Archive for the ‘Jobs’ Category

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What I am is what I am…

Minutes after meeting legendary CBS newsman Bill Plante, I was throwing up in the opulent bathroom of the Michigan Avenue Hilton.

It likely had more to do with the several whiskey waters I had tossed back that evening (a little rugged for a 20-year-old Coors Light drinker) than the excitement of meeting Mr. Plante but still, I’d just shaken hands and exchanged pleasantries with a reporter I’d watched on the national news for years.

It was the 1980’s and I was in Chicago for the Society of Professional Journalists (then Sigma Delta Chi) convention. Three of us officers of our university’s chapter made the trip to learn about journalism ethics, meet leaders in the industry and find out if we had what it took to be journalists. We did and all went on to have careers in the field.

The Society of Professional Journalists is our country’s oldest journalism organization, promoting ethics and freedom in journalism for 108 years. It was an honor to belong to it because its members represented the reporters people trusted to tell them the truth.

I grew up during a time of great journalists. Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ed Bradley, David Brinkley, Helen Thomas, Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, Charles Kuralt, Dan Rather, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Walters. We tuned into their broadcasts and read their articles to find out what was happening in our world. They had access to people and places we didn’t so they could go in and ask the questions we wanted to but couldn’t. That was their job – to be our eyes and ears and voices and we trusted them to do that.

I’m proud of the years I spent as a reporter and news director and hope during that time, people regarded me as an ethical journalist who reported the facts.  

Once trusted news outlets and reporters are taking a big hit in credibility these days and President Trump decries “fake news” on a daily basis. In the old days, you could back up your facts with film footage or audio clips or photographs. There was always the chance those materials could be tampered with but the technology wasn’t as readily available to do that as it is today. Now anyone with Photoshop or a video editing app can turn out altered imagery and post it online in minutes for the world to see.

So when it comes to news, if you can’t trust what you see, hear or read, what can you trust? 

Your common sense.

Fake news reels you in because it usually contains just enough truth to make you think it MIGHT be plausible and that little bit of doubt makes you overlook the misinformation and inaccuracies. We’re in such a rush to know, know, KNOW everything that we don’t take the time to step back and use our common sense. 

It’s your right to believe what you want to believe. But wouldn’t you rather believe something that was TRUE?

There are still good, ethical journalists out there who are doing their damnedest to tell us the truth. We just have to be open to hearing it.

Where do you get your news? What media outlets do YOU trust?

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As the last strains of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” (released a hundred years ago and now considered classical music) echo through the control room speakers, the paramedics draw the sheet over my faded “Your face was made for radio” t-shirt. They gently remove the headphones from my greyed head before covering my face and wheeling me out the front door I’ve held keys to longer than to any other place in my life. As they slide the gurney into the ambulance, one medic says, “I grew up listening to her.” The other replies, “So did my parents. And grandparents.”

That’s how I imagined my radio career would end. It ends this Sat., July 18, 2015 for reasons I wouldn’t have imagined. 

Running the board at KJJQ, circa 1987

Running the board at KJJQ, circa 1987

Radio is all I ever wanted to do. Growing up, I recorded my own radio shows on a suitcase-sized tape recorder. At 19, I went on the air as an intern at KIMM/Hit 100 in Rapid City, SD and from there to a real announcer’s job with KJJQ/Q102 in Brookings, SD. I ended up at what’s now KCCR/KLXS in Pierre, SD where, with a few short lapses, I’ve spent nearly 25 years, moving from news director to sales rep to promotions director to PSA director and announcer.

For many years now, the radio station hasn’t felt like a job but more like a second home. A place I go to talk to my friends about anything and everything, to play good music, to inform and entertain. When I started in radio, we played the National Anthem before every sign-on, wrote copy on a typewriter, and used reel-to-reels, carts and turntables. That gave way to cassettes then CD’s then computers and satellite feeds. I feel old yet privileged to have been there for all those changes in my industry.

Deciding to leave was hard. Life made the decision for me. Many of my listeners might not know that for the last 16 years, I’ve had two jobs: a full-time job with the State of South Dakota, and my radio station gig. One feeds my family, the other feeds my soul. When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I didn’t consider quitting either one, although if forced to, which one to leave was obvious. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to go. Through testing, treatment, bone marrow biopsies, crappy chemo days and finally stem cell harvesting, I went on the air as many days as I could. Some days they weren’t my best shows ever but they were the best show I could give that day. Thanks for listening, either way.

I have a stem cell transplant coming up next month and I know it’ll kick that cancer to the curb. But when the transplant and recovery period are over, there can be only one. Job, that is. And practicality, which is not always my strong suit, has dictated which one it has to be.

