As high schools and colleges start another school year, it’s a great time to reflect on how we wound up headed down our own chosen career paths. America’s Future, whether they be kindergartners (who will graduate college in 2027) or newly-minted freshmen (the university or high school Class of ’14), will spend a lot of their time and effort figuring out what they want to do when they grow up. And often it is us they will come to for guidance.
Communications is a fickle business, and a dynamically-changing one. What exists now was not even an idea five or ten years ago. Photoshop, hi-def broadcasting, web video, and social media weren’t even concepts thirty years ago to be studied and tested on in communications schools. But unlike many career options, communications is one that is often ingrained in us from a young age. Whether we discovered our talent for graphic design with Colorforms and Shrinky-Dinks, a love of radio from mix tapes on our Walkman, the dignity of broadcasting from nights with the family in front of John Chancellor and Max Robinson, or a flair for public relations by holding court on the jungle gym at recess, a communications joe often finds their future young while playing cowboys, Indians, doctor, and house. So, allow me to divulge myself for a moment and tell you how I came down this path, and a story I’ll tell any youngster looking for career advice.
As a child I loved playing with my stereo and microphone. Friends and I would make fake radio commercials, fake newscasts, fake comedy shows. Eventually, the stereo morphed in to a video camera, and I was shooting and editing homegrown documentaries and teenage movies (quite a young Dawson Leery). I would even take the train and my tape recorder to Phillies games at Veterans Stadium, and find an empty spot in the upper deck (there were plenty back then, trust me), and do my own play-by-play. When it came time to get serious about my career in broadcasting, I turned to my childhood hero.
At age 13, I sent a letter (remember those?) to Philadelphia Phillies Hall-of-Fame announcer Harry Kalas which in summary said 'I want to be like you, how do I do that?'. And, in short haste, the icon mailed me back:
On my idol’s recommendation, four years later I enrolled in the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University as a Broadcast Journalism major. I fluttered around in Broadcast Journalism for a while until I decided I liked the behind-the-scenes work better, graduating with a BS in Television Production. I moved in to television programming and management, eased in to promotions and media marketing, and slid in to my current station as a writer, content provider, and creative marketer. It’s funny the paths we take to get to where we are. It’s even funnier to think back and see what and who first pushed us in that direction.
Harry Kalas passed in 2009, not long after getting to call his first Phillies’ World Series victory (he didn’t get to broadcast the Series in 1980), where he loved life most: in the broadcast booth at a major league stadium. Thanks, Harry, for giving me the original push down the path. Hopefully, I can pay it forward and push someone else down the path to a career which they’ll love.
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Michael is a Copywriter, Creative Marketer, and Broadcaster with 15 years in Programming, Marketing, Promotions, and New Media at television and radio stations in markets like Philadelphia, Syracuse, Albany, Wichita, and Kansas City, as an advertising writer in marketing departments and at ad agencies, and as a freelance copywriter. A Philly native and graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School, Michael is available for freelance work, full-time writing, and wedding receptions.
"Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright." - Aaron Sorkin, "The West Wing"
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