Are all 911 calls this confused?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Signal fading on radio traffic reports
By DAISY NGUYEN (AP) – 1 day ago
CORONA, Calif. — For more than 20 years, Mike Nolan was known to radio listeners as the "eye in the sky." He flew over Southern California freeways in his single-engine plane, reporting on the nation's worst traffic.
These days, he broadcasts about traffic snarls and lurking gridlock without leaving the ground — without even leaving his home in this Los Angeles suburb. Sitting in a chair behind computer monitors and a television, Nolan gathers traffic data and broadcasts live on two radio stations a day.
"What I'm best suited to do is look out the airplane window and tell people what I see," Nolan, 60, said. "When I was grounded, that world changed considerably so I had to reinvent myself."
His return to earth reflects the evolution of the traffic reporting business as a faltering economy forces news operation cutbacks, technology displaces traditional reporters and motorists increasingly rely on cell phones and GPS to monitor live traffic.
Most traffic news is now generated by reporters on the ground monitoring police reports, live highway cameras, data from ground sensors that can detect traffic speed and tips from drivers.
Reporters can be hundreds of miles away away from the scene and detail the latest traffic jams to three or four radio stations in the same hour, sometimes using aliases. Rebecca Campbell might report at the top of the hour for the Fox sports station using her own name, then 20 minutes later appear as Toni Jordan on an alternative rock station. For a station popular with Latino listeners, she goes by the name Lena Macias.
Even as traffic reporters have had their wings clipped in recent years, the airwaves ahead appear even more bumpy.
Music stations competing for listeners have been cutting back on disc jockey banter, and some industry veterans believe traffic reports could fade altogether.
"A number of years ago it'd be unheard of to have an FM station in L.A. without traffic reports," said Don Bastida, vice president of operations for Airwatch, one of the nation's largest traffic-reporting services. "Now traffic reports on the music stations become just an interruption that gives the listener an opportunity to hit the button and move on to the next station."
He said traffic reports will remain on the AM dial, but they'll decline to the point that they'll only be offered as part of a news story when a major incident happens.
The region's top-rated pop station, KISS-FM, recently dropped afternoon traffic reports after AMP-FM, a new Top 40 station received higher ratings without traffic updates.
Metro Traffic, a division of Westwood One Inc., began consolidating its 60 traffic reporting operations around the nation last year to just 13. As a result, reporters in the Washington D.C. hub also cover traffic news for Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Some plane and helicopter reporting flights were cut as part of cost reductions that will amount to $55 million to $63 million annually.
Airwatch, a subsidiary of radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc., has 60 reporters and producers working around the clock to provide traffic updates to more than 40 Southern California stations. They sit side by side in a small studio overlooking an Orange County freeway, staring at computer monitors and TV screens as they speak into the microphones, sometimes talking over each other as they file live reports.
Airwatch's revenue grew each year for nearly 10 years. But in late 2007, seven reporters lost their jobs when Clear Channel downsized the operation.
Nolan was one of them. He took a substantial pay cut to work from the ground. He chose to work from home rather than commute 40 miles roundtrip to the Airwatch studio in Santa Ana.
He now takes a few steps from his bedroom to his study to start his split shifts, from 5 to 9 a.m. then 3 to 7 p.m. He puts on a headset, turns on the stopwatch application on his iPhone, and pulls up a half-dozen Web pages to gather traffic information.
When it's his turn to come on at the top of the hour, 20 minutes past and bottom of the hour on KFI-AM and twice per hour on KOST-FM, Nolan rattles off a list of congested freeways in 40 second to one minute bursts.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the early 1960s, Nolan saw freeways expand deeper into suburbs. Flying over Southern California day in and day out gave him an understanding of traffic patterns that enhance his reports from the ground.
When he reads traffic maps on the computer, he can picture every tunnel, hill and curve and knows when drivers should be slowing down. He can suggest alternate routes and knows what type of incident is likely to cause more misery.
He said that kind of knowledge can't be replaced by GPS-equipped gadgets.
"The radio reporter is going to tell you what's going on where you're going to be in addition to where you are," Nolan said.
Bastida at Airwatch predicts that in a few years, motorists will steer further away from the radio as carmakers add even more navigation systems and Internet-access equipment to vehicles. Airwatch has a growing service providing traffic updates directly to navigational units in vehicles.
"There will be jobs for people gathering and inputting the traffic data, but jobs for broadcasters will be going away," Bastida said.
Not everyone has a bleak outlook.
