I’m driving through Jacksonville, Fla., listening to that famously long Pink Floyd song "Us and Them" when the DJ begins answering the phone over the music without realizing he is on-air.
The first few calls are ordinary requests and stupid questions from guys. Then a young lady calls and the DJ’s abrupt phone manner immediately alters.
Within a minute he is trying to get the female caller to come down to the station after he gets off the air so they can go have a drink together. She laughs a few times, innocently flirtatious. He tries to close the deal and she says oh, no, she has school the next day. He tries to sweet-talk her, laying it on pretty thick, and she finally gets nervous and hangs up.
The next caller says, "Hey, dude … You know you’re on the air, right?" Mr. Suave DJ says, "What do you think I am, a moron? Of course I’m on the air. I’m on the air every day at this time."
"Yeah," replies the caller. "And the whole world was listening to you trying to pick up that jail bait. And to me telling you that, yes, you are a moron."
Three years later, I watch as a bookkeeper is being escorted to her car after being caught embezzling funds. She says she needed the money to put her son through college. The owner very generously decides not to prosecute.
Flash forward a few more years. I’m now a program director. It’s late Saturday night and I realize that I left a pair of tickets to tomorrow’s concert in my office. Since I rarely see the guy who hosts "Saturday Night Metal Shop," I decide to pop into the studio while I’m at the station.
He has his bare feet up on the console, a beer in one hand and a joint in the other.
He looks up at me and says, "Hey dude, what’s goin’ on?"
True story No. 4: Station clusters become the norm and suddenly there are more people than ever in one building. Theft is now an issue and much to the shock of the employees, we’ve installed Webcams near the prize closet.
We watch the recording as two people whom we’d trusted load our gift certificates, T-shirts, autographed items and tickets into a bag. I feel a mixture of sadness and anger as I call the police. The cops come, watch the recordings and obtain warrants for the arrest of our former employees.
Smart, not paranoid
The hard truth is that no matter how senior managers feel about their employees, they must keep their eyes and ears open.
This means unannounced but regular auditing. It means occasionally listening in on the request lines to see how on-air talent is interacting with the public.
It means randomly checking e-mails, text messages and Facebook pages to make sure communication with listeners and other staff members is appropriate. It means having an outside auditor look at your books at least once a year.
It also means letting your staff know that what they do at work isn’t private — especially since they work in a very public business.
They should be told that communications can be and are being monitored and that their behavior is expected to be held to a certain moral and ethical standard.
Make sure they know you’ve got a zero tolerance policy when it comes to internal or external harassment, theft and drug abuse on the job.
I am not suggesting that you become a paranoid employer. But being naïve and believing that all is hunky-dory is risky business.
Better you should find nothing when you look every three or four months than to hide your head in the sand and deal with larger issues later.
And yes, I did finish that guy’s "Metal Shop" air shift. I felt sorry for the next station that might hire him. But lo and behold, within weeks he was on another station’s overnight. His new employer never called me for a reference.
Mark Lapidus, a longtime contributor to Radio World, is president of Lapidus Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.