On the air:

By Alexandra Gray

Guest Writer: Every quarter, Journalism 201 students write profiles of people in the community. They can then submit them for the chance to be published. The Horizon chose this profile about KGMI radio broadcaster Dillon Honcoop.

Dillon Honcoop’s brown eyes intently read through the top news stories on Associated Press. He’s standing in front of the soundboard in the KGMI studio. He narrows it down to three stories to read in his one-minute time frame for the news update, but now he has to decide what order to read them. It comes down to two stories about murder, and he picks the one of a murder trial to read first.  

So why is that story more important? “It’s hard to quantify that,” Honcoop says. “You got to make a call on your gut feeling on what’s more important.”

With that he gathers the stories in front of him, puts on his headphones, turns on the mic and presses the button for the news music as he pushes a timer to monitor his time. Honcoop speaks clearly, loudly and quickly as he reads through the news update, so he can get the most news into a one-minute time limit.  

Honcoop, 27, has worked for KGMI radio for the last four years. The shortage of staff means his job title has a lot of hyphens in it, but to keep it simple, Honcoop is a reporter and talk show host. Keeping it simple is important in news radio. With such a short amount of time to grab the listener’s attention, everything has to be precise, or as Honcoop says, “Keep it as minimal as possible and don’t use confusing words.” Overall, people want shorter stories and a higher news count.

“People don’t want a ton of details,” Honcoop says. “If they want details they go online or read the newspaper.” This is part of the reason that KGMI has been branching out into social media and Internet Web sites.

Honcoop is wearing a white button-up short-sleeve shirt with yellow and gray stripes, his hair is spiked up and he is looking at Facebook, but he’s actually doing his job. KGMI has a page on Facebook and its own Web site so the news staff can update the news faster and more regularly. Honcoop has been “trying to get hip to all the social media,” he said, since a great deal of his job is now online as well as on-air.

Honcoop’s desk is in the KGMI newsroom is neat, as are most of the desks in the room. Next to his phone is a used copy of “The AP Stylebook,” along with a stack of papers containing news and information that he needs for “PM Bellingham,” a talk show he and his coworker Tracy Ellis will host later on in the evening.

He usually gets to the station around 1 to 2 p.m. and starts to work gathering the news immediately. He needs to set up a couple of substantial interviews for “PM Bellingham,” which starts at 5 p.m. The first man he tries to contact is from the Ferndale Fire District, but he’s out on a call so Honcoop tries his cell phone. “Cell phone numbers are worth their weight in gold,” he says, as he dials the number and gets an answer.

Next he calls a woman working in real estate and finds out that she can give him quarterly numbers for real estate which aren’t supposed to come out until the next day.. He gets excited about this because it means KGMI will have this information before anybody else.

Honcoop has a short amount of time to get a lot of work done and he doesn’t always have time to make everything perfect, which is hard for him. He remembers what one boss told him when he was starting out. “Look, no one dies in this business,” the boss said, which Honcoop says helped him take a more realistic approach to working in radio.

Everything Honcoop does, he has to do fast and with fewer people to do the work there is more pressure.

“It got to me at first,” Honcoop said. “I would freak out.” One of the main skills that Honcoop has learned over his years working in radio is how to deal with the pressure. Honcoop also feels the pressure when he has to write news.

“No one edits my stuff,” he said. “I have to edit myself.” Since it is so important in news for everything to sound professional, Honcoop picked up on self-editing very quickly.

In fact, Honcoop picked up everything pretty quickly, but his work hasn’t been without the occasional mistake though.

Being live on the air isn’t easy. If you make a mistake, you’re embarrassed because of all the people listening, but you just keep moving on. That’s exactly what Honcoop had to do one morning. He was filling in on an early morning show for a co-worker and at the very beginning of the show he had to introduce himself. He said, “Hi. I’m Audra Schroeder!” His name was, of course, Dillon Honcoop and he was filling in for Audra Schroeder.

Another such mistake, though much smaller, happened while he was interviewing the woman in real estate. As he was recording the interview, he accidentally phrased a question the wrong way. He calmly finished the question and when the woman began to answer, he muted his mic so she wouldn’t hear and muttered a profanity.  Then he turned the mic back up and finished interviewing the woman.

Mistakes happen and everything can’t be perfect. If something goes wrong, there’s very little time to fix it. So the best you can do is learn from your mistakes and move forward… quickly. Even if, as Honcoop says, you “kinda sound like an idiot.”

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