John Frawley, executive vice president of broadcast operations for Metro Traffic, said traffic news remains a big draw on news and talk stations. He says a device may tell drivers where the traffic jams are and how far the backup is, but it doesn't explain the cause.
"When our people come on, people pay attention," Frawley said. "They're interested that somebody else is suffering in traffic, too."
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
While I program two radio stations with traffic reports, its kind of hard to argue with the facts in the story. If you haven't seen the live traffic on Google Maps, especially on a mobile device, you'll see why traffic reporting is about to become a personal choice as opposed to something that's pushed via radio or TV.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I miss WKRP in Cincinnati.
I miss radio the way it used to be. I miss Jennifer Marlowe.
But every Thanksgiving, I'm reminded of the great show Hugh Wilson and Bill Dial wrote about an old school radio stunt gone bad. If you haven't seen it, take the 21 minutes and enjoy.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Glenn Beck is coming to your neighborhood to teach you how to be a "political force". Here's his theme song! http://ping.fm/GJSO9
Details are in the New York Times
Glenn Beck Stakes Out a More Activist Role in Politics
Glenn Beck, the popular and outspoken Fox News host, says he wants to go beyond broadcasting his opinions and start rallying his political base — formerly known as his audience — to take action.
To do so, Mr. Beck is styling himself as a political organizer. In an interview, he said he would promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of seven conventions across the country featuring what he described as libertarian speakers.
On Saturday he held a festive campaign-style rally in The Villages in Florida, north of Orlando, in which he promoted his recently released book, “Arguing With Idiots,” and announced another book to come next August filled with right-leaning policy proposals gathered from the conventions.
Mr. Beck provided few details about his plans for the tour, making it unclear if he truly intends to prod his audience of millions into political action or merely burnish his media brand ahead of a book release.
Mr. Beck did say the conventions would resemble educational seminars, and he emphasized that while candidates may align themselves with the values and principles that he espouses, he would not take the next step to endorse them.
In describing the conventions, he told the crowd on Saturday: “You’re going to learn about finance. You’re going to learn about community organizing. You’re going to learn everything we need to know if you want to be a politician.”
His staff would not say whether particular candidates for office in the 2010 midterm elections would be invited to speak at the conventions or the August rally.
As for the question of Mr. Beck’s intentions, “He might just be trying to sell books, but there are much simpler ways to sell books,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, a vice president at Media Matters, the liberal media monitoring group. He said Mr. Beck sounded more like a presidential candidate than a pundit.
Mr. Beck, having used his television and radio pulpit to lay out his list of the country’s impending problems — deficit spending, health care legislation that will “destroy” the economy, a dearth of “personal responsibility” — says he now wants to also provide solutions.
In the interview, Mr. Beck, a frequent critic of President Obama, chose his words carefully but made clear that he intended to help elect politicians aligned with his limited-government world view. “We’ll be looking for ways to get people involved in politics,” he said.
Mr. Beck is not the only media firebrand trying to mobilize Americans disaffected with a Democratic-controlled government. The radio host Laura Ingraham is inviting candidates to sign a 10-point pledge on her Web site. Sean Hannity, on his afternoon radio show and prime-time Fox News program, is promoting “Conservative Victory 2010,” his name for the map on his site that will spell out questions for candidates.
And the former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who has a show on Fox News, has steered viewers to his Web site, where they can contribute money to his political action committee in support of conservative candidates.
Pundits have used their media stages to encourage political action before, but people like Mr. Beck and Mr. Hannity are taking on outsize roles now, political experts and conservative commentators say. One reason, they say, is the weakened state of the Republican Party.
The media figures’ roles may exacerbate the ideological feuds that are already roiling the party. For the diffuse tea party movement that taps into anti-government sentiments, “the media guys are the closest things we even have to a leader,” said Adam Brandon, the vice president for communications at FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group.
These efforts are reminiscent of the Contract With America pledge made by conservatives during the 1994 elections, though some Republicans who are uncomfortable with media personalities taking on new political roles note that that effort originated with lawmakers.
When asked about Mr. Beck at a conference last month, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said: “Here’s what I worry about. How many people in my business are going to be controlled by what’s said on the radio or in a TV commercial?”
It was not lost on Mr. Beck’s fans that the Saturday rally and book signing were held in Florida, where the Republican governor, Charlie Crist, has been sharply criticized by conservatives as he runs for an open seat in the United States Senate. Mr. Crist’s challenger, Marco Rubio, has already signed the pledge on Ms. Ingraham’s Web site, as have a smattering of other conservative candidates.
