In Broadcasting Arts class (instructed by CFNY alum Liz Janik) I remember the shock that spread through the class when it was commented that Toronto’s most popular morning radio personality likely earned around three-quarters of a million dollars a year.   Their job?  To chat on the radio every morning between songs and commercials.

Seven-hundred and fifty THOUSAND dollars…to answer phones, chat about celebrities, mention what they had for dinner the night before, laugh at jokes, and introduce songs.

It occurred to me this morning: who would you rather have earning that kind of money?  The person you invite into your morning commute every morning, or the person you scoff at for eating bugs and ‘surviving’ on a desert island for 20 days on TV?

Because, really, its all about the same thing: Personality.

This all came up because a song’s chorus won’t leave my head.  I don’t want to name it as I’ll be scoffed at by friends who are well aware I’ll be interning for the label who signed the artist…but let’s just say it’s about becoming a reality TV star, and the chorus involves the sound of a cash register.

These reality stars get their chance at fame because they have personality.  Love ’em, hate ’em, at least they’re interesting! They were hand-selected NOT because of their skill at tying knots or starting fires…in fact, it’s the opposite that gives them the biggest chance…but for their personality: were they the BIGGEST of their ‘type?’ I mean, you can’t have two barbie girls, two old men, two athletes, two flaming queens and two religious mothers!  Imagine how boring that would be! But if you have the prettiest ballerina, the gruffest farmer, and a man so gay he ignites the island…THAT’S A SHOW!!!

Now for a game…

Picture your fifteen closest friends.  Not ‘funnest’ friends…you can include work friends and school friends who are close but not party animals in this brain game.  Now…picture a reality show about them.  Which people would draw the most interest from viewers, get the most votes, have the biggest Facebook fan page?  Do you have four math nerds, gamer geeks, or fashion police in your circle of friends?  Are there three people who don’t like to talk in crowds?  Worse…is there only one person who’s a leader, the rest kinda sheepish?

The ones with the most fan tweets…the ones with the most personality.

And that’s why they CALL a radio show host a ‘Personality.’  They aren’t DJing…if you’re LUCKY they’re actually using a computer to drag song-files into a queue between ads and PSAs.  No, they are hired because they can project an interesting personality with only their voice.  A personality that the majority (not all, of course) of listeners can relate to, laugh with, want to hear about last night’s dinner, talk to on the air, invite into their morning commute…

That takes a lot of skill, and as I hope I just showed with my ‘Reality TV’ game is not something everyone can do.  To single-handedly keep the interest of thousands of people, to be the best at something that thousands of people interact with…and keep them listening through commercials! I’d say that’s worth three-quarters of a mill.

I’m not ending there!  Take a moment to ponder the concept of personality and now apply it to your favourite AND least favourite musicians, actors, politicians, etc.  I’d wager that your favourites have personalities you like or that interest you…and that your least favourites either have NO personality, or have one that grates you. I’d also wager that, except in crazy circumstances, the ones with no personality are usually less successful than the others.

They say that people who hated Howard Stern tended to listen to his show even longer than those who were fans.  THAT’S personality.


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