Friday, February 20, 2015

The Letter That Kicked Off A Radio Career

Over the summer, I got a chance to guest host Weekend Edition Saturday. It was one of those moment where you realize your life has come full circle, which can be both overwhelming and very cool (and it was). The regular host, Scott Simon, started a tradition of sharing a personal essay each week. Sometimes it is about his family, sometimes about news events or some goofy story that he's able to riff on.

When I sat down to write my first essay as a guest host, I knew there was only one piece I could write. It was about the letter I wrote to Simon (and a number of other NPR personalities) in 1995 when I was a teenager. It was a letter that started me on the long and winding road that is my career in radio.

Here is that letter, complete with punctuation errors, grammatical problems and embarrassing turns of phrase. I have to say I am most embarrassed by the mean things I said about my hometown and my high school counselor. The town did/does have a lot of dairies but my high school counselor is a truly wonderful person who helped put me on a path to success (so I'm assuming I was just trying to be funny by being mean). 

Dear [NPR Personality],
Hi, I am a 15 year old high school senior, and I need help.  I write a weekly column in my local newspaper and I need interesting stuff to report back from my “Trek Around America” this summer. 
            I included a copy of my next column to give you an idea of my style.  I also put in a tape (copy) of a “NPR type” story I put together for a college English class I took last summer.  It’s obviously not up to your professional standards, but I did my best with the primitive equipment I had to work with. 
            You see, my fondest desire (right after being an MTV VeeJay Chick) is to be a reporter for NPR.  I really need some career advice.  Living in a town where 80% of the population have four legs and udders and the high school a nationally recognized milk tasting team , I need some outside help. 
            I don’t have a clue about good colleges for communications majors, or even if communications is a good major.  If my high school counselor had known anything about career choices she probably would have picked a different one for herself. 
            I will be in Washington DC July 3, 4, 5, and 6.  If there is any way possible that I might get some time for you to mentor me I would be thrilled.
            You can get in touch with me at:
- My Father’s answering machine (he checks it daily) (209) XXX-XXXX
- cell phone # (209) XXX-XXXX
- We will be staying at the Best Western Arlington and Tower and you can leave a message for me there (703) XXX-XXXX
            I know your schedule is very busy but I really need to get a leg up.  Thanks for your time and the insights you regularly provide me with.


Tamara Keith