|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Jan. 10, 2015 - 12:53 p.m.
I see from reading the pathetic wails of other bloggers that I'm not the only one stymied by D-Land's server switch. I'll assume, if you're reading this, that I can at least put new entries up finally. Couldn't for a while there.
Just in case I still can't though, I'm only gonna do a brief entry. Well, maybe not brief so much as "so boring I otherwise wouldn't write it". The story of the "Great Triumph Hillclimb" will have to wait. Putting a multi-minute effort into a squee-a-licious entry only to watch it 'poof' into the void of the server-sphere immediately upon hitting "DONE" is not something I care to go through again.
So Long Island
Back when I started this humble showcase for superior penmanship I was a lowly overnight radio traffic reporter just trying to stay awake at work. My shift back then, if I recall, was either 11pm - 6am or 3am - 9am. Apparently I don't recall. But it was one of the two.
During those hours I only serviced two radio stations (1010WINS and NJ101.5), which meant I had long gaps between reports. Gaps that were prime opportunities to fall asleep. And a few times I almost took advantage of those opportunities. Believe it or not, in radio that's a no-no. So out of desperation I started this diary to gave me something to do between reports other than lay my head on the control board and wonder why I hadn't gone into cat de-worming, or some other profession I was probably more qualified to do.
After a couple of years my shift started getting busier. I moved up to morning drive, added stations to my roster, added bigger stations to my roster, and generally was kept busy enough that the original reason for this diary evaporated. I kept blogging, but of necessity less frequently. What was I gonna do, turn on my mic and say "Sorry, I can't go on right now. I have to write about my dog's explosive diarrhea again."? Loooong gaps between diary entries ensued.
Now I've started blogging more again. And it's due, for the most part, to deregulation.
See, way back when there used to be limits to how many radio stations, tv stations, and newspapers any one person or company could own in a given market. In a market like New York City, with kajillions of dial positions, this meant that once all the Big Media Corporations attained their limit of ownership, there were STILL kajillions of open spots on the dial to be had. There was plenty of space for little mom-n-pop stations to broadcast fairly inexpensively, filling niche formats and generally allowing for an awful lot of diversity. I started at one of those stations.
Then the Big Media Corporations went to congress and said, "Hey, if you lift those ownership restrictions it will make for MORE diversity because we'll all have to compete with one another to get advertising dollars. The audience will win big time, because if we don't give 'em what they want we'll go out of business!"
Why would the Big Media Corporations want more competition? They didn't. They knew what was gonna happen. And it did.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law, and the audience lost big time. Instead of more diversity, the bigger companies swallowed up the mom-n-pops and began consolidating. They could buy 10, 20 stations/papers in a single market, operate them all out of one building, fire everyone from the other buildings, and save a ton of money. Niche formats were torpedoed in favor of the three or four that billed the most. And something called "Voice Tracking" started taking over the industry.
"Voice Tracking" is evil. That's all you need to know, really. But in a nutshell: a radio person goes into a studio one day a week and records an entire week's worth of patter, which the station computer inserts into the show at the appropriate time. The station pays the DJ more than the usual amount for one day's work, so the DJ likes it. The station likes it because that amount is not as much as paying him/her for a full week's work. So when you hear a radio DJ come on at the end of a song and say "Hey hey, doesn't Taylor Swift just pick you up on rainy days like this? It's seven minutes after 10 and you're along for the ride with me, Rezzy, on Power-103!", it's a good bet that "Rezzy" is either home fast asleep or lying drunk somewhere in a gutter again, having recorded that little gem 5 or 6 days before. (I have to admit, though, the technology is very, very impressive. I'm in the industry and often I can't even tell when a show is live or voice tracked. It's scary, actually.)
What's that meant for me? Well, without going into even more boring detail, it's meant that over the past several years more and more of the shows I've been on have disappeared. Their stations were taken over by larger stations or networks, the entire on-air staff fired, and a voice tracking machine installed in their place. I still had work, but less and less of it was live. If I'm on a show that's voice tracked, I can't talk to the DJ. There is no DJ. So I have to record my news, traffic, weather, whatever, and send it to the station electronically.
At one point I was on 13 different radio shows a day, almost all of them live, most of them involving active interaction on my part. I was in demand as a personality and ended up being on some pretty big morning shows - a few of which I've blogged about here.
But gradually, inevitably, consolidation of stations and networks meant that number was bound to shrink.
By the end of 2014 I was on 7 shows, only two of them live.
Now I'm on one.
One. I'm on 5 different radio shows a day, but only on one am I live.
As of January 1 2015, my two Long Island stations - the only Long Island stations I had left on my schedule - were absorbed by another network, and in true deregulatory fashion they consolidated positions. I was no longer needed, since the network's in-house service would provide voice-tracked product for their new acquisitions at a greatly reduced cost.
So...good bye WHLI and WWSK.
WWSK was a station I was pre-recording for, so that didn't hurt too much.
But WHLI hurt. A lot. I was a mainstay of their mid-day show for over 10 years. WHLI did the kind of radio that made me want to get into radio in the first place: personality driven, lots of show elements, plenty of audience interaction, and above all, LIVE. I was technically just the mid-day traffic reporter, but in reality I was integrated into the show as co-host. The host - Paul Richards, one of those guys you know was born for this job as soon as you hear him - and I had regular daily bits. Like our wild "This Day in History" feature, where I got to ad lib about things like the Defenestration of Prague and The War of Jenkin's Ear. You may think that doesn't sound like something a lot of people would listen to, but you'd be wrong. We spun these things into wild extravaganzas, with jokes and pornographic innuendo and blatant lies, and people loved it. We had people constantly writing in to tell us how they always made sure to tune in during our segments together.
And now those people have to listen to a traffic report that was pre-recorded and sent out to a dozen different stations in the region instead. No "This Day In History", no "Mr. Bill's Cheesecake Giveaway", no "The cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on this day in 1814. Lucky stone!" corny lines. Nothing. Just a dry listing of roads and delays. The end.
I should be used to it by now. I should just give a professional shrug, put my headphones back on, and file my next report. I mean, I'm still on some pretty big stations, even if I'm not on any of them live. And I do have one live station left, where I can interact with the host and be at least a minor personality - a little holdout mom-n-pop station in northwest New Jersey. That still means something, right?
When I decided to make my living in front of a mic, I knew I was making a tradeoff. The pay isn't great, and "job security" has always been just a rumour in the industry. But in return, you get to have a helluva lot of fun. It is an absolute ego orgasm being on the air every day. If you're glib, opinionated, or just a loudmouth asshole - and I was all three - there is no better job.
Or rather, there was no better job.
I'm still a glib, opinionated, loudmouth asshole. But with the advent of Voice Tracking and consolidation, I have no outlet for my loud assholery. I read news, I say "There's a backup at the Lincoln Tunnel", I tell idiots to bring their umbrella when it rains, and that's it. No jokes, no witty repartee, no insightful, subtle dissection of international goings-on. So the tradeoff I made all those years ago has now turned to: the pay isn't great, there's no job security, but in return I get to sit in a windowless cubicle and read laundry lists to no applause at all.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have a job. I'm THRILLED to have a job. And there are aspects of it I still like. But....
Anybody need a cat de-wormer? I've got my own fondu fork.
Sorry this was such a downer post. I'm not normally this glum. If I am, a quick application of alcohol usually brings me back to blissful unreality. But for some reason I've really been dwelling on this one. Thanks for letting me vent.
And who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and the Diaryland glitch will make this one disappear too, and you'll be spared reading it!