A good demo tape is essential if you want to work in radio

So you want to get into local radio. What first attracted you? The love of anti-social hours? The need for constant pressure? The desire to work in a building where no one else actually understands what you do? Or the fact that it’s an incredibly fun and rewarding job that gives opportunities you won’t find anywhere else?

The competition to get decent jobs in local radio is fierce, but once you get your foot in the door, the opportunities are there.

The first question has to be whether editors are looking for the voice or the qualifications. The answer depends on where you apply. Some editors go for the voice and train up the journalist – others go for the journalist and coach the voice. Whatever the approach, employers will look for some journalistic skills, whether it’s a degree, a post-grad qualification or experience in the media. Most will want the security of knowing that you are at least up to date with the law.

There is often misunderstanding of what broadcast journalists do – it’s not all sitting around waiting an hour for three minutes of on-air glory. One thing you can guarantee is, with a deadline every hour, you will be busy. When you’re not reading, you’re chasing stories, getting audio and always looking for that update to trump the competitors.

Before you even apply for anything you need to figure out if you’re the right sort of person for the job. Do you live on adrenaline? It’s one thing to read Teletext out loud to yourself at home, and quite another to hold your nerve when that red ‘on-air’light goes on for the first time in the news studio. You must have confidence in yourself. Not only will you be judged on your journalistic skills, but also, of course, on your voice.

Assuming you’re the right sort of person and have the skills and the voice – how do you get started? It’s one of those frequent conundrums where you need experience to get into a radio station, but need to get into a radio station to get experience.

Getting it isn’t as hard as it sounds, however. Some stations might let you in without a demo – particularly if you sound confident on the phone. Most will need a demo, but remember that editors can get dozens a week. So what makes yours so special? Keep it short. No one has got time to listen to that 10-minute package you did on homeless penguins in Swindon, however impressive it is. The best ones I’ve heard have been under three minutes.

Make sure you showcase your skills and try and get a bit of everything in there: newsreading, sport and interviewing.

Sound relaxed, talk the news – don’t read it – and veer away from sounding like a parody of a newsreader, with every sentence having the same intonation. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

The CV needs to be concise and preferably on one page, with only the most relevant experience listed. Do your research. Get the names of the editors you’re applying to. Applicants can get disregarded simply for addressing the envelope to the wrong person – getting the facts right is vital to the job.

But keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how great your demo and CV are if they don’t get seen. I’ve seen demos piled up on a desk, left unopened for weeks and then binned. So don’t be afraid to chase yours up to make sure it has been considered – you’re a journalist, you’re meant to be pushy.

When you are through the door, the rest is up to how much you’re willing to give – and luck. Be prepared to work nights, weekends or any shift you’re offered. Freelance at as many places as you can. Keep recordings of your best work and always be on the look-out for the next opportunity.

Ross Hutchinson is news editor of The Beach

Useful website: http://www.bjtc.org.uk

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