Thursday, May 15, 2014

A DXer in the Radio Industry

For twenty-two years, from the time I graduated from high school in 1985 to the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, I worked in the broadcast industry. I took six months off in 1988 and 1989 after moving to the Atlanta area, three months off in 1992 while returning to the St. Louis area, fourteen months off in 1995 and 1996 to work outside the industry, and eleven months off in 1999 and 2000 to transition back to college from my last commercial broadcast job. I've been fortunate to be both a DXer and a worker in the broadcast industry. Unfortunately, DXers working in the broadcast industry are becoming nearly extinct in this day and age. It seems like yesterday that DXers like Glenn Hauser and Jerry Starr were making an honest living in the broadcast industry, especially radio.

What today's radio industry is missing out on is the unique perspective offered by the DXer. He or she will be able to explain to the management of the station he or she works for about the hobby whenever the station gets a letter or reception report from a distant listener. Without that perspective, the station won't understand a letter or a reception report from a distant listener. That has happened to me several times. When I was working for WFUN-FM 95.5, I typed up a verification letter for my boss to sign. He simply threw it in the trash. Another example is when an FM DXer in southwest Missouri was hearing KIND-FM in Independence, KS. He called the station, and the operator on duty said: "We don't get out beyond the state line." This is an indication of the lack of understanding of the DX hobby in this day and age. Had there been a DXer in charge at either WFUN-FM or KIND-FM, then the station would have been more DXer-friendly. The DXer brings an understanding of signal propagation to the management of a particular radio station or cluster. When I was working at WFTD 1080 Marietta, GA, I typed up a form letter for verification of distant reception reports. I tutored my boss, Rocky Payne, on the DX hobby. I even talked about it on the air during a Sharathon in 1991. WFTD received reports from all over the East and Midwest while I was there; I'm the fortunate recipient of a verification letter from the station, which I received for a report from my present location in January 1993. The ministry that owned the station sold it in 1998. At my last job at WSIE 88.7 Edwardsville, IL, I also explained it to my then-boss, Frank Akers, and the station's then-Chief Engineer, Dave Caires.  I distinctly remember the station receiving reports from upstate New York and from Florida during the nine years I worked at the station. The most recent radio manager to get some tutoring on DXing has been Paul Huddleston, the Station Manager at 89.5 The Wave (KCFV Ferguson, MO). He told me of one time, when he was out in St. Charles County, MO, tuning into KPNT 105.7 Collinsville, IL. The signal faded out enough to hear WIXO in Peoria, IL. Needless to say, he was surprised to hear a Peoria station in a fade of 105.7 The Point.

Usually, a Chief Engineer signs the verification letters or cards for reception reports from distant listeners. Many of these engineers are also Amateur Radio operators, and have an understanding of signal propagation. Many an engineer has signed letters of verification from the AM and FM stations I've heard, as well as the analog TV stations I've seen, over the years. Some reports have been signed by a contract engineer, some by program directors, operations managers, copy writers, and even a fellow DXer or Amateur Radio operator. Shortwave stations usually have people assigned to sign verification cards, usually an engineer, copy writer or even a correspondence section. 

I have argued over the years for more DXer involvement in the broadcast industry, especially one who has been trained for employment in the broadcast industry (especially those who got their education through a college or university). The perspective a DXer is a perspective a broadcaster really needs to understand the letters and reception reports received from listeners outside the station's main coverage area. Without it, the broadcaster doesn't have that perspective to draw on. With fewer owners and the broadcasters' obsession with voicetracking, fewer stations will have the unique perspective a DXer/broadcaster offers. I was fortunate to work in the industry for as long as I did.

Broadcasters should be encouraged to hire more DXers for paid employment, regardless of whether it be an on-air or support position. It was the DX hobby that provided the motivation for me to enter the broadcast industry nearly 30 years ago. Today, with fewer opportunities for broadcast employment than 20, 25 or 30 years ago, the likelihood of a broadcaster gaining the unique perspective a DXer offers to the industry is greatly reduced. The more DXers are involved in the broadcast industry, the understanding of the hobby by the broadcaster will be greatly enhanced.

Before you send the next reception report to a distant AM or FM station, it would be wise to get several copies of "The Broadcaster's Guide to DX", which is offered by the Goodie Factory of the International Radio Club of America. The minimum order for this pamphlet is 10. My advice is to order as many copies of this pamphlet as you can, and put it into your next reception report to a distant AM or FM station. This will provide the broadcaster with a basic introduction to the DX hobby. 

Having been on both the receive and transmit ends of radio, I have been able to experience the radio from the DXer's and broadcaster's perspective. I keep this in mind, even though I've been retired from the industry (the radio industry's choice, not mine) for nearly five years now.