Q. – Where did the idea for the book come from?
A. – I’ve always been interested in words and their usage. I learned to appreciate correct usage as a disc jockey starting in the early ‘70s and it extended into my college teaching experiences. As an exercise with my students, we began collecting examples of misused and mispronounced words and phrases and discussing them in class. It went from a list to a handout to a pamphlet and finally to the current version after nearly 30 years.
Q. – But you seemed to know very early how important correct language usage is to mass media.
A. – Well, that’s true, but I was fortunate enough to know what my career direction was early, in high school, in fact. I wanted a career in broadcasting and I began paying attention to the way local announcers and disc jockeys communicated early on.
Q. – Did you study media in college?
A. – Yes, I got my degree from San Francisco State University in the late ‘60s. It’s always had an excellent communications department. My concentration was in radio, but there was a heavy emphasis on television and particularly on the aesthetics of mass media. But with the Viet Nam war and all the student protests, it was a tough time to be in school. I was never much of a student, but by this time I had matured and was eager to learn about my major. We all lost a lot of valuable time because of cancelled classes.
Q. – What was the primary inspiration for Now You’re Talkin’?
A. – Oh, probably just my crotchety nature! Or maybe as I’ve aged, I’ve become less patient with the young people I see on TV and their casual approach to communication, to mass media. Some of that professionalism that I valued as a young guy myself seems to be missing these days. There are a lot of mistakes being made by people who have sought to be our spokespeople and as a result I’ve noticed a diminished integrity in the broadcast industry.
Q. – Well, you’ve made it a point to emphasize professional credibility.
A. – Absolutely! That’s all any of us have to represent us professionally, if you think about it. It’s our credibility. Why should anyone pay attention to those of us who have chosen to communicate as a profession and then treat language so cavalierly? It’s part of developing the skill. I suppose a lot of it stems from the way technology has allowed us to communicate in a more casual manner these days, but I feel were a lot worse off for it.
Q. – Where’d you get your first job?
A – I got my first class FCC license from Ogdon’s in Huntington Beach in 1969 and ended up that summer in Modesto at KTRB, which was a pioneering radio station with a long history in the central valley. About the time I joined the staff, a lot of other young guys were being hired there and we learned from one another. That was the cool part of working there. We were young, idealistic, prone to mistakes, but we had a great camaraderie and there was a real family atmosphere. It was a terrific experience.
Q. – But you moved from radio into television.
A. – Well, I was at KTRB for about five years before I moved back to Sacramento where I was raised. I worked in radio for awhile, but after a few years got into TV working for an independent station, KTXL TV40. It’s the Fox affiliate now. That was a great place back then. I wrote and produced commercials and special events, did a lot of announcing, then moved over to the CBS affiliate in town doing about the same thing. Then in the mid-‘80s, I got a chance to teach part-time at the community college level. So I taught some history classes, announcing classes, TV studio technique, and it was about this time that the book began to take form.
Q. – Did you stay in broadcasting throughout your career?
A. – No. My teaching experiences got me a job as a trainer with IBM Global Services teaching a computer application designed to manage Child Protective Services cases throughout the state. So I was a full-time trainer for about 10 years teaching soft skills, business seminars, and, later, telephone equipment for Pacific Bell which became SBC and eventually AT&T once again. ‘Different names for the same organization, but it was a good job. Most recently I worked for the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Q. – You worked in a prison?
A. – Actually, yes, for a short time anyway. But after a couple of years, I transferred to the Office of Correctional Education and retired from there at the end of 2011.
Q. – So, it sounds like you had to quit working to get your book published.
A. – That’s true! It actually took about 30 years to compile the information, but I finally got serious about making it into a book in the summer of 2007. Publishing Now You’re Talkin’ turned out to be my first post-retirement project.
Q. – What’s next, then? ‘Any other books?
A. – Oh, well, maybe. I’ve enjoyed writing short stories and essays based on my experiences as a kid growing up or little episodes in my life. I’ve written a couple dozen and I’m being encouraged to put them together. And I’ve got other things going on. I perform in a band; a classic rock band with a horn section that plays a lot of Chicago and Tower of Power-inspired material. It’s a large band called On Air. There are 11 musicians. We’re pretty active especially in the spring and summer. Plus there’s a bucket list of places we want to go including the Panama Canal, so I intend to stay quite busy.