Julie Tristan studied Broadcast Journalism while attending the University of Missouri. Currently she entertains drivers as a radio traffic reporter in St. Louis, Missouri and hosting functions as an MC. Not only a fantastic communicator and a dynamic person, but word on the street is she has a wicked jump-shot.
CCB: Did you ever envision being a traffic reporter?
JT: No, I always saw myself in TV broadcasting of some sort but I wouldn’t have ever guessed traffic reporter on the radio
CCB: Has your Journalism degree from the University of Missouri helped prepare you for your current career?
JT: Yes, Mizzou prepared me with logical thinking, fact finding, and of course broadcasting which are all important in doing the traffic.
CCB: Please give a quick overview of how you became a traffic reporter.
JT: I kind of fell into it but even with that, you have to work at it. I was handing out flyers for a restaurant that I worked at and I saw a guy broadcasting live from a radio station van. I don’t know what came over me but I decided to go talk to him. I said, “Put me on the radio! I’m good!” Then I told him a couple of the things I had done and said, “By the way my name is Julie Tristan”. I think he could see the passion in my eyes. He said, “If you call me every day for two weeks, I’ll give you a job.” No problem. I called him two or even three times a day. He never answered, I just left messages for three days…I broke him early. He called me on the fourth day and he said, “Stop calling me, you got the job.” My new job was being a traffic producer and filling-in when the traffic reporter was gone. I did that for six months and then heard of an opening at Clear Channel Radio. I had a tape from filling in and fate took care of the rest.
CCB: Have you had any mentors in your career?
JT: There have been so many mentors in my career. I’ve always heard that “when the student is ready, the teacher will come”. When I win an award for something, I’ll have a lot of people to thank.
CCB: What do your daily activities consist of in reporting traffic?
JT: I come in and check the cameras that are all over the highways at heavy traffic spots to see what is going on. I listen to police scanners to hear where the police are going, as far as accidents are concerned. If there is a back up, I can usually see it on one of the cameras. If I’m not sure then I call the particular police department in the area and ask if they are still working with an accident or if they have information about it, usually they do.
CCB: How do you prepare for your job?
JT: I check the cameras and the Missouri Department of Transportation’s website to make sure I know everything that is going on. I listen to the scanners and make sure there are no major accidents because if there are, the scanners will be going crazy.
CCB: What would people be surprised to learn about traffic reporting?
JT: Unless there is a major accident, traffic is exactly the same everyday. That’s why I can talk so fast when it comes to my reports. I say the same thing everyday.
CCB: The best thing about the job is? Worst?
JT: The best thing about the job is talking to the DJ’s. They introduce you and include you in whatever funny bit they are doing on the radio and you get your time to talk. The worst part is when you get a really bad accident that you have to report, where people got seriously hurt.
CCB: What makes a good traffic reporter, does it depend on the radio format?
JT: Personality. Personality. Personality. If you don’t have that, you just blend in with the rest and that doesn’t get ratings. Yes, we traffic reporters are important to the show too.
CCB: Have you found you have to work harder as a woman in the radio business?
JT: I think it’s hard to be a woman in many businesses, especially a young woman. People think I don’t have experience when I have been working at my career since the earliest age I could possibly start. I’ve had so many internships working for free a lot, just to learn and be around the business. You have to pay your dues and that’s what I did and am still doing. Being a woman is great too because many stations are in need of them.
CCB: Can you tell me about B-TV10 and your work there on an entertainment program?
JT: I have my own show on a local cable channel in St. Louis. It is called “Entertainment Plus” (My Grandma thought of that name). It talks about new or old movies that would be good to see. If they are not so good, I let the audience know. I really enjoy this show because it is all mine. By that I mean, I write the stories, host the show, and edit it all together. I have full control of what goes on Entertainment Plus. I love editing. It gives me freedom to get creative.
CCB: Most of your jobs have been in radio. Are there certain aspects of radio that really appeal to you?
JT: I still consider myself a TV person even though I am in radio right now. In radio you are not seen so you really have to concentrate on your voice, articulating, and sounding interesting. That was hard for me in the beginning because I was so used to my facial features letting the audience know how I was feeling.
CCB: Radio seems to be a lost art form with numerous TV channels and the Internet, do you agree?
JT: Radio is definitely not what it used to be with all the other options available to people. It used to be that people would come home and listen to the radio at night. The DJ’s on the stations were the movie stars. I’ve heard some stories from some older jocks about the “good ole days” of radio. I think we are still tough competition because although people do have tapes and CD’s in their car, they still have a radio. There are so many different stations and songs to listen to depending on what mood the listener is in so I think radio is here to stay.
CCB: That said you have also had TV jobs such as a weekend anchor. Would you like to return to TV?
JT: I would LOVE to return to TV. I wouldn’t take TV out of the running of where I’ll end up. There are pro’s and con’s to both. I am doing great in radio right now and will keep going with that until the next adventure opens up.
CCB: Does any of your TV training translate to radio, as far as communicating with the audience?
JT: Yes, my TV training definitely translates to radio. You have to be yourself but put a little extra into it. You have to over-emphasize the way you talk without sounding that way. When people hear me on the radio it sounds normal. But, if you see me doing it in person, I talk much bigger and with a little more “UMPH” then I would talking face to face with a regular person.
CCB: What advice do you have for people trying to get into radio?
JT: Radio is a lot about whom you know. So, get to know people. Get an internship, you probably won’t make any money and have to do a lot of crappy jobs but it will pay off in the end. Don’t burn any bridges. You have to learn to deal with a lot of “different” personalities. Not all of them are good or even nice but as long as you act, as a good person should, you will prevail. “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
CCB: How did it feel the first time you were live on air?
JT: I was so nervous, but very excited! Now, I don’t realize that thousands of people are listening to me at once. Since we stream on the internet, people listen in other states and even countries. I once got an email from a St. Louisan that listens from Iraq!
CCB: Do your career aspirations involve radio?
JT: At first they just involved television. Now that I am in radio I can definitely see myself working in this industry. I want a job where I can be on air and be myself, use my personality to make people smile. Radio is nice because if you are having a bad hair day, no one can tell.
CCB: Has your reporting improved since you started?
JT: Yes, I am more comfortable, confident, and since I have the traffic thing down I can concentrate on the “personality” that I’m creating. I’m not worried about how my voice sounds or making the correct voice inflections when reading the traffic.
CCB: Can you compare reporting to any other activity?
JT: Reporting is fact-finding. It is knowing the right steps to take to figure something out. Sometimes there are barriers but a good reporter knows how to jump over them and get to the real deal.
CCB: What has been the coolest thing about the job so far?
JT: I love effecting people’s lives in a positive way. I just do the traffic but I add a fun goofy personality to it and people enjoy listening to the things I say. It’s nice getting emails from listeners that say “I turn you on right when I get into my car to hear your joyful voice.”, that is rewarding and fulfilling.