It’s a great time of the year to be local radio guy, especially if you’re into basketball.
On Sunday, Alexis and I went to W. Lafayette for the Purdue-Penn State game. The Boilers pulled it out 76-73 to end a three-game skid that nobody saw coming. After winning 19 in a row, you expect more. For three games, you got less.
Last night at the Sportsmanship Dinner, Dave Kusiak, my partner in a lot of crime, said:
“You watch. If Purdue goes on to make a run in the NCAA tournament, they’ll look back on these three losses as the reason why.”
It is, of course, on everyone’s mind that Purdue could make a run in the NCAA tourney. We all have our fingers crossed, including my wife of 26 years. Somehow, she has become a huge basketball fan.
“What did you think was gonna happen? While we were dating, you took me to a game a week. And it never stopped. I just went along with the program.”
I don’t know who’s the bigger fan, Alexis or me. I’ll come back from class in the evening and Alexis will be walking the treadmill while watching the Wisconsin-Michigan State game.
“Oh my god. Wisconsin was winning by 10 and now they’re down by 5. This is bad,” she’ll shout as I walk in the door.
“And the refs are horrible."
We went down to W. Lafayette and stayed the night in a Baymont Inn. I didn’t know that you could still get a hotel room in America for $71 a night. We checked in, ate dinner at Mountain Jack’s, and drove to Mackey Arena. We have two seats on media row and also two regular seats. Alexis and I sat on media row.
“Man, that was a great game. You ready to go?” I said.
“What? Aren’t we going to the press conference?”
So we sat in the second row of a press conference that started out with players Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline and Dakota Mathias answering questions. Then Penn State coach Pat Chambers took his turn. Finally, Purdue coach Matt Painter came in.
“Rebounding. That’s what we have to worry about. Rebounding,” Painter said. I didn’t ask any questions. It was late. I just wanted to get back to the hotel room and watch Sportscenter.
“You didn’t ask any questions,” Alexis said on the long walk behind Ross-Ade Stadium. “If your dad was here, he would have asked questions.”
That’s true. My dad goes to the games a lot and reports to me what’s going on. I use his info on the morning show. Sometimes my dad asks questions. He’s the old guy with the gray beard who knows basketball but won’t shut up. That’s my dad, and I’m proud of that.
Last night, it was more basketball. They had the 64th annual Sportsmanship Dinner at the Halls of St. George in Schererville. It’s when 800 people, including players from 29 teams, break bread and listen to speeches. IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said it best:
“I get the opportunity to travel all over this great country. I meet with my colleagues in other states. When I tell him about 800 people getting together before the state tournament every year, they can’t believe it. This is truly an unique experience.”
I’ve talked about my experiences with the Sportsmanship Banquet before, how I screwed around so much in high school that I missed the true meaning of the thing.
After the dinner last night, Dave Kusiak and Billy Baker and I and a bunch of other guys in sport coats retired to the bar to tell stories. That’s where what I may have made a fatal mistake – I put my two cents in.
As the three or four of you know, I put together with Chris Ramirez of the Region Sports Network a plan to broadcast live in video most of the games of the upcoming IHSAA boys basketball tournament. It should be about 20 games total. It will be a lot of work and I may wind up losing my shirt. Still, it’s the right thing to do. I introduced Facebook Live to the Region. It’s my responsibility to use it for good.
And make no mistake. The Indiana boys high school basketball tournament is good and pure and beautiful, just like radio.
“Hey, I don’t normally do this, but I’m gonna suggest something to you guys,” I said to Billy Baker and Ernie Nims.
“You gotta make a show of this,” I said.
For 64 years, they’ve put a bunch of old mostly white guys at a big head table on a stage. The old men talk and talk, and the young boys sit at the tables, bored and their minds wandering. They may even try to pay attention. But it’s difficult. The old men say things like –
“Reach across the table and meet the players from the other teams. They are your partners in combat. Some will become lifelong friends.”
Kids don’t wanna hear that. They want video of themselves playing in last year’s sectional. They want highlight dunks, long threes. When you introduce some old guy, flash some photos on a screen of him wearing really tight shorts in the 70s. Play music, flash some lights.
I told this to Billy Baker and Ernie Nims.
“And here’s the kicker,” I said. “I just put together a deal in which we're gonna broadcast almost all of the games from the four main sectionals around here. For the first time in history, you’ll have video to work with. You could put together a killer show for kids and sponsors.”
As I was saying it, I realized that no matter how this goes down, I may have just created a bunch of work for myself. I can feel it.
“Why don’t you cut up the highlights as you go along so we’ll have them?” Baker asked.
As the three or four of you also know, I’m a softie. Whatever it costs, I’ll charge just under cost so that I lose money on whatever we come up with. The solution here is to provide the video to them free of charge, line them up with someone who could bring in lights, huge video screens, speakers for the music, and so one. Let that person track down each honoree for photos and videos of themselves… and then get out of the way. I told them how it needs to be done. I don’t have to do it for them.
