My adventures as a temporary reporter in Monroe, Louisiana.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It's coming through the air...for all of us to hear

Or not…

Nothing been going through the air on the KEDM airwaves. Yep, that’s right folks we were off the air again. I thought I was just having trouble tuning it in on my clock radio, but when I got in my car to drive to the station—KEDM was definitely off the air. I had the fun job of calling the groggy engineer at 5 in the morning. This is the third time in four days the station’s not been broadcasting. The first time was because of Rita on Saturday. The second time was because of doing a few repairs because of the power outage yesterday, which ended up being longer than expected. Then again sometime overnight yesterday something blew, and the signal.

Most of the station is automated, meaning no live person is actually there on the air. It’s all pre-recorded and plugged in. So for most of the people at the station, they just go about their normal day. In news, it seems really frustrating. News by it’s nature can’t be automated, so that means a real live person there. This time the power company needed to come out and replace a transformer at the transmitter.

There wasn’t a very accurate estimate of how long it would take, so my morning was spent getting prepared to do nothing. I had to have newscasts ready to go. So after I had enough newscasts prepared to fill in the first hour, I pretty much sat around listening to white noise with a very faint signal from Mississippi Public Radio occasionally making an appearance. I tried logging some tape, but got completely paranoid that I’d miss coming back on the air, and having the constant static play in my ear while trying to listen and type was driving me nuts. So I spent an hour or so weeding through my inbox…it should look good for a day or two. I contemplated making some phone calls for the noon cast, but it seemed like it would be an exercise it futility. And in retrospect it would have been, the station didn’t come back on the air until 4 or 5 in the afternoon.

The funny part was all the station staff that came in would stop a second or two after walking in the door. Listen for a few seconds and ask, “Are we off the air?” If you here static instead of NPR, it should be obvious...the station is off the air. Morning Edition doesn’t often play an extended Ode to Static instead of the latest news. Plus, it made me wonder—just how much does the staff listen to the station?

There are two or three other station that use the same tower including the student station, KXUL. It was on the air while KEDM wasn’t. Apparently, they have a backup generator. Not having a backup generator doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’m not paying the bills so what do I know. Actually, the student station is both the best and worst student station I’ve ever heard. Except for it’s lack of commercials, most of the time I wouldn’t know it was student run. It plays the same songs as any alternative/modern rock station, and it’s pretty constant in what it plays. There aren’t any oddball death metal hours thrown in for fun. Also, there aren’t any awkward pauses and the announcers sound pretty smooth.

But…all that weirdness is why I like college radio. That sense of randomness and never quite knowing what you’re going to hear. Also, it’s so great just having people play music that they have a real passion for. Plus, where’s my Belle and Sebastian? I mean I can’t imagine buying a Belle and Sebastian album. Maybe downloading a song or two, but I love it each and every time I hear one of their songs on the radio.

On a personal note, I’m zonked. Since Friday, I’ve had a mild soar throat, or more accurately, half a mild soar throat. One tonsil has been all icky and soar feeling, but the other is just fine. It’s really been nothing, but I think it’s been zapping my energy. Fortunately, I think it’s almost gone.

Tonight, I went to Enoch’s with news director Sunny Merriwether. Enoch’s is Monroe’s Irish pub. It seemed like a decent pub, but it had this weird contingent of people who seemed way to dressed up to be at a pub. I mean one or two dressed up people seems acceptable, but when more than half the people look like they’re there to be seen then to throw back a few Guinesses it kind of gives the place a weird vibe.


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