Cathie Anderson: Radio deejays spin new ways to make a living

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 7:59 am

As Clear Channel, Cumulus and other radio giants have slashed their stables of on-air talent, Chris Rice and hundreds of other DJs nationwide have either chosen to exit the business or been shown the door.

Their employers used savings to pay debt and weather the economy, investment analyst Rich Tullo of New York's Albert Fried & Co. told me, and sophisticated rating measures from Arbitron showed that listeners aren't as loyal to DJs as once believed. Many stations picked up syndicated or prerecorded programs in some time slots.

Rice worked in radio for 15 years before bailing out in 2008. He now does voice-over work and radio production from a makeshift studio in his home in Fair Oaks. Never before has technology made his work so affordable or so easy to find, Rice said.

"Ten years ago, it was pretty cost-prohibitive to try doing this kind of work out of your home," he said, "but now everything is software-based and there's so many different options in affordable microphones, preamps and all of the equipment you need."

For as little as $5,000, an audio production studio can be had. Rice has had some clients since he began freelancing in 2001, but he also logs on to and to check for work. In a day, he can record and send as many as 30 auditions. He may get a couple of jobs – or none – and pay varies.

One long-term client recently chose Rice to pitch Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's "Dragon" tour, which arrives at Power Balance Pavilion Sept. 6-9.

At 79, Tillson still tireless

Elnor Tillson is a social worker, not an economist, yet she can teach you about the ripple effect that government cutbacks have on the working poor in Sacramento. She's seen it firsthand as executive director of Travelers Aid Emergency Assistance Agency.

"The minute the state starts a 5 percent cut, believe it or not, if you're paying a mortgage and you can't pay it, you're going to lose your house," the 79-year-old Tillson said. "They're at the top of the chain. We don't get as many of them. I see … the people who are making only $8.50 an hour, some of them $10."

As state workers lose income, Tillson explained, the low-income workers serving them lose jobs and can't cover housing costs with unemployment or public aid.

Last year, Sacramento County sheriff's deputies handled an average of 106 evictions a week, up from 54 in 2002.

Ryan Sharp , who's studied the ripple effect of government-sector cuts in his work as director of the Center for Strategic Economic Research, said workers in retail, health services, leisure and hospitality suffer the biggest hits.

Such displaced workers and their children are the people Tillson has served for 50 years at Travelers Aid. She will be honored at an Aug. 23 benefit. Learn more at (916) 399-9646.

Last year, Travelers Aid fielded 24,000 calls, roughly 70 percent of them from families seeking transitional housing and the rest from people in imminent danger of losing electricity.

Tillson's $650,000 budget – an amalgam of individual donations and government funds – allowed her to aid fewer than 10 percent of callers.

Sweet memories

Pon Sitandon sees her candy business as a purveyor of memories and smiles, but some people out there blame such companies for the obesity problem.

Sitandon opened the Sweet Stop Shop on the second level of Sacramento's Downtown Plaza last month, and she doesn't see candy as the problem.

"People should own their choices …" she said. "I tell my kids, 'You do something wrong. You own it. You make a choice. You own it.' "

At her store, the 36-year-old Sitandon sells nostalgic candy, chocolates, yards and yards of sour belts and oodles of Gummy Bears – mini ones, chocolate-covered ones, sugar-free ones, and even ginormous ones.

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