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A Day in the Life of a Radio DJ

radio dj
Laurie Cataldo

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work for a radio station? To be on the air?

Whenever someone meets me ‘in real life’, they always have a million questions about my job and what I do all day.

In most cases, my job is just like any other. One big difference? I have to work when there are weather and other emergencies, mostly to keep people informed. I don’t get snow days. Sometimes that means sleeping at the radio station.

Also, there are two three-month periods during the year (Spring and Fall) when I’m not allowed to take any days off. Now onto my day.

9 a.m.

I aim to leave my house to get here for 9:50 a.m. and join Lou and Liz for their last on-air break, mostly as a preview for what’s going on on my show. We usually wind up talking about something funny, annoying, or stupid that has happened on my way to work.

9:55 a.m.

After our little chat, I’ll walk down the hall to the kitchen to put my lunch in the fridge and fill up my travel mug with coffee. (We can’t have regular cups in the studio, too much pricey equipment around. Spilled coffee makes for VERY angry engineers.) Technically we aren’t supposed to eat in here either.

10 a.m.

The top of the hour legal ID plays (“THIS is the Jersey Shore’s Hit Music Channel…yadda yadda…WJLK and WJLK-HD Asbury Park…yadda yadda…”) to kick off the hour, then a song plays.

That’s usually when I sit, unravel and plug in my headphones, and log in to the computer, hoping to find something ASAP to talk/write about.

I talk six times an hour, plus the weather. With the exception of the Flashback Cafe, every hour is the same:

I talk after the first song. I then play 2 songs, talk again, then play another song. Then commercials, ending with the weather. After weather is a song, then I talk, play 2 songs, talk, play 2 songs, talk, play one song…then more commercials. Depending on how many commercials are scheduled, and how much time I have before the next hour starts, I’ll play a song, talk, play 2 songs. Then it’s time for the top of the hour ID, and it starts all over again.

I do not get to pick which songs I play. That’s the music director’s job (at our station, that’s Matt Ryan) so if you don’t like what I play, blame him! (Though I can tell you a ridiculous amount of research goes into what songs are played, WHEN they are played, and in what order. It’s insane, and he agonizes over it.)

12 p.m.

I really do take requests during the Flashback Cafe at noon, but I can tell you that if you call me and request death metal or Barry Manilow or something equally ridiculous that doesn’t fit in with what we normally play, your request won’t make it to air.

Sometimes your requests are great, I just don’t have enough time to fit them in. Yes, I feel bad about that. When it comes to the Flashback Games, I make up the questions, make the mash-ups, and do everything involved. If you have an idea for a game, definitely suggest it, you never know!

When I’m not talking on the air, I’m not sitting here with my feet up. I usually have the news on the TV, in case anything big happens. I spend most of my day on the computer looking up articles and stories and trying to find things to talk about.

The hardest part of my job is trying to find things to talk about that I think YOU will find interesting, funny, important or both. I am here for YOU. So if there’s something you want me to talk about, or you think is cool, definitely send it along (call, e-mail, Facebook, whatever.) I love that kind of thing.

A lot of stuff I find tends to come from Facebook, where I interact with a few listeners on a regular basis. Lots of my ‘Facebook listeners’ are some of my favorite people to talk to during the day (Yeahhhh you know who you are!)

One weird drawback of being a radio dj and public figure of sorts, is that my Facebook page can’t be used the way most people’s can. I have to be ESPECIALLY careful about what I post (and more importantly DON’T post.) Those overly emotional status updates, pictures from that awesomely fun night at the bar, and hilarious but inappropriate internet memes can’t happen on my page.

I’m no longer just representing myself, I’m representing the radio station, all the time. It can be inconvenient sometimes, but I LOVE what I do, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This is also important to keep in mind when I’m looking for things to write about for 943thepoint.com. Kind of like I’m doing right now. I have a minimum number of posts I have to write every week, but I try to only write about things I’ll think you’ll be really interested in that will keep people coming back to us. I never write just to hit my quota.

Finding good, quality stuff to write about that I think will relate to people is not easy. I try. I LOVE when people comment on our articles and share them with friends. It makes me feel like I’m not wasting my time.

On a related note, I also hate when people say ‘so what?’ or ‘who cares?’ on our stories. We write them because we think SOMEONE will care, even if it’s a small percentage of our readers. If you don’t care about the topic, you don’t have to read the story. I’m not saying you have to agree with us all the time, I just wish people would be more respectful about it when they disagree.

When it comes to writing for the website, I think I’m at a bit of an advantage because I was a journalism major in college, used to write for my college newspaper, and always just happened to be a pretty decent writer. It’s helpful.

When I write, I try to make sure my sources are legit, my pictures are legally obtained, and my grammar is correct. (Keep in mind that while I’m doing all of this, I still have to figure out what I’m going to talk about on the air, conduct contests, read the noon news, answer the request line, etc…We’re doing the best we can, sometimes a typo slips through. We don’t have editors to proofread for us.)

Speaking of contests, yes they are real. Yes, people really do win. I answer my own phones, and yes, I really do count to caller 94. I always feel REALLY bad for caller 93, and I get REALLY bummed when my winner is not excited about winning, mostly because it sounds terrible on the air when the winner sounds bored. (Please, pretend to be happy for 30 seconds. It’s better for everyone).

3 p.m.

My on-air shift is now over. No, I do not get to go home. I am given production orders with scripts to produce commercials. I have to record my voice reading the script, find appropriate music for the commercial, and upload it into our system. Some days I have no commercials to make, some days I have 10. It’s time-consuming, and probably my least favorite thing to do.

I also have to record the on-air promos that tell you where the Point Crew will be out for the week. Again, I record my voice, and edit together the sound effects, music, etc., and upload it into our system so they play at the right times.

4 – 6 p.m.

I try to head home somewhere in this range of time. Considering the crazy hours people work in radio (I’ve done overnights, and they are the WORST), I’m insanely lucky.

Oh, and if you’re wondering when I eat or go to the bathroom? The answer is simple, whenever I can find time. Sometimes this means running to the bathroom while a song is on, or scarfing down my lunch while commercials are playing, and sometimes it means none of that stuff gets done until 3 p.m.

I also have a show on Saturday nights from 8-midnight, and various appearances with the Point Crew that can happen anywhere, anytime.

If it means making my listeners happy, I’m pretty inclined to do it.

Anything else you want to know about what a typical day is like for me, don’t be shy, I promise I don’t bite! Ask in the comment section below!

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