It’s remarkable enough in today’s transient radio industry that WSOC Charlotte, N.C., APD/MD Rick McCracken just celebrated his 25th anniversary with the station last month. Even more noteworthy is what he’s been able to achieve in the business, despite being legally blind.
His story is an inspirational one, and demonstrates the importance of remaining flexible and adaptable in the radio business, even for those with perfect vision.
“Look what’s happened in the last few years,” McCracken says. “We’re all going digital. We’re all having to learn to blog and do all the social networking simultaneously with being air personalities and programmers. We’re having to learn completely different communication skills. If you don’t embrace that, you get left behind by it.”
Around the office, he’s found a way to do everything he needs to do. And other than some magnification software on his computer, he hasn’t asked his employers for any special equipment. He buys his own magnifying glasses, and uses the same Braille writer he’s had since he was 14 years old.
In addition to his programming duties, McCracken also regularly fills in airshifts during other station personalities’ vacations and sick days, and is responsible for a few weekend shifts as well. For on-air reading, he says, “I need, obviously, really large print, or I need to Braille things out.”
In many ways, the always-improving computer technologies have made things easier for McCracken, who says, “A computer is like a library card to me. I’ve been able to read things that I’ve never been able to read before.”
At the same time, however, the shift in recent years to everything in the studio being computerized has actually added challenges for McCracken. “Computer screens and keyboards have replaced just about everything that I learned how to manipulate starting out in this business,” he says. “Luckily you can still feel a console, but cart machines are gone, turntables are gone. All that stuff has been replaced with just a keyboard and computer screen. So, in some ways, it makes it a little more difficult. It certainly messes with your instincts. When you’re a jock and you’re segueing records, there’s so much that you feel. You don’t have that anymore with today’s technology.”
On his longevity, McCracken says the key has been to “learn to adapt to situations. Don’t think ‘This is the way I’ve done it for 20 years and it has to be this way.’ You just have to learn to make any situation work.”