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Christopher Beach: Learning Major Market Radio on the Job

January 16th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

Chris Beach on the PHC Sentinels men's soccer team

Every morning from 6-9am, the popular talk show Bill Bennett’s Morning in America plays on thousands of radios across the nation. Many mornings, the person running the soundboard—mixing music and screening phone calls—is Patrick Henry College junior Chris Beach. As part of a Journalism major internship, he is gathering a taste of big market, nationally-syndicated radio journalism through a part-time job as a “call screener” with this show. Bennett’s “Morning in America” is a program of Salem Communications, the nation’s largest Christian broadcasting corporation.

A veteran of PHC’s weekly Soundboard podcast and the Department of Journalism’s Radio Broadcast class, Beach acquired the basic skill set in broadcast writing and reporting, audio editing and technical “mixing” and sound production needed to qualify for the position. In so doing, he impressed Lloyd Lyles, Bennett’s Creative Ops Director and long-time broadcast veteran during the interview process.

“[Chris] is a good sport around here when we joke about ‘the Intern,’ so he brings gladness to our day,” quips Lyles, who serves as Beach’s supervisor. “But we all seriously appreciate his professionalism. Most importantly, he can take the pressure of a live national radio show.”

What pressures does he mean? For starters, Beach’s morning shift begins at 5:00am, so he typically gets up at 4:00 in order to be ready for work. In the first hour before the show, he helps with show prep by researching, running errands, answering email, and gathering soundbytes. “Everything there is recorded live every day, so there’s not much editing,” he explains.

Then, after his internship each day, Beach completed work for the two classes he was taking at PHC. This demanding schedule will continue through the spring semester, as Beach continues his part-time job at “Bill Bennett”—but nonetheless, Beach has only positive things to say for the challenging experience, one that students at many other colleges only dream of obtaining. He credits the position to David Halbrook, currently PHC’s Director of Communications and adjunct radio broadcast professor, who also supervised Beach’s Soundboard team. As a former employee of Salem Communications and executive producer of Beyond the News Weekend Journal, Halbrook recommended Beach to Lyles, who worked as a production engineer for Halbrook at “Beyond the News.”

“Even beginning as a smaller Christian college, [PHC] is a step above other colleges in political connections,” notes Beach. “My real motivation for attending [PHC] was to get an internship like this one. Lots of other schools use similar rhetoric, but you wonder why the kids don’t get the same number of internships.”

As part of his regular work as a call screener during the morning show, Beach has enjoyed talking to a number of societal figures—everyone from John McCain and Rudy Giuliani to Dolly Parton.

“That’s the coolest part,” he says, “getting to listen to and talk with all these influential political and social figures.”

In the future, Beach hopes to do “something I enjoy, which at this time is radio and journalism.” One day, he plans to be “not only technical, but also the person behind the microphone—discussing politics, or maybe sports. Really, any arena. You take what you can get in this business.”

“A recommendation signed by Bill Bennett—that will go far,” he grins.