IMAGINE you're in a small room. It has carpet on the floor and carpet on the walls.
You sit in a soft chair and put on a pair of headphones - not the kind that comes with a Walkman, but the ones that go over your entire ear.
Everything is very quiet.
What do you see? In front of you is a large control table or console with little lights, sliding buttons, and meters. Maybe there are a few more people in the room who also have headphones on. Through a glass window, you can see people working with reels and electronic machines.
You bring your mouth close to a microphone to talk and.... 4 - 3 - 2 - 1: You're on the air.
Everyone listens to the radio, so we all know what it's like to be on the receiving end. But did you ever wonder what it's like to be on the broadcasting end? Maybe you've thought about being a radio DJ, a reporter, or a talk-show host.
Most radio broadcasts are done by adults, but there are radio shows by kids just for kids too. So what is it like to be on the radio? I asked three kids - one from Boston, Mass., one from Napa, Calif., and one from Minneapolis, Minn., - what it's like for them.
Sean Donahue is 11 years old and has been doing radio for three years. He is a reporter for Kid Company, a radio program that airs in the Boston area on WBZ Radio. Sean went through a training course to learn as much as he could about journalism, and after a few stories he decided to make politics his "beat" - his area of concentration.
Last year, Sean covered the Republican and Democratic conventions for Kid Company. He met Bill Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. Now he will focus on Mr. Clinton as president. "I'm looking forward to covering stories about him in the White House - what he does with his budget plan, on education, the special issues he needs to face," Sean told me.
It's important to be involved with all the issues, Sean says. "If kids could just pick up a newspaper, look at the top stories and actually read them - and not just the sports and funnies - they could learn a lot," Sean says. "We are the future, and we are going to make decisions too, but we're also part of the present. Kids can make a difference."
Sean is already a reporter, so I asked him if he could see himself in politics in the future. "I want to be some day," he said. "I hope so. I've always had the dream of becoming a senator."
One of the slogans at Kid Company is: "Kids don't have to be seen in order to be heard." Kid Company airs live (which means it hasn't been taped earlier) on Saturday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. The program is for kids aged 8 to 14 and has music, news, features, interviews, reviews, wacky-word and trivia quizzes, and discussions about many different topics. One recent show talked with kids who cook, discussed what to do if you're lonely, featured an interview with a producer of the latest "Ninja Turtles" mo vie, and conducted a telephone poll: "What's the best thing you ever spent your money on?"
"It's fun to see what you hear through the radio," said Elizabeth Stanton, a 14-year-old who was a guest on Kid Company with her friend Dina Hasiotis to talk about what they like to cook: stir-fried chicken-and-vegetables and peanut butter cookies.
They brought samples, which gave host Josh Binswanger a chance to "munch munch" on the radio, something he normally wouldn't do.
Liv Mills-Carlisle has also been doing radio shows for three years. She is a 15-year-old who lives in Napa, Calif., and serves as the enthusiastic anchor for Kidstalk, a weekly program on radio station KVON. Like Kid Company, Kidstalk is live, not prerecorded. "There are times when it's really stressful, but most of the time it's fun," says Liv. (Her name is pronounced "leave.")
"The most important thing about kids who do radio for Kidstalk is it's really a chance in the community to express ourselves. It's so open and live and honest. And we talk to so many types of people," Liv says. Guests - adults and kids - come to talk in the studio and listeners call on the phone.
Kidstalk covers a lot of different subjects, which is why Liv - like all good talk-radio anchors - does a lot of research. Sometimes she spends many hours at the library finding out about topics. She remembers doing research on animal rights, drug and alcohol abuse, environmental issues, and a lot more. "It helps me discipline myself," says Liv, whose other activities include soccer, volleyball, acting, and occasionally playing the saxophone.
Although she probably won't make radio a career, Liv says it has been a great learning experience. "I used to be really, really shy, but now I'm the most outgoing person. It's really helped me with public-speaking skills, talking skills - talking about topics and talking with people."
She says it's also given her a chance to broaden her views about certain issues. "Sometimes I get set in my opinions. Hearing other people helps you realize there are different views, and I should be open-minded."
Some topics Liv says she's thinking of for future programs are women's history, racism, child-abuse prevention, and self-defense.
ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Jimmy Freeman has some less-serious things on his mind. He is called "vice president of fun" for Radio AAHS on WWTC in Minneapolis, Minn. Radio AAHS airs a lot of music and fun stuff for kids.
"We have news on every afternoon and in mornings. We play 20 songs an hour. We briefly chat; we don't have a script or anything," Jimmy says. He helps produce "Just kids," a two-hour program that airs on Saturdays. The average age of their listeners is 9.
"We have a lot of fun activities - fun facts, games, recipes, art projects," says Jimmy, who has been with the station for a little more than a year and has become quite a celebrity. Even though the show is meant to be fun, it still helps kids learn. Their "brain games" often focus on science, math, and history. "We get a winner pretty much most of the time," Jimmy says.
One of Jimmy's sayings is: "Great music for great kids on Radio AAHS." He says he's always loved music; he's played piano for five years and has been a faithful radio listener since he was 9.
Does he ever get "the butterflies"? "I definitely don't get nervous. I used to. Now it's just a natural feeling and it's fun." And, he adds, "it hasn't affected my schoolwork at all."
"Every time we go on the air it feels good that other kids are hearing you," Jimmy says. The best part of working in radio is the environment, he adds. "The people are really nice... and fun." `Kidspace' is a place on the Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will spark imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.