Tuesday, April 28, 2009


When I’m on my yearly cruise, I don’t want to know how much time I have left (nor, particularly, how long the cruise is). I just want to be there and enjoy it. When I’m at my job doing radio, all I want to know is “how much time is left?”

We deal only partially in “how long is the piece?” for purposes of filling time and doing it properly: we don’t want it to run over and need to cut it off early. If we have 90 seconds and it runs 100 seconds, that’s bad; we have 60 and it runs 45, that’s good.

But during a well-running show, all I want to know is: what’s left? Can I enjoy a nice sip of tea in the time remaining? Do I have the opportunity to edit some copy that’s coming up in the next twenty minutes? Will this coming insert last longer than two minutes and fifteen seconds?

(2:15 minutes? Distance to the nearest bathroom, do the job and get back to the studio in two minutes and five seconds. Timing is everything in this job.)

And, just as importantly, can I time out the program so I join the network at the right moment? “The right moment” is the point at which the audience never even notices the transition: not a second early and not a half-second late. You might think of it in terms of the trapeze artist leaving his bar and connecting with his catcher.

In eternity, the radio people won’t have that “how long?” worry.


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