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I Owe It All to Nelson Pipsqueak

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Jeff Zycinski | 15:27 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Media Week
I was at Glasgow University today, giving a talk about radio as part of the Uni's annual Media Week. A good turnout of 25 -30 students and they seemed to appreciate my fantastic giveaways (River City Soap, Radio Scotland balloons etc). Well, they didn't throw them back at me anyway.

Students are always looking for advice on how to break into radio. I told them the story of Nelson S. Pipsqueak the New York 'Private Eye' whose main character flaw was cowardice. When being threatened by Mafia heavies who wanted him to squeal on his informants, Nelson didn't take too much persuading.

"Suddenly my lips were flapping faster than a shutter on a stormy night and I was spilling more beans than a cowboy with the shakes."

I was very proud of that line. You see, Nelson was a comic character I created in a series of short stories I sent to a local radio station in 1981. A spoof on Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. The stories were read out between 3 and 4 in the morning, with me at home pressing the record button on my Buccaneer cassette recorder.

Many years later, Nelson came to my rescue when I applied for the post-graduate course in journalism at University College, Cardiff. I went down for the selection interview and found myself in a room full of Oxbridge graduates some of whom had fathers who owned newspapers. And I don't mean they owned one copy of a newspaper.

The course selectors wanted evidence of an interest in radio, and I recalled my Pipsqueak stories. They had been broadcast on an actual, genuine radio station. No matter that it had been the middle of the night and I hadn't been paid, they had still gone out on the air. It swung it for me in the interview and a year later I got my Diploma and then my first paid job in radio.

The moral of this tale, if there is one, is to gather and use any kind of relevant experience. I know I always look for that when we're recruiting programme teams.

So, I ended my talk to polite applause and bumped into Greg Hemphill who was on the way in. Of course, his session on comedy was a sell-out. Students were hanging from the rafters.

But hey, he didn't even have any balloons.

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