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Think morning DJs have cushy jobs?

Special appearances mean long hours for these early risers

SHARE Think morning DJs have cushy jobs?

On the surface, morning DJs appear to have one of the easiest jobs around. Aside from arising long before dawn, they just work four to five hours and are done for the rest of the day. Right? Wrong!

I talked to three morning DJs recently and discovered that they all probably work more than 40 hours a week, and some DJs feel they can almost never set their jobs aside because they are so around-the-clock consuming.

For example, Jimmy Chunga of the KENZ ("The End," FM-107.5) morning show is up at 4 a.m. each day and on the air from 5:30-10 a.m. With meetings after his air shift, advance planning for future shows and production work, he usually doesn't go home until 1:30-2 p.m.

That alone equates to a typical eight-hour workday, but there's more. Some days he doesn't get away until as late as 5 p.m., creating almost a 12-hour day, and then there are all the remote broadcasts and appearances — especially on nights and weekends — that Chunga and his on-air partner, Mister West, do.

"You have to sleep in shifts," Chunga said. "What kind of dad would I be if I went to bed at 7 p.m.?"

Mister West said that he easily puts in more than 40 hours a week, and that schedule includes at least one remote or public appearance a week, which takes about three hours. He said he also spends about one hour a day on his computer at home planning the next day's show.

"Our days are never the same twice," Mister West said.

Tommy and Joe Johnson, of the "Johnson and Johnson" morning show on KUBL (FM-93.3), also put in long hours. Joe rises at 2:30 a.m. each weekday, while Tommy's up at 3:15 a.m. Both arrive in the studio around 4 a.m. for their 5:50-10 a.m. on-air stint. They are at the radio station until about 1 p.m.

They say that means going to bed while it's still light this time of year, and not having much of a night life.

"Simon and Brady" on the KBEE (FM-98.7) morning show also have long work weeks. Simon's up by 4 a.m., while Brady rises at 3:30 a.m. (or at least that's when her first alarm goes off, she said).

These DJs have one of the earliest Wasatch Front morning radio shows; it begins at 5 a.m. and goes until 9 a.m.

"It's different each day," Brady said, but, on average, they are at the radio station until 1 p.m. each day — making for an eight-hour day. Add to that weekend or evening promotions and appearances.

Because KBEE plays long blocks of music from 9-10 a.m., they can sit in the studio and plan their upcoming shows before moving to another room.

As a journalist, I have to work every third or fourth Saturday, but I get the previous Monday as a day off. Not so with DJs. During any given year, I run into dozens of radio hosts making Saturday morning appearances at R.C. Willey or Granite furniture stores. They spend half their Saturday at such events and don't have that extra Monday off.

Radio jobs may look glamorous, but like any job, there are downsides.

PATRIOTIC RADIO — Every weekday at 6:45 a.m., Mark Van Wagoner of KKDS (AM-1060) does a "Raise the Flag" segment. He's been doing this since 1993, and he was recently honored by the VFW for putting so much emphasis on patriotism and raising the flag.

Various consultants at Van Wagoner's previous radio stations advised him that to have such a program is a bad decision, that it could offend listeners. But Van Wagoner has stood by it.

"It's fun. It's given a real close listener relationship," Van Wagoner said. "Veterans should never be forgotten."

Tommy and Joe Johnson of "Johnson and Johnson" on KUBL(alias "K-Bull," FM-93.3) also have a patriotic segment. They do the Pledge of Allegiance each weekday at 7 a.m. They've been doing this for three years now. And they say it makes some listeners — especially veterans — cry.

MARK EATON RADIOTHON — Last month, this former Utah Jazz player was on the air at KFNZ (alias "K-Fan," AM-1320) for 24 hours straight to raise money and awareness for his Standing Tall for Youth Foundation. Eaton raised $40,000 for programs for underprivileged youths.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com