Cautionary Advice for Aspiring On-Air Talent

George Blaise is a multimedia producer, television personality, accomplished composer and musician. His work in television, commercial production and public service campaign writing has earned him 3 Chicago Emmys 2 national Tellys and a National Community Broadcasters Award. Blaise is also a founding member of the award winning Maat Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre.

Do you really want to be an on-air talent? Seems like a simple enough question.

But I do not believe that you eager faces amongst the sea of “communications” majors aspiring to such really understand what is being asked in that simple inquiry. While an individual may certainly feel as though they understand the role of on-air talent in the grand scheme of television production (be it news, fiction or otherwise) based on what they have observed from the insulated comfort of the shiny side of the screen, the fact of the matter is they are deceived by the image.

We in television are in the business of creating illusions that are intended to focus human attention just long enough to insert into their psyche a previously absent need, then re-direct that attention to awareness of a merchant that will fill that synthetic need. We then profit from monetizing the number of humans we propose to re-direct based on a complex system of arbitrary metrics. On-air talent is the bait in this fishing expedition for eyeballs. You are not the brains. You are not the muscle. You are not the technician or the photographer or the editor. As on-air talent, your responsibility in the television endeavor is to simply be as watchable as possible to as many people as possible for as long as possible.

There are certainly exceptions to every rule but, for the most part, aspiring to be on-air is a public act of sheer vanity. You want to be on-air because you want people to look at you. You have a deep seeded desire to be seen. You are an unashamed narcissist. You crave attention; from friends, family and total strangers equally. And most of all, something inside tells you that you deserve the admiration of all those you encounter. This assessment may sound like criticism but it really is not. It is a warning as much as it is a test of your will to survive your career choice because as an on-air talent, you will at some point be confronted with the reality that you are perishable as ripened fruit.

Producers, writers, journalists, etc. can perpetually improve their knowledge and skill-set and adapt to the ways in which time alters and evolves the industry. Time is not so kind to talking heads. The public is not so forgiving of issues related to declining physical beauty. There will always be somebody more handsome, younger, fresher and more vibrant than you. This reality can be devastating for those that are simply unprepared or unaware of cold truth.

So ask yourself again and be really honest this time. Do you really want to be an on-air talent? If you still do, always remember that you may someday have to face a tragic, ego shattering slap in the face.

Unless, of course, you are an unashamed narcissist.

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