What Will The Future Of Radio Look Like?


(By John Morris) As Radio Ink focused a recent issue on 30 And Under Superstars, I have the privilege to see the best in radio age 22 and under. My role as president of College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) allows me to see, talk to, and hear from college media students across the nation. I was able to do this during the recent CBI Online National Student Electronic Media Convention. Almost 1,200 college students and their advisors attended nearly 50 sessions over three days.

Those students attending the convention are your next employees, and it was exciting to see their interest in and love of radio. And, just as you are navigating through a strange COVID-19 world, these college students are doing the same. Many will be entering the work world in May and taking their talents to your stations. These students are concerned about whether there are open jobs for them to fill and what life will be like working at a commercial radio station.

We often hear about how each generation is different, from millennials to Gen Z, and there are indeed differences. Some of those differences will present challenges for radio managers, but some of these young people will bring exciting new ideas and approaches that will keep radio fresh and growing.

The question, though, is what are current students looking for as they pursue their careers? What can the industry do to address those desires?

In my conversations with students, they revealed several career wishes. One is to be given the freedom to be creative. But one surprising thing that came out of these discussions is that with that freedom, they still want coaching, and — in a perfect world — a mentor. We’ve all read that this generation may not take criticism as well as previous generations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want feedback. It’s just that the feedback needs to be built around the idea of making the employee better while focusing both on what they are doing right and on how they can improve. They don’t want to be treated with kid gloves, but they do want to feel their work is appreciated and that there is a teammate to help them improve.

Another area today’s college students voiced concern about is future job openings — is radio a viable career path? This is where communication between colleges, college students, and radio professionals is vital. I am also an instructor of radio and television at the University of Southern Indiana. I have reached out many times to both local and national radio professionals, but I haven’t had professionals really reach out to me, wanting to talk to my students in my classes or at the radio station I advise. I ask that you connect with the universities and colleges around you and find out who your next hires are going to be. Special speakers get a sneak preview of the up-and-coming talent.

And finally, please work with college media organizations, especially CBI, and be a part of who we are. You will get to communicate directly with those who truly care about radio. Be a judge of our awards competition, and you will hear some of the best work being done by young adults. I’ve seen students get hired by those who judge.

The next CBI convention will be in October in 2021. Come join us there and you’ll be given a chance to talk with hundreds of students. One may be your next star. Imagine hearing directly from them and learning what they are truly looking for. You could meet the best in radio 22 and under yourself.

John Morris is president of the College Broadcasters Inc. and can be reached at
[email protected] or 812.746.9728.


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