Threads: WAER in Syracuse
Saturday, September 27, 1969
For audio, we go to the production studio of the student radio station WAER-FM, which station is housed in an E-shaped, narrow-halled, poorly-lighted one-story structure which was built as a temporary structure in 1946 from Army prefabricated barracks units! At least this one is on campus, right behind the library. (There are many of these buildings around campus, with names not like Smith Hall but rather like Temporary Building 16. They add greatly to the architectural charm of the University.)
I'll be Chief Announcer at WAER-FM, the campus station, which means that I'll have a two-hour pop show every week and maybe a four-hour news shift (consisting of a five-minute newscast every hour). The Chief Announcer and the Music Director at WAER are together the equivalent of the Pop Music Director at WOBC. The C.A. tells people how to be disk jockeys, while the M.D. tells them what records to play.
We have a format which we have to follow. For example, it might tell us to start at 8:04:30 with a Hot-100 record, then a Folk, then an Underground, then another Hot-100, then the weather forecast, then an Album Oldie, then an Underground, then one of our own choosing, then a promotional spot, then a Folk, and then a Hot-100, leading up to an ID on a cart to be played at 8:29:53, followed by the newscast.
This plan is a little bit controversial it's wouldn't be liked at WOBC at all, I'm sure but it does give the DJ some freedom (he can play any folk cut he wants) while ensuring that the "sound" of the station stays the same from one DJ to the next.
Saturday, June 27, 1970
I do a music show on Thursdays from 4:00 to 6:00, plus five-minute newscasts on 4:30, 5:30, and 6:30 on both Monday and Tuesday. So far, it's fun, but I'll have to clean up my diction a little. I've discovered I tend to mumble a bit when I speak conversationally, so I guess I'll have to abandon the friendly approach and pretend I'm an announcer. (This station has 3500 watts and reaches a potential audience of half a million people, so we have somewhat higher standards than WOBC. Even though our actual audience is more like half a hundred.)
The station is amazing. Until a few months ago, combo-ing was impossible because there was only one control room (aside from a room similar to a well-equipped WOBC R&E), and that one control room didn't even have a microphone in it. So the engineer had to play the records while the announcer sat in the next room. Also, the ancient turntables would play only 33's and 78's, no 45's.
Well, within the past year a new combo studio was constructed, complete with mike and QRK turntables. When someone is combo-ing, he works in this new studio. But the engineer in the old control room still has a job to do, because the combo studio can't take air directly but must come through a pot on the control-room console. So an engineer must be on duty in there at all times taking meter readings. Thrilling job.
A few other quirks: The studios are called C, D, and E. No one seems to know what happened to studios A and B, but that's not a major worry. And in order to set up the control room for normal broadcasting, it is necessary to stick eight separate patch cords into the patch panel. The engineers at this station are an elite group, and they don't want to have things so simple that anyone can operate the place. That's why practically none of the switches are labeled.
Oh, yes, the clocks. There are three of them in the main studio area; one is placed so that the engineer can see it, one is for the announcer, and the third is for the combo-er and newscaster. None of them ever agree.
Saturday, August 1, 1970
WAER got a citation from the FCC last week, and it wasn't a citation for excellence. Seems somebody was listening to us between 10 and 12 p.m. on July 13, and we failed to give ID's at 10:30 and at 11:00. So now we have to write the FCC within ten days and tell them what we've done to make sure it doesn't happen again. What we've done is to talk to all the announcers and remind them of the necessity of identifying the station at the proper times, and to change the news format.
Why change the news format? Well, although no ID was logged for 10:30 and the anonymous FCC monitor thought there was no ID, there may have in fact been one, because the format used to be [end of record] [news theme] [first story] [ID] [second story] [third story] [etc.], and that internal ID may be buried so deeply as not to be noticed. (That format was the undergraduates' idea, not ours.) What we've done is to insert an ID between [last record] and [news theme], where one would normally expect an ID. Also, the engineer on duty now keeps a closer watch over the disk jockey's logging.
Saturday, August 29, 1970
Finally, an anecdote of my days at WAER. We had a morning program from 6:45 to 8:45 a.m., done by two guys every day of the week (their sanity was somewhat suspect). As you probably remember, the Beatles have a song in which a rooster crows and the the group sings, "Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morrrrnnnning." Well, one of the WAER twosome (who incidentally was Jewish and insisted on referring to the Beatles as the Schwartz Brothers) did a little tape editing and came up with a cart that, when played, sounded like the start of the aforementioned record. The rooster crowed, and then the Beatles sang, "Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good . . ." et cetera, et cetera. It was all a diabolical plot calculated to drive listeners batty at 6:45 a.m. It worked, too. I still haven't quite recovered.