I receive quite a few off line emails from my readers. I hope that I get to them all. At the end of the day, after coming home from class, I can be pretty bleary-eyed and may make a mistake or two when parsing the inbox for relevant subject lines in and amongst all the other flotsam and jetsam that occupies my e-mail. Truth be told, I am often working on this thing in the 9-11:30 pm hours, which is not my sharpest time of day.
And so it is tonight.
Why do I expend so much time and effort on a blog? For that, I would like to relate a little story.
A couple of years ago, I received an email from a woman in Russia. She had somehow come across this blog and asked if I wanted to be her pen-pal for a while, as she needed to practice her English writing skills. I was intrigued by the idea but had one condition for her; she must treat me like a Russian person. Her response was something along the lines of: “So, you want to be treated like a Russian person do you? Fine, you asked for it.” What followed was one of the most interesting and informative exchange of ideas I’d ever had. At some point, we managed to exchange a few photographs and her comment on mine was “That is a terrible picture, you like like the worst sort of KGB agent.” I laughed so hard my stomach hurt because it is true; I look terrible in almost any picture ever taken of me. What made this exchange so interesting was the truth that was told. There was no expectations or preconceptions, just two virtual strangers telling it like it is. People love the truth and know it when they hear it.
That reminds me of why I do this. I would like to give some idea of what it is like to be a broadcast engineer in the United States. I can say that the company I work covers the area in and around NYC all the way up to the Canadian border. We see the operations of stations in small, medium and large markets everyday. What I see in the day to day operations of the radio business are likely very different from the versions printed in the trade magazines. The truth that I know and a lot of my readers know too, is one of slow decay over the years, cuts in operating budgets, reduced employees, declining programming quality, reduced or non-existent maintenance, suffocating bank notes, and so on. And it is not just the mom and pops.
Radio will only exist for as long as it is relevant. Crappy, bland, monolithic programming, stations on autopilot during an emergency, poor technical quality, prolonged off air periods; those sounds precede the sound of the off button being pushed. It matters not the band or modulation scheme either. If radio is going to be a viable business, the programming must get better. Otherwise, the ride is over; time to collect up our things and move on. And that would be a shame.