(By Donna Halper) First, I find it disappointing that some comments are attacking Nicole Sandler’s attitude. (You can read our interview with Nicole Sandler HERE.) She’s not alone in feeling frustrated and upset that the industry she loves has shut her out. I feel that every day of my life. I was in broadcasting for nearly four decades, as a deejay and a music director, an assistant PD (they rarely appointed women to PD positions in the 70s and early 80s, no matter how much experience they might have), and then I reinvented myself as a consultant. I worked in small and medium markets, creating winning stations, and training some folks who went on to become major market talent. But when media consolidation caused most small and medium stations to get bought up by larger corporations, many of us lost our jobs. Being a survivor, I reinvented myself yet again and got a PhD at age 64. These days, I teach about media. But it’s not the same as being in the industry — even if what radio is today is SO different from what it was when I was in it.
I’d like to believe I still have some valuable perspectives. When I’m a guest on someone’s show, I get a lot of callers who want to talk with me. I’ve written several books and a number of freelance articles about broadcasting and I do a lot of public speaking. But sad to say, nobody has offered me a radio job in a long while — even though I have a pretty impressive resume and a list of accomplishments I’m proud of. I can suggest a number of reasons why my phone isn’t ringing, and I am well aware that there are many guys who were also pushed aside as a result of media consolidation. The bottom line — and this is not just a problem in radio — is many companies don’t want to hire older talent because they might have to pay us more; there’s a myth we’re set in our ways (not true — I reinvented myself numerous times and I’m not the only one).
There’s also a myth older workers are inflexible: again, not true — it’s radio that seems to be inflexible in how it has failed to attract a new generation of young fans. The other day, I asked some of my college-age students how many listened to radio that day, and no hands went up, although some said they listen in the car. When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine a better job than being a deejay, but few kids today have that dream. Meanwhile, the experience and expertise of so many of us — and our ideas for revitalizing the industry we still love — are ignored. I hope Nicole finds another gig. I hope a lot of the folks who were unfairly let go as radio downsized get new chances. But criticizing Nicole and avoiding the very real problems she is discussing (which include ageism, and yes, maybe even a bit of sexism) won’t make those problems go away.
Donna L. Halper, PhD is an Associate Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her website is www.donnahalper.com.