Steal This Job

Turn It Up: Programming Assistant, WLZL-FM

Steal This Job
David Garcia (above) is programming assistant at Lanham, Md.-based El Zol WLZL-FM. (Jeff Baum)
By Chris Mincher
Monday, November 21, 2005; 5:08 PM


JOB: Programming assistant at Lanham, Md.-based El Zol WLZL-FM, the Spanish-language station that replaced WHFS 99.1 in January.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in radio and television broadcasting from San Jose State University.

WHAT HE DOES: Garcia helps decide what music goes on the radio and works with the stations' promotions staff to coordinate events with community organizations. On the music end, he aids the programming director in setting the play list (or "music log" in radio parlance) by looking at trends in listener requests, suggestions from DJs and the charts. Part of song selection is gambling on music that's not yet popular: "We also play some stuff that people may wonder, 'Is it a hit?' But often it will take time to develop," he said. On the promotions side, community organizations contact Garcia about their events and he determines the station's involvement. Maybe the group just needs a public service announcement, or maybe the event warrants the full-on DJ-and-free-giveaway treatment.

WOULD YOU WANT HIS JOB? If you like a tame, routine schedule, no. The hours can change wildly on a daily basis. "You could have to get up early in the morning for a car wash or something and stay late for a festival that goes into the night," he said. Plus, because a radio station is active 24-7, employees have to come in at all kinds of late hours to set programming.

HOW YOU CAN GET HIS JOB: First, put together an "air check" -- a demo tape on which you intersperse music and monologue. "That's how we all start off," said Garcia. Next, try to get any radio station job you can. A good place to start may be as a board operator, which was Garcia's first job. Board ops answer phones and make sure the music keeps playing, often during the graveyard shift. "You do [small] things like that and it really does pay off," he said. "You have to be willing to put in the time and effort." And at El Zol and its kin, of course, it's strongly suggested that job applicants speak Spanish.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The National Association of Broadcasters lists jobs and internships. Locally, check out the Virginia Association of Broadcasters.

This article originally appeared in the Express on July 11, 2005.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company