Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Train Story Train WRECK!

You gotta love the irony! Or is it coincidence? I get those two words mixed up, since Alanis Morisette confused everyone with her song Ironic in 1996. Let's just call it a situational irony, or perhaps (my personal favorite) a viciously-funny coincidence.

Anyway . . . on Tuesday, July 22nd, during NPR's All Things Considered, Colorado Public Radio's KCFR News gave its statewide listeners a real Two for Tuesday. However in this case, the "two for" was a back-to-back, double-shot of an interview with KCFR's Mike Lamp and Cal Marsella; the General Manager of Denver's Regional Transportation District, referred to as RTD-Denver. You can hear the on-air train wreck here (until next Tuesday, July 29th), from the 2-hour stream that Colorado Public Radio rips from its on-air broadcast.

At around 45 minutes past the hour (hard to tell because the stream's timing is screwed up), KCFR News Host Anna Panoka introduces the RTD story, just after NPR finishes its regular segment. Then Mike Lamp interviews Cal Marsella for around 7 minutes and 30 seconds, at which point KCFR runs a series of: (a) call-letter promos mixed with weather, (b) an underwriting spot, followed by (c) more promos, and (d) a testimonial from a paying underwriting client. Then after all of that jerking off, KCFR runs the entire interview -- AGAIN!

Since the story ran so long -- the second time -- KCFR News cut into its regular programming at the end of the story: (a) a promo for Talk of the Nation, and finally (b) a cut into NPR's top of the hour news. In the meantime, Colorado Public Radio missed their FCC-mandated station identification, just BEFORE the top of the hour, because they were so busy crashing into NPR news headlines, which had already started just past 5:00 p.m. You see, NPR news headlines are broadcast LIVE -- unlike all of KCFR's programming, which is entirely AUTOMATED.

Of course, we all like automation, for what WOULD we do without all of our machines? But when it comes to radio -- an intimate medium, as described by CPR during its heavily-produced fundraising segments during drive time-- most people don't actually see the wizard behind the curtain. Technical difficulties, like CPR's yesterday, raise the curtain -- and the issue -- in great relief, and in obvious ways that repetitious (and dated) Denver-area weather spots heard in Grand Junction, Colorado and Pueblo, Colorado do not.

A wise man once told me that the best tool to gauge the current weather was "with an open window." As an extension of that, I might suggest that the best tool to gauge on-air radio content is "with an open set of ears." But when an automated station is on the air, it is essentially on autopilot. Ears? Hello? What did you say? Please stand by . . .

Speaking of pop singers (with bad ears), there is a fantastic Pete Townshend song which is particularly à propos to describe Colorado Public Radio's functional (and structural) dilemma. The song is entitled "Crashing by Design."

Nothing must pass this line
Unless it is well defined
You just have to be resigned
You're crashing by design

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks to DenverDXer of DenverRadio.Net for bringing this story to CPRB. You can find the original post here, in the Comments & Rumors section.

CPRB Bonus Audio File: Listen to the 1 minute and 12 second technical difficulty here. It doesn't sound bad, but remember -- this technical glitch happened after 7+ minutes of a just-repeated news story, which plowed through a station identification, on live radio, during drive time -- at 5:00 p.m! Does anyone at the station listen to the actual content? If not, then why do they expect us to listen -- and subscribe? By the way, what time do CPR employees leave the station anyway? Maybe someone should drive down to Centennial, Colorado -- with an open set of eyes -- to check. Let us know what you find out.

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