There’s no mercy in radio.
While the men and women who pontificate, mediate and sometimes irritate during our morning and evening drive time – and every hour in between – may have received training and tips before the mic goes live, make no mistake, radio is an art.
It’s about being both entertaining and engaging. It’s about understanding that programing must be compelling and engender conversation. It’s a very particular style of communication that requires quick thinking and the ability to sustain, revive and, on occasion, wrap conversations over an extended period of time. Having a great voice helps as well. Not everyone can do it. In fact, very few can. And those that can, well, every single one of them experienced a learning curve.
That’s the curve former Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver is working through right now. His radio show There It Is with Deke Copenhaver debuted last week. It airs from 9 a.m.-noon weekdays on WGAC-FM 95.1.
We all knew Deke could talk. He is famous for being exceptionally comfortable behind the mic – be it in a commission meeting or delivering a TED talk. He works almost exclusively off-the-cuff and seems comfortable in all environments – including the radio studio. It’s a show with a compelling premise, one rather out of fashion in contemporary radio. Preaching a message of positive change, community unity and promoting success in the Augusta area, It stands in stark contrast to a very successful model that thrives on hyperbole and partisanism. As a real fan of local radio, I’m happy to see Deke in the fold. His show, for me, has become a destination.
But as interested as I am in the day-to-day programming, I’m far more curious about what this show will become. There are things I know will get better – Copenhaver’s transitions to break, for instance are not always the most polished nor are his live sponsor reads. But that will come in time. That is part of the aforementioned learning curve. I see this as very much a work in progress.
I am, however, curious as to whether the show, as it stands today, is sustainable. Because the show we have started listening to is really about long-form interviews and guests, with single topics taking up the entire three hours, I’m concerned that keeping the subjects fresh and topical may become difficult. While I agree that there are a lot of interesting people doing a lot of positive things in the show’s broadcast area, the depth of conversation does not allow for a lot of repetition. For instance, Copenhaver’s first show featured local writer/developer/musician/philanthropist Turner Simkins. They spoke for three hours. That left very few stones unturned. It was compelling but it also sort of burned Simkins for future appearances – at least for a while. I might have preferred an hour about his book Promises and then seen him return in a few months to talk about Hammond’s Ferry and his innovative ideas about planned communities. That no longer feels like a possibility. That said, Copenhaver is a smart guy and is able to improvise and adapt with the best of them. It’s entirely possible that’s the approach he is taking with his show – that he truly believes the broadcasts we are listening to today are just a starting point – the beginning of his on air evolution.
I, for one, will be listening for an answer.