Almost Almost-Famous, Part Two
Now that I've entertained everyone with how I got picked to co-host a talk show for WSJ Radio and subsequently left you hanging for a week, let me continue with the story. (I'm too cheap and lazy to construct a wavy Flash fade-out, so you'll have to use your imagination.)
So the auditions were on. Jason Fry and I began our Friday two-a-day 30 minute demo tapes in hopes that one of the fledgling satellite radio companies (Sirius or XM) would show an interest. Now that I would be on radio, it opened my eyes to a whole new world of idiosyncrasies that I never knew existed. Never drink coffee before a show because it will affect your voice. Be careful how you speak and don't pop your P's. Recognizing that "Emmys" music in your ears so that you know you have to wrap up your topic fast since a break was approaching...plus you had to get your "outro" in before you "hit the post". Learning that 30 seconds is a LONG time for radio and that you can say more than you think (to quote our producer, Paul Herrmann, "you can drive a truck through it"). And, of course, proper on-air banter to make sure neither one of us got too obscure and to "dumb it down" and ask questions of each other if one of us started to get too technical.
The topics we bandied about were typical of the time. Some didn't date so well (all the different Pets.com-type companies, WebVan and web-enabled devices and subsequent future of the PC) while others would still be viable topics today (privacy, piracy (which I still say will never fully be stopped), the future of Napster (and Jace's astute "Whack-a-Mole" theory), stopping spam and online gambling). And one topic that would be an odd foreshadowing of the future of the show...dot-com disasters.
So Jace and I did this for several months. Every week we'd debate topics, show up on Friday to record two shows and then hope for the best. Around January of 2001, I left my position at the help desk in NYC and started a new position in a different department on the South Brunswick campus. So I had a new job to learn, and now a new commute to face, having to go back to NY every Friday morning to tape the shows. But I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Doing the show was one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life.
But unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The dot-com disasters had taken their toll on Dow Jones. With all those companies failing, Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal lost a ton of advertising dollars. As a result, in May of that year Dow Jones faced one of the largest series of cuts in its history. Hundreds of people were laid off and, since our project was never picked up by XM or Sirius (despite plenty of teases), it too received the axe.
So, that's it. We came close, but were ultimately done in by the dot-com fallout and its effect on DJ and the overall economy. As I mentioned before, it was great while it lasted, but I never had any sense of false optimism. I was never a radio guy and to be presented with this opportunity was unexpected. If it had ever gotten off the ground, I expected to be replaced with someone better. I won't dwell too much on self-deprecation, but I know the limitations of my talents...I could have named at least four other people in the DJ IT department alone who could have done a better job than me.
So although I didn't get my 15 minutes of fame then, perhaps some other time. If not, oh well. Now that I have a blog, I'll be famous eventually! Until then, this will be my claim to almost-fame. I hope to one day have "He almost was on radio" etched on my tombstone, complete with a link to this article (because by then, tombstones will be interactive).
For anyone wishing to hear one of our old shows, click here. The topic was about the different methods of ripping songs to MP3 files and the different bit rates (I focused on 128, 160 and 192 kbps but still smack myself to this day for not knowing of VBR at the time).
Also, a big thanks to Flexo of Consumerism Commentary for hosting this file.