Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Today we have an archive post. This column below originally published on Thursday, February 26, 2015.  It is one of my favorites.

Tanya Ott

Tanya Ott is one of the best teachers in public media.  She is Vice President of Radio at Georgia Public Broadcasting.  I’ve worked on a couple of projects with her and I am amazed by the way she shares her knowledge.

On Friday 2/20/15 I saw a post on the AIR list from Tanya. She was replying to this question about how to get a job in public radio news:

I've been working on getting my resume together to start applying for producer/reporter jobs at local NPR member stations, and I've run into an issue: I'm not entirely sure what an air-check is.

Would anyone be able to chime in with their two cents on what a station might be looking for when they ask for an aircheck with an application?
Thanks in advance for any input you might have!
Here is Tanya’s Reply:

Tanya Ott’s reply:

I've worked in and managed public radio newsrooms for 26 years and hired many dozens of reporters, hosts and producers.

My advice (besides highlighting your best work) is this:

1. Match your aircheck to the job description.

If you're applying for a host position that occasionally reports front load your aircheck with hosting samples, then include some reporting towards the end.
And vice versa for a reporter position that occasionally fills in as host. (I still call an aircheck a “reel” .... And yes, I do still know how to splice reel to reel tape.)

2. Research the station and know that they do.

At my current station (and my last station) our focus is long-form reporting. In fact, my last station didn't do any traditional "spot" news on a regular basis... so putting a bunch of :45 voicers or wraps on an aircheck would have been kinda pointless.

3. Do not telescope or montage your reporting if you're applying for a reporter position.

I want to hear not only your voice and how well you write in and out of tape, but I'm also judging your reporting prowess on the narrative arc and structure of a piece.

4. Provide a written summary of the items on your aircheck.

List the type of story (feature (wrap, voicer, audio postcard, live election coverage, etc) and length of the piece,  Then I can easily get to what I want to hear. This may not be as necessary if you're simply pointing a potential employer to your online resume/work samples.

5. You may be asked to submit a sample of your newscasts or hosting.

This can be tough if you haven't held a host position or newscasts. It's okay to record a "mock" newscast, just indicate that in your cover letter and/or the aircheck rundown. And make sure it's as close to what a normal newscast would sound like (ie include a weather report, etc).

Hope this is helpful! -- Tanya Ott


I want to underscore two of Tanya’s points:

• Absolutely do research the station before you apply. 

This will help you with the way you approach the station.  I always listen to a client’s station or program to catch a vibe of the shop I will be consulting.

• Absolutely do provide a printed rundown of your “reel.”

For me there is nothing worse than getting an unknown, unmarked audio file. Provide a “guide” for the people who will review your work.

Here are a couple of my own recommendations for audio or video job demos:

• Remember, the first thirty seconds of the demo are really, REALLY important. 

They are the listener’s first impression of you. I’ve never hired anyone based on thirty seconds of content but I have discarded many applicants because of obvious deficiencies in the first few moments of their reel. 

• The total time for the reel should be five minutes or less. 

Put the total time for the reel on the rundown.

Happy hunting.  We need new people in public media.

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