Already, Mr. Beck’s page on FoxNews.com features what it calls “In or Out 2010,” a “simple challenge” for lawmakers. It includes a pledge to back a freeze in government spending; oppose all tax increases “until our economy has rebounded”; and support stricter immigration enforcement.
Amy Green contributed reporting.
My favorite quote is on Newser.com I have begun meeting with some of the best minds in the country that believe in limited government, maximum freedom and the values of our Founders. I am developing a 100-year plan.- Glenn Beck
I have to go read the First Amendment now to remind myself that the whole free speech thing is actually good, and not evil. And I have to go watch the epic film "Network". I do believe Howard Beale is coming to life and he wants to be President.
And should you not know the work of Mr. Beck, please enjoy this snippet from his Fox News show, wontcha...
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This week on Digital Life I did a segment about Email Signature Etiquette. It generated a bit of buzz, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Almost every email program lets you automatically add a signature to the emails you send. I’m sure you seen all kinds of interesting ones: flowery ones, very dense ones, and the horrifying and aesthetically offensive ones. What should yours look like? Here are a few simple guidelines:
First, every single email you send should have a signature. It should be plain text, so that it will look the same no matter what device or software is used to read it. When I say plain text, I mean just type (for geeks, ASCII text), no pictures, no logos, no html code, nothing but text.
Why? More than half the corporate world uses BlackBerrys to communicate. Depending on the vintage, they handle HTML over a wide range from, very poorly to marginally poorly. The operating word here is “poorly,” so why set up a signature that’s guaranteed to torture a large number of corporate users. Overly ornate signatures will produce highly unexpected, and possibly unreadable, results on a BlackBerry. This is also true for the body copy of the email. Tabs, bullets, any kind of alignment is all thrown out the window and HTML looks like jumbled computer code when it is displayed as text.
Another, and possibly more important, reason to use plain text is the wide range of spam filters that are currently deployed. Many of these filters look at the ratio of text to graphics as a test. If you’re email is already in HTML format, a logo or a combination of logo and your picture may kick your email into the corporate trash.
Like I said, signatures should be simple, complete and in plain text.
What should you include in your email signature? If it’s your personal signature: your name, email and the phone number(s) that are most relevant to your average recipients. Yes, your email address is in the “from” field at the top of the email. And, yes, they can reply to you by simply clicking “reply.” But what if they want to copy your information into a document or the notes field of a database or an address book program? The goal is to make contacting you and storing your information convenient.
If you have a business account, your signature should include all of your contact data. Name, title, company, office address, your email, your phone numbers and the company website. All text and all neatly stacked flush left.
Why include everything? How many times have you wanted to call someone about an email they sent and, because their phone number wasn’t in the email, you had to stop what you were doing to go look it up. Putting all your contact info into your email communication shows a world of respect for the one thing that everyone needs and has way too little of, their time.
One last thing, it is completely OK to leave the line, “Sent from my blackberry” or “Sent from my iPhone” at the bottom of a mobile email. It lets the recipient know that you are answering their email from your mobile device and that may get you a pass on some small typos and spelling errors. However, do everyone a favor and lose the, “Typing with my thumbs” line. It’s the 21st century; everyone types with their thumbs.
Set up some plain text email signatures and use them. It’s the right thing to do. For more help with your digital life, come visit me at shellypalmer.com
Shelly Palmer is the host of "Digital Life with Shelly Palmer," a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world which can be seen on WNBC-TV’s NY Nonstop Tuesdays at 10p Eastern and online, and the host of "MediaBytes," a daily news show that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and the President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy® Awards). Mr. Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV (2008, York House Press) and the upcoming, Get Digital: Reinventing Yourself and Your Career for the 21st Century Economy (2009, Lake House Press). You can join the MediaBytes mailing list here. Shelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org For information visit www.shellypalmer.com
A tip o' the hat to the great Shelly Palmer for some common sense advice on e mail signatures. I'm cleaning mine up now, say goodbye to the cute little pictures that look like typos on a Blackberry.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Photograph: Let's LEGO]
This cheeseburger combo made out of Lego bricks is one of many unique creations from Japanese website Let's LEGO. There's also a Lego hamburger train. [via Walyou]
Friday, November 06, 2009
Worldwide Headquarters-St. Louis, MO
AIM MarkHeyNow Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Everything that’s gone wrong at WGN-AM (720) in the past year can be summed up in two words: “Pig Virus.”
No, we’re not talking H1N1 here. “Pig Virus” is the nickname Howard Stern gave long ago to Kevin Metheny, the man in charge of programming at the Tribune Co.-owned news/talk station since January.
