Start of 3rd Quarter . . .
Sunday, February 29, 1976
At Washington Channels, we're trying to figure out a way of controlling Clyde. Who's he? Well, whenever unexplainable events happen at the studio, we blame a supposed poltergeist whom we call Clyde the Ghost.
Clyde's typical pranks include advancing the slide projector, hitting the stop button on the video-tape player in the middle of a program, and suddenly cutting off the audio from the data channel. (These are all probably the result of electrical glitches. But it is a ghostly experience to be sitting in the control room minding one's own business when unexpectedly a button apparently presses itself.)
In January, Clyde began looking for new worlds to conquer. We were doing a live show one evening in which several members and parents of the Washington High School marching band showed movie films of the band's New Year's trip to the Orange Bowl Parade in Miami.
About ten minutes before the show was to get under way, we all sat down in the studio. On a couch were four people: the M.D. who had taken most of the pictures, his wife, the band director, and a band member. Two more band members were in chairs at either end of the couch. And my co-host and I were sitting on stools located behind the gaps in the other pieces of furniture.
The eight of us sat there for some time discussing the way we'd handle the program. Suddenly, at one minute until airtime, there was a faint cracking sound. My co-host looked up at the scenery, which he thought must be falling. But what fell was the couch! The back legs broke completely off, rolling the four people back with their knees in the air.
Our crew thought fast, though. We pulled the four unlucky ones to their feet, dragged the couch and its legs off the set, and quickly brought in a backup couch from the technician's office. We knew this couch wouldn't collapse on us; all four legs were already broken off it. We managed to get on the air only 30 seconds late, and no one was the wiser.
I think it was the next morning that I was working in the control room when I heard a plop. Now Clyde has been known to throw tape cartridges down from their racks to clatter on the table tops, but this was the first time I'd noticed him doing any plopping.
I looked up and discovered that one of the big acoustic ceiling tiles was simply melting, like a limp Dali watch. The sheet of white plaster board was drooping, and pieces were breaking off to fall with a plop on a shelf below. This continued for a while, until a couple square feet of the ceiling had disintegrated.
We eventually figured out the problem: melting snow was dripping through the roof onto the ceiling tiles. But I still think it was Clyde who poked the hole in the roof.
Wednesday, April 28, 1976
Chuck Ream just walked in with the results of the poll that he and his W&J students and Red Cross volunteers took last night.
Of those 206 who watch:
Wednesday, May 19, 1976
The color coverage of the parade [using a borrowed color camera] was beautiful on Saturday. We had quite a few compliments on it. One part-time sponsor told Jerry Polen that it was the first program they'd seen on Channel 3 that held steady, without hooking or jittering; and Bill Wilson also reported that it looked unusually good on his set.
However, the replay on Monday night was not nearly as good. As you know, when we showed the original tape on Saturday afternoon we added commercials, background music when necessary, and commentary. In order that we could show the parade again in the future without having to bring Jerry and me back to the studio along with the commercial slides, background music, et cetera, we video-taped what the viewers saw on Saturday afternoon and showed the whole parade again on Monday night. Bill Wilson reported that the jitters had returned, and several other people confirmed that this second-generation tape looked more like what we usually show on Channel 3.
About 25 minutes before the end of the 114-minute program, suddenly the tape went to snow. The audio was okay, but the video didn't clear up completely until about five minutes before the end. Apparently, in checking the beginning and end of that last cassette, we'd missed 20 minutes of snow in the middle.
Yesterday I spent about six hours trying to reconstruct the tape so we'd have a complete version to show again next week. I dubbed the audio off the tape we'd played Monday night and recombined it with the video from the original tape and slides to make a new second-generation tape. This one also came out snowy! Dirt on the heads, probably. So I rewound everything to the beginning and finally succeeded in making a clean dub on the third cassette we'd tried.
Our video-tape problems weren't over yet, though. Last night was the first showing of a syndicated Blue Ridge Quartet gospel-music show. Bill had several potential sponsors lined up, so he invited them to watch the show last night so they could see what they might be buying. We had checked the tape on Monday and it looked fine technically. But last night on the air, Tim said he couldn't get the tracking adjusted properly no matter what he tried. Bill, at home, said he had to adjust his horizontal hold to get a recognizable picture. He also said if any of his prospects were watching last night, he probably won't get them sold.
Needless to say, the last three days have been frustrating.
Wednesday, October 6, 1976
In the first week of the current pay period, Tim ended up working 73 hours.
How far out of line is 33 hours of overtime? Fortunately, the high-school football game on Friday night was rained out, or there would have been another six hours.
During that same week, the high school kids worked a total of 39 hours among the three of them, and I worked maybe 60 or 65.
As long as we keep up our present level of programming, we'll probably have heavy-overtime weeks like this.
Monday, October 11, 1976
Excerpts from my list of technical problems that need attention:
5. On the remote camera, the back-focus knob isn't tight enough to hold the vidicon where we want it. If the camera tilts down, the vidicon slides forward and out of focus.
