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A Place where I can spout off about anything . . . and often do 

Broadcasting

My Broadcast career began in Findlay Ohio in the early 1960’s. During a High School assembly to promote Junior Achievement it was announced that the local radio station was going to sponsor a new “J A company”. I had been listening to disk jockeys for years on a battery operated tube radio (that’s right) before I went to sleep at night, and I thought that must be the ultimate profession. You could be famous and anonymous at the same time. We produced a fifteen minute radio show each week, had to sell it, and return a profit for our “shareholders”.  Although intended to teach us about Capitalism during those cold war days, the draw for me was the chance to get a glimpse of the business I found so interesting. I had had my ham radio license for a few years now, and had actually built my first transmitter from old TV and WW2 surplus parts. See WWW.W8THY.TOMYOUNG.US. At the end of that year I left an employment application with the station and was surprised when the station’s news car pulled up one day while I walking home from school. The driver said “get in, the program director wants you to start tonight”.

WFIN Control Room 1964I started by playing record cut after record cut on the FM station that probably had a pretty small audience.  The first time I actually opened the mike and said something was when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  I was terrible, but as time passed I was allowed to read some public service announcements and even a few commercials.  My broadcast career was interrupted when I was drafted and had to go to Vietnam for a year.  The problem was this:  I had to work full time to pay my way through college, and I had to go to college full time to stay out of the
After fulfilling my draft obligation I worked a year at the airport here in Toledo before joining a local radio station's staff.  Between the G. I. bill and the radio station I managed to continue my education at the University of Toledo.  When I joined the radio station I was assigned overnights and weekends, the worst possible shifts, but I got a chance to write, read and find news.  It was said then that more people in the Toledo area listened to this station than all the others combined.  I was privileged to sit in as a news writer for some of Toledo's real pioneer news people who were glad to teach me the craft and tell some wonderful stories about the very early days in the industry.  I would carry a

portable tape recorder around town and visit the Mayor or members of City council every morning.  If I got bored enough, I would sit through a few minutes of a trial that might be the subject of interest to include in the noon news and write about whatever seemed important that day. Above is a picture that used to hang in the lobby. I was hardly a “star” of the station, and one day a fellow announcer told me he was making the 70 mile trek up to Detroit the following week to take the test for his FCC First Class Radiotelephone License, a requirement at the time to actually control a directional AM station. I looked over an old book I had had for years that had sample questions of the exam and went along for the ride. Since I was there, I decided to take the test and I passed. Today, all it takes to operate a station is a warm body or a computer, but back then, the Government took things like this more seriously and required a person with a license. told the Chief Engineer of the station that I had passed the test, and partially because he was a fellow “ham” operator, he offered me a job in the Engineering department when one became available. I took it because I was aware that I was never going to be a great talent and because the Engineers were better paid, and it all seemed to be a better fit for me. It should be pointed out that when the Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Toledo asked me what my goals were when I graduated, he burst out laughing when I told him I intended to be a Broadcast Engineer. He pointed out that that profession hardly required a degree, but I pointed out that someone needs to design the equipment and that the future might indeed require more advanced knowledge as the state of the art increased. Score one for me, today’s broadcast technology certainly requires advanced skills.

The station had been doing helicopter traffic reports for a few years but they had been pretty expensive and hadn't attracted enough sponsors to pay the bills.  I was offered the opportunity to complete the few remaining sponsor contracts flying an airplane and doing the reports live.  I did this for another three and a half years.  During this time new sponsors were attracted to sponsor the reports.  I had a great time boring holes through the sky until I asked for a bit more money to help  cover my expenses which included driving my own car to the airport twice per day.  I was only getting an extra $25 per day, and I was still doing my engineering duties.  Three and a half years of flying fun was great but my expenses were greater than my income.  Besides, I was working long days, split shifts, and really needed a good nights' sleep.

The Boss said no, and the local bus drivers called in the traffic reports from their two way radios after that.  I missed the flying, but it was great to work an eight hour day again.  To hear my last reports click here. 

I worked at the radio station for a few more years and became the only engineer left of the three that were there when I started.  That made me the Chief Engineer, and it wasn't long before the station was sold.  The new owners fired the department heads.  I was fired in the good company of the Program Director and the General sales Manager.  Fortunately for me, I knew the Chief Engineers of several other stations in town, and I had a new job the next day, having chosen to start over and learn something new, a job at a TV station. 

The first year or so was rather difficult. Pointing a camera or thinking of sound and pictures at the same time took some getting used to, but after a while I got the hang of it. After learning the art of operations I finally got to join the maintenance crew, and that is where I am today. Once in a great while I do a “voice over” for a commercial, but for the most part I find myself opening a box containing new equipment and I have to make it work. I enjoy doing this and don’t miss being in radio a bit. It seems to me that radio has been taken over by Rush, DR. Laura and anyone conservative enough to make the owners happy and make me cringe. NPR is the only exception, but I have to confess to having a sleep disorder so, I leave the car radio off these days. I enjoy working in the TV business but even that has become so competitive what with a zillion cable channels and the internet that sometimes it just seems crazy. It is not enough to just tell the story, you must have more razzle than the other guy’s dazzle to win the ratings. Long are the days when all you had to do was sit at a desk and tell what happened that day. Pretty soon the whole operating end of the station will be done completely by computer. All it will take is a single person who knows how to run it. Even the talent will be replaced with computer generated people some day. The software people are working on that now. They already have programs that replace the news sets with computer generated ones.

November 1, 2010

Now, a few decades later I have found that the M. S. I mention elsewhere in this site has caught up with me and I find myself embarking on a pathway toward long-term disability and eventual retirement.  For those of you who have been there, you know how difficult this is to do.  For those of you who have not, let me suggest that you prepare for the day when you too have to say goodbye to your career and face the prospect of making ends meet on a limited income, and loose the opportunity to see the people you have worked with all these years.  Having lost a job or two along the way I have found that this is when you find out who your friends are, and who is an associate.  Most of the people you work with are in the latter category.  You will walk away from work and never see most of them again.  Your friends however will call to ask how you are doing and will stay in touch.  If you had the misfortune to loose your job because of downsizing or the sale of the business you will find very few who care to keep in touch.  I presume this is because they don't care to be reminded of how close they came to being in the same boat.