Speed work

I do a morning radio news broadcast here in Albany. Ever since lockdown, I’ve been doing it at home. This means I need to upload what I can by 8:52 a.m., 8:58 a.m. if I can squeeze in PSAs before my piece.

I start by checking the weather, write snippets from history (thank you, Wikipedia) to use as commentary. Then I list famous birthdays.

I pull the news from local papers, adding in bits and pieces picked up from daily interviews I do for another magazine-style program on downtown life.


It’s all quite fast. By 9 a.m. I’m exhausted, but also ready for the rest of my day writing, editing, and working at the library every other week, under ever-changing reopening schedules.

A couple of months ago I figured out that I could brighten up my listeners’ mornings by pulling music from the birthday list. Some days it’s a hard dilemma whittling down to three or four songs. Do I play Linda Ronstadt, Depeche Mode, Huey Lewis or some new hiphop artist I’ve never heard of? I’ve had to stretch beyond my comfort zone, aiming at an eclectic mix that matches the diversity we’re proud of in the ‘hood.

This morning I played a feisty German electronic dance piece by the Italian trio MoDo, Telstar (from 1962), a huge 1966 global hit by the French singer Herve Vilard,, and a soulful civil-rights plea from the great jazz pianist Billy Taylor.

This is all done with great speed, which means it’s also done with reliance on instinct. This mode of working becomes addictive over time. You seem able to do more than you would with deliberation and deeper analysis. Furthermore, all doubts get tossed permanently as you pile fast deadline on fast deadline.

The problem is that things sometimes slip. Editing slip-ups land on whoever it is you’re editing. Your readers and listeners start to feel condescended to.

Then the whole thing repeats itself. That’s the nature of speed-work addiction.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.