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Radio personality Gary Shannon. (Eric Cormier / American Press)

Radio personality Gary Shannon. (Eric Cormier / American Press)

Vanishing Jobs: Local radio personality not ready to sign off yet

Last Modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 9:51 PM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

Every morning radio personality Gary Shannon practices the art of communication at its most basic level.

He’s a man with a microphone in front of him, a long list of music, and lots of information to pass on, ranging from the location of car wrecks to the latest news tidbit.

In an age when information is shared through 24 hour television, the Internet, media players, and smart phones, it would be easy to conclude that local radio stars will eventually go the way of dinosaurs.

Shannon, 62, does not agree with that notion and works everyday to remain relevant and in touch with listeners who still enjoy traditional local media outlets (FM/AM radio and newspapers).

“My mantra is that I do local radio. I feel like I am a radio personality, not a disc jockey,” he explains.

His 30 plus year radio broadcasting career has included stops in Beaumont, Texas; Austin, Texas; Dallas; Chicago and now Lake Charles.

He performs during the morning drive on 92.9 The Lake FM.

“Radio should be about knowing who the people listening are. It should be about giving information they are interested in knowing,” Shannon said.

He noted that some stations have syndicated programs which are produced out of town and with no ties to the city they are being broadcast in.

“I like being a communicator. I like being the person that passes on information that local people need. Just like we did in 2005 during Hurricane Rita,” he said.

Shannon became a radio broadcaster during a time when there were not many choices for listeners to get music other than in live venues.

Radio talents were known for having wonderful voices, funny deliveries and being pop culture encyclopedias.

Program directors -- managers of local radio stations -- were always listening for the next great personality.

Air tapes -- auditions -- were the normal way potential employees applied for a job to get into the industry. Management offices were filled with them.

That is not the reality today.

Shannon said there are jobs in the industry, but not many people are interested in competing for them.

“At one time, people asked me how I got the job. Now, I don’t even see any fresh young talent,” he said.

Shannon believes a career in radio will prepare anybody for future jobs in the communications industry.

He explained that a person who wants to work in the public relations or advertising industry would get skills that can only be found in a radio station.

“We talk in 15, 30 and 60 second bytes. Public relations professionals have to talk like that. We write commercials up to a minute. That’s what public relations and advertising professionals have to do. And there is more to learn, that can be done in a radio station,” he said.

He will tell anybody that “a great voice” is a good start, but it is not the whole business.

“I remember when satellite radio started and the question was, ‘how to you combat them?’” Shannon said. “The answer is being local. If there is an accident on I-10, you will not hear about it on XM.”

Stressing local to Shannon means reading local newspapers, alternative tabs, talking to people in the streets, getting involved in events, and lots of networking.

“If you want to really be good at this job, you have to educate yourself and be able to talk about anything. Being well rounded is a real big deal in being a radio personality.”

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