Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blogging About Radio: The Wacko Factor

There is always a risk when writing about any particular subject too much, that the writer begins to seem like a wacko. Whether expounding on the virtues of antique tractors, English football, knitting, microbrews or yes, even radio—if you start getting into facts and details that are too esoteric, arcane and/or minute, chances are you’re totally nuts and your readers will begin to divide into two camps: a few wackos who identify with you and who begin paying closer attention, and a majority of normal people who simply stop paying attention altogether.

So it is with this risk in mind that I prepared this post, and thus I will try to keep it brief.

A local news and talk station here in Seattle recently brought back the hourly CBS newscasts (after ditching them in favor of local newscasts for the past year or so—some 70+ years into their affiliation with the Columbia network). Anyhow, the CBS hourlies are back, but they're a little different. I’m not sure where the practice originated—at CBS or at the local affiliate level—but the hourly CBS newscasts now heard in Seattle end with a consistent, live, anchor-read tag, which is seamlessly followed by a custom-recorded (by the same anchor), station-specific outro.

It goes a little like this:

LIVE NETWORK ANCHOR: "This is CBS News . . ."


So, the casual listener might assume that Harley Carnes or Nick Young or whichever CBS anchor is at the helm of that particular hourly newscast is speaking just for that station. Pretty cool. I assume that it is the responsibility of the board operator on duty at the affiliate to know which anchor is on-air, and to have the correct pre-recorded outro ready to play. But what if the anchor is a new guy or a last-minute sub? Or what if the board op is new or otherwise distracted?

As I had hoped would happen, I finally heard a newscast where the live anchor didn’t match up with the taped outro played here in Seattle. Earlier today (Wednesday, September 30), CBS’ Jim Taylor was the anchor, but it was Nick Young who finished his sentence (and his newscast) for him and for all the listeners in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that I was tuned in via HD made the difference that much starker—though it probably sounded pretty bad in regular FM, too (while on AM, it may not have been noticeable at all). And, the same thing happened an hour later.

As I said in a far greater number of words above, minutiae is the curse of the blogosphere. I shall try and restrain myself in the future and stick to topics of more general interest.

1 comment:

  1. Writing this "wacko" post a few days ago got me thinking about similar efforts in the past to localize national material for particular radio stations. While going through some old tapes in my collection, I came across the Pointer Sisters version of "Fire," with lyrics customized for Seattle's KJR back in 1978. Follow this link to download or stream the relevant portion of the song:

    Incidentally, the local CBS affiliate here in Seattle appears to have dumped the custom news outros (at least for the past few days).