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Life at MTV is far from the usual grind


"This must be what the record business was like in the '50s, when guys were just hustling all the time," said Kurt Loder, as a colleague handed him yet another update on that week's edition of The Week In Rock.

A former editor at Rolling Stone, Mr. Loder anchors MTV's news coverage, a job that not only has taken him everywhere from Moscow to Brazil, but keeps him constantly chasing deadlines in New York.

"You're always running around, there's not enough time, you're working too much and you're just fried all the time," he says. "I know when I go over to Rolling Stone, it's like going to an insurance company or something. I love those people," he laughs, "but it's so quiet there."

John Norris is one of the fried. It's Thursday afternoon, and he's sitting in MTV's brand-new studio in midtown Manhattan, waiting to do his bit for MTV's weekly "Top 20 Countdown." Because the show, like most everything else on MTV, is not done live, Mr. Norris records his "wrap-arounds" -- television talk for the chatter between music clips -- days in advance, and without the bother )) of sitting through each video.

Not that the approach saved much time. Between the producer's attempts to fine-tune the trivia-packed script and the crew's difficulties in dealing with new sets and unfamiliar equipment, the taping simply dragged along, prompting Mr. Norris to crack, "I ought to do this on three hours' sleep more often."

Despite the frantic and seemingly unending hours, the MTV staff seems to enjoy itself immensely. On the MTV set, the "Top 20 Countdown" crew swaps "F Troop" trivia between takes; the creative team, sitting in an one of MTV's Times Square offices, watches an animation reel with the rapt enthusiasm of kids on a Saturday morning; down in the marketing division, employees "ooh" and "aah" over the latest line of MTV watches. Everybody, it seems, is having fun.

And why not? Not many corporate offices have halls designed to look as if swiped from some tropical bungalow, or a reception desk built to look like a big rock (big rock -- get it?) And who else gets paid to watch rock videos at work?

In fact, the only anxiety that was visible anywhere that afternoon at MTV was in the lobby, where a gaggle of trendily dressed young people were working very hard at looking casual. Wondering what they were doing there (and why the air seemed to reek of shampoo), the press guide explained that MTV is auditioning veejays that afternoon.

Well, no wonder they're unhappy -- they don't work for MTV.

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