Anyways, it’s 4:45 am on a Tuesday. I didn’t do the radio show yesterday. It was Presidents Day. Rick Kubic did a great job filling in.
“What is this? When JED does the show, there’s 19 producers around. When I do the show, I get Panek,” Kubic said.
It’s a Tuesday, so Verlie will come in. I have been thinking a lot about Facebook vs. radio. As the three or four of you read in my last blog post, regulation is the key to making it fair for radio and for protecting our American democracy –
Radio = chains
Facebook = freedom.
When I get the time, which won’t be soon, I’ll address the general mission of radio vs. Facebook. At the core of Facebook’s freedom is that they don’t really choose what content will be on their platform. Radio does, by law. I’ll explain to you how I think that this is the basis for the competitive advantage that Facebook has. I won’t go into it right now because I have to eat a couple of eggs, put on some pants, and do a radio show. Talk to you later.
It’s simple. Regulation.
As the three or four of you know, I pin the downfall of radio partly on the overregulation of radio and the under-regulation of Facebook.
And if there’s anything we’ve learned from this past week, it’s that:
There are, however, reams of rules regarding radio. This is because radio is old and mature. It has taken generations to build up an entire industry surrounding the regulation of radio in Washington DC. Many lawyers, accountants, investigators, bureaucrats, agency personnel, lobbyists and more earn a living simply because local radio stations have to comply with a lot of regulation.
This is to me the biggest difference in radio’s ability to compete. We as local radio stations can’t say cuss words. We’re held accountable if someone does cuss on our stations. If someone wants to appear on one of our shows and they’re in the “45-day period” before elections, then all sorts of triggers go into effect.
If some people want to put out info in support of one candidate over another, they have to fill out paperwork. And the federal government specifies what we charge these people to use our airwaves.
The regulation of radio is either
Radio sells ads on the airwaves. We have to sell to political people at the lowest unit price. We have to fill out paperwork and put it in our public files. If a person stops by and wants us to prove to them that we put the stuff in there – and filled it out correctly and were paid the correct price – we have to stop what we’re doing and show it to them. If someone sends a one-sentence complaint to the FCC, we have to pay to investigate ourselves. And if we mess up on investigating ourselves, we could go to jail.
The thought that you could walk into Facebook and ask to see records of what the Russians did on Facebook to influence the 2016 election is laughable. Yet we don’t find it laughable all that these demands and much, much more are made of radio.
Radio = chains.
Facebook = freedom.
Do Friday’s indictments make us any safer (or, as an offshoot, bring us any closer to making it fair for radio)?
A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a massive operation intended to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has accused the defendants of posing as Americans to sway election results.
(The Russians) focused on the US population and operated on social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube… (Their) strategy included fomenting distrust in US presidential candidates and the US political system.
Notice that the 13 Russians charged in this investigation ignored radio in their quest to control America.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room is Facebook. The Russians know this. They’re smarter than we are. They know what it means when you unleash the wrath of the 800-pound gorilla. And, to be clear, it is an 800-pound gorilla without chains.
Radio, on the other hand, is the docile collie in the corner in a cage.
So I ask this of the three or four of you – if you wanted to sway public opinion by putting out fake information and fake identities, would you go to Facebook or radio?
Your answer would no doubt be – “Radio is dying. I’d go to Facebook. That’s where the action is.”
This is true. Radio is dying. That’s the whole point of this blog. I am the local radio guy. I know that if regulation stays the way it is, there will be no more of me left at some point. I record My Radio Life as a historical document.
But after you accept that radio is dying, ask why.
Sure, radio is one-way communication for the most part. I talk on the radio at 5:30 in the morning. You listen on your way to work. You might call in, text me, Facebook Live comment or email me. But in the end, it’s not nearly as easy to interact with me as it is to interact with each other on Facebook.
As it stands, radio is an inferior way of communicating. I have told the three or four of you of some of the ways to improve radio, but it all goes back to regulation.
Radio is, as I tell the three of you a lot, good and pure and beautiful. Facebook is quickly turning to be full of hate. And, as we saw on Friday, Facebook may be becoming a threat to our American democracy. There is, of course, a middle ground. We can loosen up radio and tighten up Facebook. It may be the only way to safeguard our democracy and, as a parochial interest, make radio great again.
Let’s look at yesterday. It started out like a regular radio day. At 5:30am, I walked out onto Indianapolis Boulevard and talked on the radio. Then I interviewed the Bishop Noll assistant hockey coach, Kevin Smith, about the upcoming state hockey tournament.
I can’t do it.
There’s so much that happens in a radio day that it’s too much to write down. My Radio Life isn’t mine at all. It’s yours. I give myself to radio and at the end of the day I don’t even have enough left to write a poem for my wife on Valentine’s Day. She wrote me one. I always write her one. I am losing the battle against tasks and responsibility. Most men live lives of quiet desperation, frittered away by detail.