Real, Authentic In The Radio World

This is for my radio friends.

I’ve always said great radio personalities should be real on the air. Someone I admire and respect in the radio industry, Tracy Johnson, has an article about NOT being real, but being authentic to your character on the air. You can read his piece here.

I have many thoughts about this. First, let’s look at the definitions of the word real and the word authentic. The following is direct from


1. True; not merely ostensible, nominal or apparent. The real reason for an act.

2. Existing or occupying as fact; actual rather than imaginary, deal or fictitous. A story taken from real life.

3. Being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary. The events you will see in the film are real and not made up.

4. Being actually such; not merely so-called: a real victory.

5. Genuine; not counterfeit, artificial or imitation; authentic: a real antique; a real diamond; real silk.

That’s the definition of REAL. Now, I look at that and think it’s pretty spot on as to what people should be on the radio. As a matter of fact, it mentions authentic and it mentions genuine. Hmmm.

Now, let’s look at the definition of authentic from


1. Not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.

2. Having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.

3. Entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy; an authentic report on poverty in Africa.

4. Law. Executed with all due formalities; an authentic deed.

There you go. That’s right from Real and Authentic are basically the same thing.

I agree and disagree with Tracy’s column. I do understand what he’s saying though. Being authentic to your character is important for success. Basically, being perceived as genuine to your audience. But, to me that’s not authentic, but it IS to the character. It’s like Tracy is saying be authentic, but oh…don’t be real. Huh? It’s actually the same. Anyway, I think the main thing I get from Tracy is this: Don’t be real. The opposite of real is fake, HOWEVER, be perceived as authentic and genuine to your character. Playing a role in a “genuine” way. I prefer just being authentic….being yourself….and that is and should always be your character.

I believe it’s always best to be you. It may or may not work. Real. Authentic. Genuine. All of it in my opinion. You can be 110% You. It’s something that can be a pathway to success or failure, but it is genuine. People will either like you or not. When I say be real, I mean to ALWAYS be authentic and genuine. If you are just you from top to bottom, your character should be that way. Why? Because being authentic and genuine is being you, therefore your character is just that, because it’s you…period. The good, the bad, the ugly. It’s genuine.

People TRY too hard to CREATE a radio personality who’s authentic and genuine. Live your life in a real, honest, fun way and take it to the radio and be entertaining with your life. Evoke fucking emotion. Be a master storyteller. Real is preferred. Fake if you have to, with the perception ALWAYS authentic and genuine.

Radio is full of great real, authentic, genuine radio personalities who do everything well. Howard Stern is the perfect example of someone who does it all at a top notch level. Now, he may stretch a few things because it is showbiz and we’re all having fun. Most of all, he is genuine and authentic. Why? Because he is himself…real. It’s easier to just be yourself. Your on-air character and you is the same. I can say that for many: Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez etc. The flipside: Many people are perceived as authentic and genuine, but their on-air life and their private life are two different things. I hate that, but if it works for you,  I guess that’s all that matters I suppose. Radio is full of fake, phony people (as is tv and everything else) who come across as being authentic, real, genuine, but it’s an act. I loathe that, but I get it. What they do is what Tracy is saying, being authentic to their character and it works. As many folks in the radio world have said before…sometimes you have to dumb yourself down etc. Some people CAN’T be who they really are on the air, due to people not connecting, so they must make their character “genuine” in a way that suits the audience, which is different from who they really are. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but sometimes it has to be that way.

Relax. Have some fun.


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