TV People and Radio People

by Frank Murphy



Vance Dillard recently asked me what I thought of television anchors as morning radio personalities.  Of course there are exceptions but I think that most TV news people can’t be good morning radio people because they’re too worried about their “image” and what their news director will think of them. 


The best TV anchors are polished and professional.  They rarely ad-lib, except for an occasional “joke” at the end of a newscast or when they blame their meteorologist for the weather.  On the other hand, the best morning radio people are self-deprecating and show you their personalities, flaws and all.  As a result, morning radio people create a stronger bond with their audience.  Their flaws are endearing to the listeners.


As radio people, we can get inside our listeners’ heads.  They hear us in bed, perhaps while they are still dreaming.  They can take us into the shower and the kitchen.  Most of all, we are their only companions as they sit in traffic.  The audience gets to know us as characters in a daily reality soap opera.  The more we live our lives on the air, the more the audience can relate to us.


Some morning show hosts don’t want to let the listeners into their lives.  These shows are hosted by a “deejay” rather than a “personality.”  They may go through some of the motions and have some of the features of other morning shows, but ultimately the listeners won’t miss them when they’ve moved on to another job.


Great morning radio people strive to define their characters as clearly as the characters on a great sitcom like “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  The characters on that show are so well defined that Marie Barone can get a laugh just by walking into a room and witnessing something Debra or Raymond is doing.  But maybe we are trying to identify with the wrong personalities on TV.


Of all the characters on TV, the ones who are most like radio people are not found on a sitcom, but on “reality shows.”  On shows like “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor” we see real people in unreal situations.  The shows are beautifully edited to emphasize conflict between the characters.  Although many “Survivor” contestants have said in interviews that they are not really like that and that it’s all in the editing, their TV persona is based on their real life.  They are not the figment of a writer’s imagination.


In radio, our on-air persona is also based on our real life.  We can exaggerate a personality trait or leave out a boring detail to a story.  Sharing stories from our real lives is what some program directors call being “relatable.”  In plain terms, stories from our real lives build a bond with our audience that translates into longer time spent listening and better ratings.


Copyright © 2003 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved.