One of the reasons that no one will do what I do is that radio is turning into something other than radio. This is certainly the case at WJOB. We moved from decrepit old radio studios underneath a tower behind a car dealership to brand spanking new studios on a big college campus.
Yesterday, Purdue was holding a conference to train people how to use virtual reality in advanced manufacturing. I went across the hall and put on the virtual reality headset to test it out. There’s a cartoon of a room and a house and a cliff and a sunset. You turn your head and walk toward the stairs. You lift your legs to climb them. It’s all so real and fake in the same instant.
One of the guys from the conference came to the windows outside our studio. He stood there peering inside.
“Are you the owner?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” I said proudly.
“You have some of the most advanced video equipment I’ve seen. Why do you have that if you’re a radio station?”
Good question, sir. This would be a good point to tell the three or four of you where we’re at in the development of a new TV station.
As you remember, we have been streaming video in one form or another since 2010. It has been my vision for a long time to create not only working radio stations for northwest Indiana and the rest of Chicago’s southland, but to also give them a television station.
The vision starting taking shape in 1985. I worked at WJOB as the business-labor editor and a sports announcer. This meant that every Wednesday I had to go out front of WJOB and wash the owner’s Bentley. It wasn’t so bad when all of the reporters were out on assignment. But when they were coming and going to important meetings and I was standing there with a wash rag in my hand, it was completely humiliating.
I had, after all, just finished doing my honors thesis at Berkeley. My brothers and sisters say that the reason I returned several years later to buy WJOB was to exact revenge of some sort on Julian Colby for making me wash his Bentley.
Anyways, the owner, Colby, also had me run errands for him. At the time, cable television was coming into its own. Colby bought the franchise for Hammond. That meant that he was involved in laying cable all over this fine city. He also had to build some studios and a place for everyone to pick up their boxes and pay their bills.
“Mr. Colby, can I speak to you for a second?”
“Have you finished with the Bentley?”
“Then come in. You got two minutes.”
When you went into Colby’s office – which later became my wife’s office when she ran the radio stations for three years – you were never alone with Colby. Judy Grambo was always there. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember that Judy, the station manager, had her own office. She was always just on the other side of Colby’s desk sitting in a chair. It was a huge desk, so maybe Judy just did all of her work from the other end of the power surface. Whatever the relationship between Colby and Judy was, it was close. They knew each other well and seemingly worked on top of each other.
“Mr. Colby, I have been going over to the new building and I saw the studios – are we building a TV station?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Okay, ‘just curious.’ We’re building a cable network.”
“Do we make our own TV shows?”
“No. We distribute other people’s TV shows. That’s where the money’s at.”
I went on to suggest to Mr. Colby that perhaps we should make our own TV shows, that perhaps we should have our own TV station in the Calumet Region, just like Chicago had theirs.
“Get this straight, Dedelow. Chicago rules TV. The Calumet Region of Indiana and Illinois will never have a TV station. Never.”
That was that. We talked about it a couple more times, but Colby’s message was the same. We can have some radio down here in Chicago’s southland, but we will never have TV. Chicago gets TV.
Times have changed. Yesterday, I had a team of nine people working on putting together a TV station. It’s a lot of people and a lot of cost, but remember, the three or four of you, that we are on a college campus. I can hire top, emerging talent for reasonable cost. Once they’re trained to a reasonable level, I get extremely productive workers for a short time. Then they put the experience on a resume and get a full-time job. Everybody wins. They get experience. I get productivity.
A team of three marketeers is putting together the website that will hold the new TV station. It’s Christina , Darya and Mark. Right now, they are working on putting together flyers to sell sports advertising on the new TV station. The TV feed will be held at WJOBnetwork.com. At first, we thought of putting it at WJOBtv.com, but then we remembered that we have two radio stations. And rather than have two websites –
we decided to go with WJOBnetwork.com to encompass radio and TV.
Christina, Darya and Mark sit in a small office around the corner from the WJOB studios. Mark sits at the main computer and Christina and Darya sit across the desk with their laptops. They spend all day looking at their screens.
The three marketeers, are building a website and putting together a marketing plan. Three other people are building the distribution system for playing and sending all of our video to the internet. This team is
- Ryan Walsh
- Jimmy Mullaney
- Will Haczel
This is highly technical work. I basically put all of the computers and software together in a line and told them – “Figure it out from here.”
These three video people spent yesterday scurrying around with cords and connectors trying to get a radio studio to talk to a video studio, and vice versa. Here’s the general design of our space.
- There’s a radio studio. This is the four walls of glass – two of them looking out on to Indianapolis Boulevard – where we do all of our shows. There’s tons of microphones, cameras, mixing boards, compressors and more. If you don’t know studios, doesn’t make any sense.
- There’s a production room. This is where all of the producers sit and look through a window at the people in the studio. There’s a ton of computers, video switchers, microphones, a Tieline system, and more.
- Through the windows in to an open area is the new TV station. There’s basically the same thing in there. Cameras, computers, switchers, huge monitors, and more.
If any of the three or four of you are tech geeks, here’s some of the pieces in the new TV station.
- A-list video playout system by Rushworks. This is a huge computer with external storage where you put all of the recorded files that you will play on your TV station. Commercials, highlights, actual shows, games, etc. all get lined up in whatever order you choose. It’s just a very complicated Itunes system.
- Roland V-4EX video switcher. This takes in the various sources of live video and feeds it into the A-list system.
- A wirecast computer. This system encodes the video and sends it to the streaming company.
- A computer for playing files off of the internet.
- Cameras, tripods, lights and the rest of the stuff you need to do TV.
Yesterday, Ryan, Jimmy and Will were waiting for Amazon to deliver a couple of splitters and connectors to bring it all together so that we could broadcast live TV. This involves a lot of putting things together and taking them apart. In a way, the marketeers and the video team are at a similar stage. They’ve been working a long time on their portion of the video project and they’re very close to having a minimum viable product.
Since we’re close to
- getting a working website to host the new TV station
- setting up the actual TV studio and streaming system
there’s a lot going on. Yesterday, I spent my afternoon running from the marketeers:
“Okay, show me the latest draft of the flyer to sell football advertising.”
I’d look at the flyer, bring out my red pen, make a bunch of changes – “Here, make these edits and I’ll be back in 10 minutes to review them.”
And then I’d run back into the TV studio –
“Show me that you can switch seamlessly between the live show that’s going on in the radio studio and the TV commercial on A-list.”
They’d play the live show that Sam Michel was doing in the studio, and they’d cut in with a commercial.
“Great. You guys really have advanced. Now here’s the problem. The A-list system has to be the last component on the line. Right now, you are playing the A-list system into the V-4EX. It has to be the other way around.”
“Because you lose an input on the V-4EX that we will need. Just do what I say.”
So Jimmy and Will go back to crawling around the backs of the computers, hooking and unhooking connectors. They do it with the same fervor that I once washed Colby’s Bentley.
Typically, I shuffle between two groups of students and recent grads –
- the three marketeers
- the three video people
But yesterday, there was a third team to shuffle to. It was headed by Andrew Garcia, a recent broadcasting grad from DePaul. It includes Sonny Santana and Rogert Aguirre, Purdue student. Andrew is in charge of the team going around to the local high schools and doing as many video segments as he can about their football and soccer teams. Yesterday, the team went to Gavit High School.
When I got back from lunch, Andrew was sitting there, dejected.
“You okay, Andrew?” I asked.
“Actually, we had a bit of a problem.”
“Yeah, we went out and did a bunch of interviews at Gavit and we don’t have any sound.”
I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help it. There Andrew sat, crying in his beer, and I laughed. I am sorry for this, but only kind of sorry.
“Somehow this connector into the DSLR was loose. We didn’t pick up any sound at all. Great video, complete silence.”
This became a source of comedy as the day wore on. Station manager Debbie Wargo kept picking up a microphone and miming as if she were talking into it – but no sound was coming out of her mouth. The rest of us followed.
“Hey, Andrew, who am I?” one of us would say. And we’d pick up a pen and hold it in front as if it were a microphone. We’d move his lips, but no sound would come out.
“Funny. Very funny,” Andrew would say.
Now this is an important point in the development of Andrew Garcia. He just graduated from DePaul and he has an abundance of energy for broadcasting. And he’s got talent. These are the building blocks for a career in broadcasting.
What he does not have, to this point, is failures. He won a national award of some kind for his student work at DePaul. And he’s hosted on WJOB quite adequately, both in studio and announcing at games. He’s even worked cameras and produced.
But what he has not done is go out to a site and do a bunch of interviews and come back with no sound – until now. He now knows to check and recheck and recheck again as he’s going along with his duties on site. I have recorded without sound before, too.
It was in 1985. I went out to the old Inland Steel plant to interview the then- lieutenant governor, John Mutz. He and I huddled next to a blast furnace and I asked him a question and he answered. We did it again and again until we had a decent interview. I recorded it on one of those old cassette recorders.
Or so I thought. I moved away from the blast furnace and pressed “play” to hear what I had recorded. Nothing. Silence. I had somehow not completely depressed the little red record button.
I tested the machine, pressing the red button all the way down, and recorded something. I played it back. Fine. It worked. So I had to go back to the press secretary, beg for just another couple of minutes with the lieutenant governor. The woman granted my request.
“Just a couple more questions, Mr. Mutz.” I said. This didn’t fool him.
“You mean, you didn’t get that other interview, did you?”
“No, Mr. Mutz. I did not. We’ll have to do it all over again.”
That was the first and last time that I didn’t hit record. It’s a lesson that Andrew Garcia will carry with him for the rest of his broadcasting life. And as long as he works with us at WJOB, someone will remind him at least every week of his misstep yesterday at Gavit High School. Debbie Wargo is the best at it. All day long, she was picking up staplers, letter openers, pencils, rulers and pretending to talk into them… without any sound. I’m laughing just thinking about it.
So, to summarize for the three or four of you – and for broadcasting students 50 years from now – I was shuffling between four places.
- the marketing team
- the video team
- the Andrew Garcia team
- the business office
I did this for a good four hours. It was exhausting. But we’re getting closer to building a local TV station for the Calumet Region.
“Mr. Colby,” I said. “Why don’t we just build our own TV station?”
“It’ll never happen, kid. Don’t ask me why, but the Calumet Region will never have its own TV station. Never.”