at a convention of the National Broadcasting Society by Dave Savage, Vice Pres. of the iHeartMedia Creative Services Group in Atlanta. The panel was made up of radio professionals.  There were many students from around the country who asked about jobs in radio and internships.  It was a great experience and I am grateful to Dave for the opportunity.  After the session, Kyle Davis, and Darrylin Horne, two students at Central Michigan University came up and asked me a whole bunch of questions. I could see in their eyes, they had the fire and the burning desire.  They wanted to know how to succeed. Now.  They didn’t want to wait.  I gave them my card, and encouraged them to keep trying and never give up. Most of the time, when I give out a card, I never hear back.  But these two emailed me within a week.  I am certain they will succeed. They have the fire!

I had that fire as an intern.  And it got me fired.  That’s right, fired.  A non-paid intern.  I grew up in Buffalo New York and my favorite station was WGRQ, 97Rock.  I had a summer job as a lifeguard, but I was bold enough to go down to the studios of 97 Rock and ask to be an intern.  I was home for the summer.  I had no official college internship.  I just went down to the studios and asked to volunteer. “You don’t even need to pay me, I want to get into radio.”  The Program Director said, “Sure why don’t you come in tomorrow?”  I was ecstatic! This is what I’ve always dreamed of!  Interning at my favorite radio station!  I thought to myself, “I’m going to work super hard, do everything they ask, and someday I’m going to get a job here. This is my big break!”  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.  I even got a free T-shirt.  But I needed to make money at my other job too.  The fire in me said, no big deal, I’m all set.  One day I boldly told the program director, “I won’t be here tomorrow,  I’ll be at my lifeguard job.  I’ll come back on my next day off.”  I must have had some attitude, because the PD grew angry and yelled at me.  “Forget it, don’t come back. You can’t just show up here anytime you want.”  What?  Don’t come back?  And with that, my dreams were crushed. I was fired from being an intern.  At the station I always listened too. SH*T!  Now to be honest, the program director was under a lot of pressure, he was a very intense guy and I was probably in his face all the time asking for stuff. Just another annoying intern.  So that guy told me to get lost. I took it personally. But that became my motivation. I was driven to prove that guy made a mistake, I was going to succeed. I had the fire and the burning desire. Sure enough, I did get into radio, and about 8 years later, I was offered a job at that very same station, two weeks before I left for a gig at WKLS in Atlanta.

Do you have interns at your cluster?  I encourage you to help them in anyway you can.  Because there’s a fine line between annoying, and highly motivated.

Over the years in radio, I worked with plenty interns and many have gone on to great jobs in radio.  Steve Rickman, who started in radio as my intern at WKLS Atlanta back in the 90s, is now very successful as morning show co-host at Rock 100.5 in Atlanta. I will never forget how hard Steve worked getting coffee for people at 96 rock. He then moved up to part time, then full-time and is now one of the most popular radio personalities in Atlanta.  And he did it with hard work and tons of talent. Another former intern at WKSE in Buffalo, Scott Free, is the now morning show host and brand manager at Wink 106 in Elmira, New York. When I was the production director at Kiss 98.5 FM in Buffalo New York, Scott would come in every day and work his butt off to help me out, with no pay!  His hard work paid off in a successful broadcast career he is enjoying today.  Another former intern Kevin Howard is a very successful personality in Springfield Illinois at Alice 95.5 KTOZ-FM and on ESPN 1400.    When I was the production director at WCMF in Rochester New York, one of our interns was Rich The Bull Gaenzler.  Today Rich The Bull is one of the most popular radio personalities in Buffalo New York, doing afternoon drive at WEDG and hosting a sports talk show at WHLD1270 The Fan.  Another intern at WCMF was Kevin LeGrett. I remember Kevin’s happy personality. He was always laughing, loud and bold. Today Kevin is a Senior Vice President of Operations for iHeartMedia, overseeing 200 radio stations! There are many other students that have gone on to successful careers.  Is it because they were interns?  Hell no. It’s because they are smart, talented, and very hard-working.   It makes me very proud that I helped former interns are doing great today.

How many times have you read the bio of a highly successful broadcaster who says “I started as an intern”?

Do you have any interns? Are they annoying?  Are you in a position to bring someone in as an intern?  Would you like to help change somebody’s life? Do it!

Embrace your interns!  But not like Bill Clinton did. Embrace their enthusiasm, and put it to work for you.  That intern in your building is a future Morning Personality, and a future SVP.  They are just as smart as your are, and ready to work.  So give them as much work as your can.  Let them do everything you do.  You think they will screw it up?  Yes they will.  Just like I did.  And then, they will fix their mistakes and someday help you succeed.  Because they have the fire and the burning desire.

This article is from  Reach Rich Van Slyke at 770.962.4788.  Email [email protected]

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