Granted, my original stint was only for a summer, but that definitely counts.
During my senior year of high school, I visited with Gary Truitt, a long-time farm broadcaster who had just started a new company called Hoosier Ag Today. I had been interested in radio for a little while and used the news source while studying for FFA competitions. I asked Gary if I could job shadow him, and he said he’d need to make sure I could visit when he went out and about to interview people.
It poured cats and dogs that day, but I made it to Indy and was invited into the HAT studio. My tech geek self was agog at the microphones and multiple monitors and other sound equipment. Gary showed me a bit of what he did at the computer, audio waves jumping as he showed me a commercial he had just recorded. Then, we drove to the State House to cover an event there.
Fast forward a bit more than a year. It was the Wednesday of my state FFA officer team’s convention, the second-to-last day of the event. It’s a day when sheer adrenaline is driving a state officer, and I felt shot through. In the morning, I read the winners of either the Career Development Events or the Proficiency Awards, I don’t remember. And because I was so exhausted, I felt at the end of the session like I’d done a terrible job at reading for the last couple of hours.
Somehow, my face must have shown that as I walked off stage; just inside the stage left curtains, one of the association interns asked me if I was all right.
“I feel like I did terribly,” I said.
“No, no, you didn’t.” Then, after a pause, he said, “You should be in radio.”
“You should be in radio. You have a great radio voice.”
I just raised my eyebrows and continued to the green room.
At Purdue, my freshman report for my agricultural communications major was on radio, and I visited one of the morning DJs for a station nearby. My professor gave me a paper copy of a list of farm broadcasters in the United States, as I thought I might be interested in pursuing an internship with one of them.
There were only three in Indiana, and as luck would have it, one of them was in Lafayette about fifteen minutes from Purdue’s campus. I sent Skip Davis an email to see if he would be interested in having me as an intern.
He wasn’t going to say yes right away; he brought me to the studio and showed me around, asking me a few questions.
Then, at the end, he brought me to his recording booth and asked me to read some news copy he’d read that morning. He sat nearby and just listened. When I’d concluded, he said, “Well, you’re raw, but you’ve got potential.”
He applied for a grant from the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) that would give me a paycheck for a summer internship, and he got the grant. Then, a former supervisor I’d worked with in the FFA newsroom during high school offered me a job with the Purdue Ag Communications Department, and my summer was set. I would work with Skip early in the morning (I started at 4:30 and ended at 11), and then in the afternoon, I would sort through photographs and categorize them for the Ag Comm Department.
With Skip, I learned how to enunciate, especially working on how to pronounce “tour,” “to,” “for,” and “Hoosier” correctly. He taught me how to interview well and adjust the pitch of my voice for news, market, and weather reports. We reported together from the Tippecanoe County Fair, where he would call into the station in the evenings to give a one-minute report he made up on the spot, and I would help him gather interviews of the Grand Champions and of 4-Hers with interesting stories. I also reported from the Indiana State Fair, interviewing Tippecanoe County 4-H members, the State Fair queen, a balloonist, and more.
Skip retired after that summer, and Mac, who I’d worked with on weather reports for his morning show, took over. I visited Mac once or twice while at Purdue, but I hadn’t seen Skip for a while.
Jumping forward several years to this past fall, I was looking for new projects for Root 61 when my music playlist jumped to a file I’d created during my radio internship.
It’d been a slow news day, and Skip, wanting me to make the most of it, said, “Interview me and put the audio together for your parents.”
So I asked him questions like how he got started and what he enjoyed about farm broadcasting. Then, I recorded an intro and closing and put some music to it.
That file began playing while I was looking for projects, and I thought, I wonder what Skip is up to now. I put his name into a search engine and came up with a story on the NAFB website in which Skip talked about his retirement.
As I listened, I scanned the tabs along the top of the website: About, Events, Directory of Speakers. I knew there was a job board on the site; I’d checked it often during my senior year at Purdue. I found the Jobs tab and thought, I wonder.
There was a lengthy list of open positions, including a position from Hoosier Ag Today.
I stared. And then I left my chair to go in the kitchen and jump up and down, saying, “What does this mean? What does this mean?”
HAT had grown since I’d visited Gary 15 years ago. I emailed the company president and asked if the position was still available; he said yes; I emailed my application materials.
And here we are. I didn’t put all these pieces together until I was in the interview process. I’d completely forgotten about the story from convention until after the interviews concluded.
It seems like I’ve had a winding path to this new position, especially if I think, I haven’t worked in radio for a long time.
But really, everything I’ve experienced contributed to this.