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Opinion: Engineers Dissed Again

Among the top 30 young people in radio, none are engineers.

Among the top 30 young people in radio, none are engineers.

That, at least, is the implication of an announcement from Edison Media Research of its “30 Under 30.”

The company markets itself as a source of strategic information to radio stations and other media but committed a stumble when it conducted a six-month nationwide search for “30 talents ages 30 and younger in broadcasting.”

The list includes operations managers, program directors, consultants, music directors, a play-by-play announcer, an executive producer and a managing partner.

No technical titles.

Edison is not alone in having this blind spot. RW has taken other organizations to task for dissing technical people; for instance we complained that the group Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio issues an annual analysis of how women fare among the ranks of top industry execs: GMs, PDs and general sales managers. Yet MIW does not mention technical management despite the critical role of technology in our industry’s management and growth.

We know these groups are well intended, and we know each is really focusing on its own industry niches; Edison’s list is heavy with air talent, for example (though it did not limit itself to that category when it named the winners “the most gifted 30 radio professionals under 30 years old”).

But industry opinion leaders need to expand their definition of what it means to be “talent” or a “radio professional.” This is not just a trivial matter of semantics; it reveals a mindset with ramifications.

For instance, imagine that a radio company wants to develop its next generation of employees. It sends a manager to a job fair at a campus to pitch the company to talented young people. Now conjure up the words this recruiter will use to describe the opportunities of working for the station.

Would the word “engineering” pass their lips? Would the recruiter even recognize a potential young engineering star if he or she walked by?

Or try this test. Ask your company’s top executive to name your most promising young employees. Does the list include anyone technical?

Industry opinion leaders must reach out to the technical community and recognize engineers as one of the legs holding up their industry chair.

Edison Media and MIW can start by adding technical positions to their next reports. If they don’t know of any talented young engineers, they can read the pages of RW, where we have profiled numerous such professionals of both sexes. If they received no such nominations, the invitations aren’t being sent to the right people. They can pick up the phone and call an SBE chapter. They can ask a radio group’s director of engineering.

Ironically, Edison Media Research invited its 30 talented young finalists to take part in a seminar called “Radio Under Construction.” We don’t suggest they try building or running radio’s future without engineers.

— RW