... edited by Barry Mishkind - the Eclectic Engineer
Engineering Follies - Dealing with the General Manager/Owner
(Got a story? - please share it with us!)
Radio station executives are often considered "Big Frogs in the Small Pond" in many markets. Sometimes, this plays into their ego. Working with them can be a challenge.
Exhibit 10: Do Me a Favor
I'd just "hired on" to build the KRKE
facilities that I talked about in the
Contributed by Mike Langner
Exhibit 9: You Can't Get There From Here
So there was a station ownership
transfer. To say that it was unpleasant would be a compliment. On the
last day the former engineer left a pile of keys on his desk and walked
Contributed by Bill Ruck
Exhibit 8: Seeking the Transmitter
There are more-and-more station "managers" who just sell time and tend the computer that spews programming "somewhere" and this was back in the days of electro-mechanical automation equipment!
One station for which I worked in the distant past went off-the-air. The station manager called the owner, asking where the transmitter site was located.
The owner, who had been at the NAB
convention a few months back and had spoken with Paul Gregg and me about
getting a new transmitter for a site in a different state remembered
that I had once worked for the station as a "young kid." He found my
work telephone number an gave it to the manager of the station that was
About 1/2 hour later he asked if I knew where there might be a hidden key. I told him that when I worked there 35 years ago (at the time), we kept a key at a certain place. He thanked me.
After another 1/2 hour he called and stated that he was able to get in, but did not know what the transmitter looked like. I told him to just find the electrical box on the south wall and check the circuit breakers. He found one that tripped, reset it ...
... and then drove back to the studio
to use the remote-control to put the station back-on-the-air!
Exhibit 7: The Right Level for Reverb
I had a happy PD, but the GM was concerned about the reverb level (back in the days of on-air reverb).
I found a sloped front really small mini
box with a pot and a 10 turn "calibrated" knob on it. It had five-way
binding posts on the top. I connected it to a 10 foot piece of West
Penn purple wire and ran it into the ceiling in the GM's office. I told
him to carefully adjust the reverb level up and down until he was happy,
then I would remove
Exhibit 6: Getting It on the Air Right Now!
Sometimes people complicate things way too much!
One day I was called into the GM's office. The Program Director was already there. They said: "We'd like to run a network program on the AM. It comes down the line at 5 PM and must run as close to that time as possible. We'd like you to rig up a recording cart machine in the AM studio that will automatically record every day at 5 PM. That way the show will be ready to air as soon as the cart re-cues."
I looked at them and asked: Why can't you just take the show live?
The two of them looked at me and then
the GM began laughing. "We can" he said.
Contributed by Dana Puopolo
Exhibit 5: Les Nessman Had a Brother
We were off-the-air
due to a Klystron failure in the (early 70's), and I got a call at
transmitter site from the GM while changing the thing out wanting to
know why I had not put up a
slate telling folks that we would be back when repairs were finished! I
swear that is the truth!!
Exhibit 4: How it Looks is More Important Than How it Works
When I worked for PAX TV, corporate engineering pre-built all the Master Control rooms at their facility in Florida, and sent them off to the stations. It was up to the stations to find space to make them fit-not the reverse.
It was not a big deal for me, because my space was empty. So we literally studded and sheet rocked a room in one corner of the empty building.
During construction, I noticed that the remote control for the Beta SP decks was on the left side of the table. I'm a lefty and this was perfect for me - but difficult for the right handed operators that were in the majority. I watched them crossing their arms trying to switch and start a deck at the same time. The cure was obvious - we moved the control to the right side of the table. Problem solved.
That is until Corporate Engineering showed up one day. They went ballistic when they saw what I had done. How dare I change their design!
Then they went even more ballistic when they saw that I had put the Profile video server in another air-conditioned room instead of in the MCR rack and was remoting the keyboard, mouse and monitor into the MCR. Of course, the reason I had done so was to minimize heat build up in the room (I believe that heat is one of the things that causes equipment failures).
A few days later a registered letter came from corporate engineering notifying me that I was officially on probation for six months. What corporate engineering did not realize was that by then I was also the General Manager of the station and a simple phone call to Dean Goodman (the President of TV) took care of things. Of course, that so POed them at C.E. that I am now blackballed at Paxson.
One more thing: they seemed to have a lot of trouble at Paxson with their Profile servers overheating and shutting down - except in Boston, of course. That changed when I left and the idiot that replaced me put it in the rack in MCR (and also moved the remote control back to the left side). Then they also started to have overheating problems.
Some people just can't learn anything.
Contributed by Dana Puopolo
Exhibit 3: A Big Fish in a Small Pond is Still Fishy
At WCHA in Chambersburg, PA, the owner John Booth had a great self-image and an enormous ego. His office was marble and mahogany with his desk set on a two-step high pedestal with a window behind. This required one to look up, as though to a judge, with the bright outside light in ones eyes.
One of the Chief Engineer's jobs was to set up, test, stand by for emergencies, then tear down when finished, a remote studio for "record hops," (remember them?) and other sponsored events.
When Chambersburg lost its electrical power for about a day because a farmer mowed down the high-voltage transmission lines serving all of central Pennsylvania, Booth insisted that I set up the remote studio at the transmitter site, notwithstanding the fact that we did not have an emergency generator at the site.
I was required to do this (in the dark) - just in case, someone would "loan" the station a generator (and it would get magically wired in)! Mr. Booth thought his station was so important that he could certainly get a generator from the Civil Defense.
That prepared me for a union job at WJZ-TV in Baltimore - no more ego trips.
Contributed by Richard B. Johnson
Exhibit 2: Do Not Yel "Fire" in the Radio Studio
I began to get an inkling that I was headed for shipwreck early in my stint at the commercial stations here in Cincinnati.
I was called on the carpet for calling
the fire department before telling the boss of a fire in the facility.
I was 'written up' for insubordination!
Exhibit 1: An Inventive Way to Get Paid
More than a few years ago, my business partner shared an office suite with the owner of a tower company. The tower company had been shafted on an AM they re-guyed.
John Reiser (WQ4L) was still at the
FCC. I asked John if it was legal to go recover the guy wires. He said
it was, as long as the intent was not to drop the towers, but
only to recover the property.
He returned with the cash, early.
I wondered why someone with the ability
to pay, just would not.