One of the cool things about radio is Chicago is several of the stations are owned by the major networks. So are the big four TV stations. In the vernacular of the business, these stations are called O & O’s, owned and operated, because that is exactly how they are owned and run, by the networks. And sometimes the programming crosses over. So the CBS radio station here, WBBM-AM, will run programming from the TV station, WBBM-TV. They mostly run news shows like the Face the Nation and CBS Sunday Morning but they also run 60 Minutes every Sunday night. WBBM-AM is one of the oldest stations in the country and they have a special type of broadcast license thats let’s them broadcast at 50,000 watts. That means the signal travels pretty far. I can listen to them all the way home to my folks house only getting static the last 20 minutes or so of the drive when the corn is high and blocks the signal. On Sunday nights, I try to time my trip back so I can listen to 60 Minutes at some point when the signal is clear. It sounds strange, listening to a TV show on the radio, but with a show like this, the whole theatre of the mind thing takes over.
Last Sunday I was driving down to my parents house (holiday weekend and all) and I tuned into the show. One of the segments was about a researcher in Africa who’s been studying elephants for 20 years for Cornell University. Actually she’s been listening to elephants. Turns out they have a very complex language that we are only beginning to understand. The really cool thing is they say a lot of things in a pitch we humans can’t hear. They’re having these entire conversations right in front of our nose and we don’t even know they’re talking. Makes you wonder about the commentary on the people they see gawking at them at the zoo – look at that guys haircut…what was she thinking wearing those shoes with that outfit?…will someone please find that kids pacifier?!!
In a weird way, I suddenly felt proud of the industry I’d chosen to be in. Not that I’m ever going to be figuring out what a species is communicating. But voiceover is all about communicating. Sure I may be voicing an on-hold phone message or a commercial about the newest juice box, but I also voice e-learning projects so people can learn about new aspects of their fields, documentaries that inspire and inform, and audiobooks that transport the listener to another reality. In communicating with my voice, I connect someone to something important. Every species communicates in some form or another. I’m just jazzed to be one of the communicators in my species.