Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Tragedy Tightrope

I listen to MacKenzie Rae regularly anyway, but this morning I heard a break that was so cleanly constructed and so genuine that I had to deconstruct it.  It reminded me how well tragedy can be done.

Doing tragedy on the radio SUCKS.  We've all heard Dick Clark's raging tirade over coming out of a cheerful record into a story about dead puppies, and we know he had a point.  I was live on The Fox during the Columbine shootings.  The moment seared into slow-motion nightmare for me, the moment that returns at four in the morning, is snatching a Tanner Gun Show spot from the cart deck as Taking Care of Business was fading, as my PD shoved an update from KOA into my hand confirming that another two children were dead.  I didn't implode in that moment, of course, just later over a few shots of tequila. 

I don't remember how I did that break.  I wasn't fired that day, but that doesn't mean I did it well.  Tragedy is really, really hard to do.

In McKenzie's break, the construction was pristine and the delivery anti-tabloid.  She had a reason for telling me about Mick Jagger's girlfriend L'Wren.  It wasn't just the backsell of a Stones record; she gave me a tour update as well. They had to reschedule a tour date because Mick is having a very bad day.  His girlfriend not only died, but she appears to have killed herself. 

There were just enough words to give me all the information and also enough feeling, because McKenzie didn't shy away from the feeling.  She allowed her voice to go heavy with sadness and to leave that on the end of the break.  It was a genuine amount of sadness as well.  It's sad news, even if we didn't know the lady.  I liked another thing about that break, too; it reminded me that Mick Jagger, one of the heroes of our format, is a feeling human being.  That point has been in question in my mind more than once. 

McKenzie used one other dynamic in execution that I admired; she kept it brief.  It reminded me that when you're walking on a loose, wiggly tightrope with no net, it's best to keep the walk short.  It lends more dignity, and you're safer that way.

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