I’ll miss the people, the spontaneity, the pace, the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen during my show and how to tell you about it when it does. And I’ll miss having a place to go to just be myself. I’ve never used an on-air name that wasn’t my real name because I always wanted radio to just be me on the air with an open mic and something to say.

Maybe my departure from radio isn’t for forever but for just right now. I’ve left and been hired back several times over the years. But if it doesn’t happen again, that’s O.K. Life really is about time – how much you have and what you do with it. I’ve spent a lot of my time working. When you catch your second wind in life, maybe you should use it to climb new mountains and conquer new peaks. Some people go their whole lives without ever getting to do what they really want to do. I got to live my dream for well over half my life and it’s been the BEST TIME EVER.

My last “Kelly Thompson Show” this Saturday will be all requests, as many as I can find the music for and fit into two hours and 52 minutes. Those last 8 minutes are all mine for the final “Three Stories Hot off the Wire” and my good-bye song which will remain a secret until it’s played. If there’s something you want to hear between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. CT July 18, please post it in the comments below or email it to kelly@todayskccr.com by noon on July 16.

If you’re within 150 miles in any direction of Pierre, SD this Saturday morning, tune me in on your radio at 1240 AM. And if you’re not, I’ll be streaming live at todayskccr.com. It’ll just be me on the air with an open mic and something to say.

Kel on the air

Talking the talk in my control room

My father tells two stories about his experience with flying, one haunting, the other horrific.

In the first, he’s on a DC3 headed for Springfield, Missouri in a thunderstorm when he looks out the window and sees the engine is on fire. The pilot shuts it down and with one remaining engine, looks for a break in the clouds so he can land. Spotting one, he banks sharply, dropping so low to the ground that in the glow of the landing lights, my father can see a herd of horses running across a field below. They’re so close that he can count 10 of them.

In the second, he’s on a 737 landing at the Kansas City Airport. My father and his co-worker have just come down the stairway in the tail of the plane and are walking across the tarmac to the terminal when the tail blows up. The explosion knocks them to the ground.

My father is not a fan of flying. Unfortunately, I inherited that gene. And Tuesday, it cost me my dream job.

For the past several weeks I’ve been a finalist for a marketing director position with a small publishing company. Despite the fact that the job came with a substantial cut in pay and benefits, I wanted it. It also involved a fair amount of travel and upon inquiring of the interviewer as to what made them reluctant to hire me (you should always ask), the flying issue is what did me in.

I recall the brief conversation during the third and final interview in which I commented that while large planes don’t bother me, small aircraft, the kind that hold 20 passengers or less, do. In the city where I live, small planes are the only means available to get you to a hub airport.

I made the admission because when I got the job, I would be traveling with this person and I wanted to be upfront about it. I imagined the scenario if I wasn’t: we’re on our first flight together, she strikes up a pleasant conversation and through clenched teeth, I say, “I don’t mean to be rude but right now I’m concentrating on not running down that narrow aisle and flinging myself out the emergency exit. So if you can please wait until we get on the big plane, I promise I will talk your ear off.”

I thought being honest was the right thing to do. It wasn’t.

I have a history of plane problems. When I was a baby, my family was on a 737 leaving Ashville, NC. The plane’s front wheels were just lifting off when its middle engine blew up. We dropped like a rock, bouncing and skidding on the runway, the plane stopping about 100 feet from the end. I don’t remember that. But my father does.

As an adult, my dicey track record with the unfriendly skies continued: planes struck by lightning, planes that caught fire, planes that tried to land during tornados. And the usual travel annoyances like lost luggage and having coffee spilled down my back by a stewardess who tried pouring during turbulence.

During my previous career, I traveled often, many times by myself, usually by plane or car. I’ve got the driving skills of an over the road trucker; I can knock off 800 to 1,000 miles behind the wheel in one sitting with no problem. Sometimes to avoid flying the small planes, I’ve just driven to the hub and caught the larger one. It’s never been a big deal for my travel companions, if I had any.

In rejecting me for my dream job this week, the interviewer noted that the position needed to travel the country “in the most efficient way without having to be directed to do so” and that it would have been a problem to “insist that someone overcome their hesitations in that respect.” That’s a very nice way to put it but it’s still a rejection. And I never said I wouldn’t fly, just that sometimes it’s not my favorite way to travel.

Do I wish I’d kept my mouth shut? Absolutely. Next time will I? You better believe it.

Have you ever been honest about something in a job interview and it cost you the job? If you had the chance to take it back, would you?