Some background to the following story: since even before moving up here, Tom and I had given thought to volunteering for the local community radio station. So, recently, we finally contacted the program director about the possibility of starting our own show. One of the precursors to that is sitting in and participating in other, established shows to both "see how it's done" and feel comfortable on the radio. Our first go at it was last night.
While Tom was the nervous one about speaking LIVE, with "everyone listening", I was ready to go - "I'll participate in whatever you throw my way," I said!
While Tom has been in Corporate America and the business world for most of his working life, he knows what to say and when to say it. I, on the other hand, seem to have never acquired - or, if I did, lost - the social "filter", if you will, required to not offend. And, when you're on the radio . . . live, on the radio . . . that's a bad thing. A really bad thing.
It's always been a running joke among my friends that I'll usually be the one to blurt out what everyone else is thinking and/or stick my foot in my mouth one way or the other. And, it's never been a harmful thing before because . . . well, maybe because it's said in a group of only 4 or 8 people, it's laughed at and/or eyes are rolled, and that's that. The same can't be said when it's broadcast not only locally but also nationwide via streaming media on the Internet.
That said . . . .
To participate in the quick banter and witty repartee on a radio show, you need to shoot from the hip. So, last night, I was shooting all right, fast and furious, right in there with the best of 'em.
I was shooting, but I wasn't thinking.
Words were falling out of my mouth before the social filter even had a chance to kick in. Heck, I nearly managed to cause one of the station's major underwriters a PR heart attack which would have been followed by the quick ZIP of them pulling their funding away. I managed to - somewhat clumsily - divert the path of my comments to relative benign-ness, but not before each of the 3 other people in the studio were making frantic "No, no, NO!" motions with their hands and slicing their fingers across their necks . . . including Tom.
But, I think the real problem lies within the fact that I didn't think it would have been so horrible a comment to make . . . because I was just expressing my own views. What's the big deal? But, when you're an announcer at a radio station, you don't get to voice your own opinions. Maybe about the weather, but not about how happy you were to write the last check to the one and only local electric company when you finally went completely solar. You are representing the radio station and the community as a whole. NO EDITORIALS. It says that in the volunteer manual in plain, bold letters. I read it just yesterday. I think I just didn't realize quite the impact that it had until last night.
The worst thing, though, is that I (albeit inadvertently) disrespected someone on the air.
Last night signaled the start of the radio station's on-air pledge week. So, along with the witty banter, we were plugging community radio and asking for pledges. And, it worked: the phone started ringing with generous pledges . . . one of which was from my family in the southwestern part of the country! Yayy! (Well, it would have been "yayy" had I not opened my mouth and "shot from the hip".)
During the course of thanking them on-air (and, again, trying to keep the listener entertained with our clever chit-chat) I threw out some trivia about their part of the world. About their very city, in fact. "Did you know that ____ has the highest air pollution in the entire United States?!" I know . . . CRINGE. The conversation naturally turned to how we have some of the cleanest air. No biggie (I thought). That's them, this is us. I enjoy trivia, and that happened to be the one piece of trivia I knew about where they live. Just like when another relative called from Hollywood, and the trivia I threw out was, "Straight from 90210!" (a reference to the popular TV show) which does, indeed, happen to be his zip code.
But, without thinking - by going spur-of-the-moment - I offended. Deeply. Perhaps, if more than just relatives were web-streaming, I offended many members of that city . . . than just the two members of my family.
The plain, simple truth is that I don't think I can trust what comes out of my mouth in "think quick" situations like being ON AIR. I don't think the radio is the place for me. Sure, I can enunciate clearly and read the weather well, but the mindless banter? Forget it. 'Cause for me, it is mindless . . . not mindless in the sense of not believing what I say, but mindless in the sense of not thinking about the possible and potential consequences of those thoughts on the people hearing them . . . now voiced and "out there", never to be "taken back". And, therein lies the problem.
I hurt people last night that I love, I lost a sizable contribution to the pledge drive, and I could have caused a major financial loss for the radio station. I take full responsibility for that, and I'm not going to risk doing that again.