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From Radio Girls to #FoodPorn

From my bookshelf, four titles to stimulate your media senses

Oh it’s book time again!

“Radio Programming and Branding” — If you are looking to improve your radio craft or to start your own show, podcast or station, Gary Begin has expertise to share in this 2015 book.

The style of his breezy work will be familiar to anyone who has read Begin’s occasional articles in the pages of Radio World. The 200-page paperback — subtitled “the ultimate podcasting and radio branding guide” — offers techniques to help you thrive in today’s digital world.

Typical chapters are two or three pages long and consist of 10 to 12 paragraphs of ideas. Topics include what makes a good PD; how to develop a personal brand; weekend programming; dealing with your consultant; how a GM can boost morale; top radio promotion categories; and resources for podcasting.

This is not heavy stuff but rather a series of chatty, real-world thought prompts, discussion starters and best practices intended to help freshen your approach to work or to set objectives in your new project.

Gary Begin is founder and president of Sound Advantage Radio; he has worked in programming and on the air in Florida, Rhode Island, Michigan, Maryland, Georgia and Maine.

“Radio Programming and Branding” is put out by Library Tales Publishing and retails for $17.99. The publisher adds that RW readers get a 15 percent discount if they order via and enter “RadioWorld15” in the coupon code field.

“Producing New and Digital Media” — This new textbook is pitched as a guide to savvy use of the Web in an age of participatory media. It is written by James Cohen, program director for the Molloy College New Media Program, and Thomas Kenny, television studio and media facilities manager for the Communications Department at Molloy, and published by Focal Press, a source of many wonderful titles of interest to media professionals.

Their purpose is for readers to become wise in digital media by understanding the theories and cultural significance of technology, the platforms involved and the Web as a communication device. The authors want to help you become a storyteller.

Major topics include creativity in the online environment; Web literacy; memes and online visual online language; viral videos; multimedia storytelling; and the online personal brand. They explore why to participate in online communities, how viral videos work and the influence of Web television and memes on the digital landscape.

Yes it’s a textbook but it’s far from dull. This is for people who want to have a more organized understanding of topics like Khan Academy, lolcats, remix memes and #foodporn. For some readers, especially digital natives, the discussion may seem simplistic; for others it will be a welcome introduction to concepts that drive a new media universe but can sometimes seem daunting. Though written for students, it is a good way for any non-digital natives to learn stuff that their 15-year-old niece already knows, without being embarrassed.

“Producing New and Digital Media” is a 266-page paperback from Focal Press ( I like it, though it’s pricy at $49.95 retail, a common problem with titles intended as textbooks (the hardback is $150!).

“The Radio Boys and Girls” — Imagine a picture on the cover of a Hardy Boys detective story book. In the foreground, 16-year-old Frank stands outside a sinister cabin, peering through the window, presumably at bad guys inside. In the background, younger brother Joe crouches on the ground over a radio set, listening intently as the moon rises behind them.

What does Frank spy through that window? What might Joe hear on that little radio set?

The picture appeared on the cover of “The Short-Wave Mystery” in 1945 and highlights the excitement boys and girls must have felt over the previous five decades when reading adventure stories involving various forms of wireless, telephone, telegraph and radio. It’s a superb subject for Mike Adams, academic and lifelong radio guy whose work I’ve noted here in the past.

“The radio juvenile fiction series was an early form of social media,” he writes in the introduction. “A hundred years before the smartphone and the Internet, it was the book that brought strangers together in their common interest of wireless and radio. For the young reader, these books became a shared social experience as young boys and girls came together to build crude radios in their basements and garages and communicated back and forth.”

Adams introduces us to numerous writers of juvenile fiction through a series of short biographies. We also learn about the “radio century,” which he divides into four eras: wired communication (telegraph and telephone), wireless communication, the transition to radio and everything after 1922.

Then he dives into the stories themselves: “Tom the Telephone Boy.” “Bert Wilson, Wireless Operator.” “The Radio Boys in the Secret Service.” “The Radio Girls on Station Island.” “Janet Hardy in Radio City.” Reading his engaging plot summaries, we are thrust into adventures involving mysterious men, deep-forest rescues, ocean dramas, tobacco smuggling, ghosts and cannibals. But we also read about crystal sets, CQDs, receiving inductance, tube amplifiers and plenty of satisfying, antediluvian tech talk.

Mike Adams is professor emeritus of radio, television and film at San Jose State University, where he has been department chair and associate dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts, and he has written a half-dozen books and created two documentaries for PBS.

“The Radio Boys and Girls” is a 240-page softcover with lots of fun period illustrations that will interest any fan of bygone radio topics. It is published by McFarland at a reasonable retail price of $39.95. Find it at

“Where Have All The Broadcasters Gone?” — This brief paperback is the 1996 autobiography of radio station owner and engineer Charles B. “Charlie” Persons, who lived 1909–1998. His son Mark Persons is a contributor to Radio World.

In this self-published book, Charlie Persons writes about starting in radio broadcasting at age 17 at WEBC at Duluth, Minn., and shares stories about a career of almost seven decades in radio and television cable systems, as well his experience becoming a private pilot.

This is one of a genre of personal radio books I’ve mentioned on occasion. You usually won’t find them at your local library, unless you live in an author’s home town. Sometimes they’re very short and not well edited or executed (Mark Persons tells me his dad insisted the book be published “as he wrote it, spelling and grammar errors included”).

But I tell you about books like this because they usually are labors of love. They provide personal insights into the lives of your fellow radio people. What such books lack in polish or proofreading, they make up for in love of the medium. Picking up such a book can be like having an unexpected opportunity to sit for an hour or three with a newfound radio pal who is old enough to remember when the FCC ordered stations to reduce power by 10 percent during World War II (and explain why), or recall working as an engineer at WEBC in 1929 and living in a bedroom downtown at the Y.

Find it at Retail price $7.95 plus shipping. As I write, there are about two dozen copies left, with no plans to print more.

I have more books to tell you about so I’ll have another column soon.