Under Metheny, an acolyte of Tribune Co. operating boss Randy Michaels (and one of nearly two dozen Clear Channel alumni Michaels brought in with him), WGN has shown disdain or disregard for listeners who felt a unique bond with the station and its personalities.
There was the needlessly ham-fisted way Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey were run off the air after a phenomenal 20 years as midday duo. (Since they’re still being paid every penny of their contracts, what was so urgent that WGN couldn’t let them finish out as they’d planned and retire this spring?) There was the hiring of morning host Greg Jarrett, a capable broadcaster but one who’d never worked a day in his life in Chicago, to step right into the No. 1 job in local radio. (Jarrett almost lost me for good his first day on the air when he mispronounced “Devon Avenue.”) And there have been numerous other personnel and programming moves — in afternoons and on weekends, especially — that simply boggle the mind.
As Metheny continues to overhaul WGN’s programming with a bag of tricks he acquired working in some 16 markets over his career, the station’s hallmarks of honesty and truthfulness slowly are being replaced by posturing and attitude. If you listen carefully, you can hear it in the way some hosts stake out ludicrous positions or go off on phony tirades to provoke callers. (Metheny calls it “reality through a fun house mirror.”)
Unhappy staffers describe his management style as bipolar. “He has these bizarre mood swings where he’ll be incredibly vicious and mean one minute and then shut down and not talk to anyone,” said one insider. What some resent most is Metheny’s micromanaging, second-guessing and hectoring — precisely the type of behavior that earned him that unfortunate nickname when he butted heads with Howard Stern as program director of New York’s WNBC-AM in the early 1980s.
“He would memo me all these idiotic rules and ideas he had,” Stern recalled in his 1993 best-selling memoir Private Parts. “He came up with this complicated terminology to make it sound as if he knew something, but it was all mystification. Any idiot could go into radio. But he knew the vocabulary.”
Stern’s words are still true today. Here are some highlights from Metheny’s barrage of directives to WGN personalities:
- A memo banning the use of two words: ” ‘Coming Up.’ Can you possibly do without these two words? Can you possibly find a less hackneyed, transformed-by-20th-Century-Media-to-wallpaper vocabulary with which to tantalize your listener into sharing some 21st Century time with you?”
- A memo banning the use of one word: “Please dispense with the word ‘degrees’ when delivering forecasts and currents. I’m pretty sure we can be comfortable the temperature measurement increment is almost always degrees. Seldom is the temperature measured in Aardvarks, Ford Mustangs or Belly Button Lint.”
- A memo about giving away tickets: “Don’t do it. As discussed, tickets are accounting devices. The thing of emotional value is the EXPERIENCE. . . . I will cancel winning events in programs I hear referring to them in an inside out, hackneyed, old school lexicon. STOP selling the little pieces of paper. Sell the SWEAT!”
- A memo on the exact words to use when introducing news, weather and traffic reports: “No ‘creeping and beeping,’ no ‘how are the cars,’ no ‘thunder boomer report,’ no ‘let’s check the roads,’ no need to improvise, expand, amend, extend, truncate, evolve, devolve or otherwise improve. Perhaps we will get to that later. For now, do it this way. Do it only this way. Don’t do it any other way. No need to personalize, customize or otherwise revise. Regardless of time of day or day of week. Regardless of the magnitude of the digits on your W-2. Do it this way. When it’s time to do it another way, someone will let you know.”
- A memo setting forth Metheny’s philosophy on “takes” (or points of view hosts should adopt in order to provoke listeners): “Truthfulness is only an added benefit when it happens to drop into your lap,” Metheny wrote. “Truthfulness in takes optional. This is SHOW BIZ, not a court of a law.”
- The same memo, threatening dire consequences for disobedience: “I am sorry that is necessary to be unpleasant about this. If you’re struggling because you don’t understand, then please ask for help or we’ll presume you’re just unwilling to comply with the coaching. If you understand the concept and you’re noncompliant, there can only be two reasons: you’re unwilling or you’re unable. The reason doesn’t matter. The end result will be the same.”
About The Author
Other posts byRobert Feder
The legendary Chicago journalism titan Robert Feder is back. Oh yeah, he's BACK! He's on the new Chicago Public Radio site vocalo.org. Here's Feder at his finest, telling it like it is about what was once one of the great radio stations on the planet.
Feder is not only a brilliant observer of the media landscape, he's a mensch of the highest degree. Its rare to see real media journalism, and Feder is one of a handful of the true practitioners of that art.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
24 Twinkies topped with caramel, mini marshmallows and brown sugar topped with caramel icing.