8. Frequently when we start to play or record on VTR 1 or 2, the threading mechanism will take the tape part of the way around, then slow and stop. We have to take the cover off the machine, reach in, and pull the mechanism the final few inches, in order for the pressure roller to meet the capstan and start the tape moving.
9. Each time a recording is made on any of the VTR's, the sync seems to get compressed relative to the video. Second-generation tapes may have only 10 units of sync instead of 40.
15. The audio carrier frequency seems to be shifting sometimes. As recently as today, we've had periods when, on some TV sets, the received sound is mostly a buzz. Other sets get good sound, supposedly because they can track the audio carrier better. Then, for no apparent reason, the audio will return to normal, after maybe an hour of malfunctioning. I understand a replacement "audio mod" module was requested several months ago.
30. Because of audio cable problems, on the last couple of big remotes we've been unable to run mikes further than 50 feet from the control rack. It would be nice to have a 100-foot or 200-foot reel of audio cable with a connector on each end.
43. The weather data is updating too fast. As a result, the wind velocity never gets above one mile per hour.
45. We need to check sync and video levels, all the way through the modulator. The biggest complaints about Channel 3 are the jitter and the "dark" picture.
48. The PGM button on the lower-left monitor in the remote rack hasn't worked since April 1975. Instead, it shorts out the program video signal.
Sunday, December 12, 1976
At the last college football game we televised this season, the lacrosse club at the local college put on an exhibition at halftime. They're trying to become a varsity sport. We knew about the exhibition earlier in the week, so I decided I'd better bone up on lacrosse.
I happen to have in my "files" a tape cassette I recorded on the chilly Saturday afternoon of May 6, 1967, at the Oberlin athletic field's press box. As the sophomore sports director of WOBC, I was experimenting to see whether it was practical to describe a lacrosse game on radio. Since the sport was played in football stadia, facilities for live radio broadcasts would be available if we wanted to use them. That afternoon, I described the game into a tape recorder to see whether I could make the action easy for a listener to visualize. The experiment was a qualified success, but because of lack of interest we never did broadcast any live lacrosse.
Listening to the cassette almost ten years later, I discovered that one Bruce Babcock was the goalie in a game against Michigan State, with Oberlin winning rather easily. On one play, Bruce cleared a save to Carl Brown, to Jeff Fast, to Carl Burns ten yards to one side of the goal, to Chris Smith who (guarded by the MSU goalie) immediately scored. The fast-break goal put Oberlin ahead 4-0 with 9:29 left in the first half.
For an hour I listened, letting the Tom Thomas of a decade ago instruct my present self on many points I'd forgotten, such as what happens when the ball goes out of bounds. By the time the exhibition started on Saturday, I was ready to describe it on TV.
As it turned out, I hardly said a word. One of the people connected with the lacrosse club was explaining the goings-on over the public address system, so we simply put him on the TV audio. Oh, well. Maybe next year.
Monday, December 13, 1976
With Bill Wilson quitting, we had hoped that John would be able to take over a large percentage of his sales accounts and keep them active. But he's shown little inclination to do so. He did renew one $10-a-week contract when I made a point of asking him to see that specific client; but aside from that, nothing of Bill's and very little of his own.
John seems to have lost his enthusiasm somehow. We keep telling him that he ought to be able to sell shows like the high-school chorus Christmas special and the basketball games and wrestling matches, because they've always sold well before. He keeps telling us that we ought to put more effort into producing shows that people will talk about, and into promoting our programs with handbills and other means. We keep saying yes, those are good ideas, but we need revenue now this week or we may not be around here long enough to try to build up our image in the advertisers' minds.
We're all getting pretty pessimistic about John's ability to produce enough income to keep local origination alive in Washington. Any ideas?
Wednesday, January 19, 1977
Plans are moving forward for the weekly program taped on location at the schools in rotation; for experimental coverage of the monthly "council" meetings of three townships and a borough; for an every-other-week Meet the Press type program; and for several other weekly shows, including a musical program to be sponsored by a piano store, a cooking program, and a series of interviews with community religious leaders. Some of these may not work out, but we'll try to do as many as we can without running into excessive overtime for Tim.
At the moment, though, everything but the musical program is unsponsored. I guess we'll go ahead and put them on without sponsors, in the hope that John can bring in at least some revenue eventually. If we wait for him to sell the programs before we put them on, we won't get anywhere.
John and I have been conferring an average of 15 or 20 minutes each morning. We decided last week to concentrate on two things, Bingo and the Christian Unity Service. He'd already made a few Bingo calls and gotten one contract (we need 12 to start up the show), so he made a few more Bingo calls; then on Monday he told me it looked pretty hopeless, that we might have to give up selling Bingo. The sponsors he talked to were mostly objecting that it would bring the wrong kind of clientele into their stores. I asked him how many businesses he'd talked to, and he counted ten. I said that wasn't bad, one sale in ten calls; judging from past experience, that's rather typical. The solution probably is just to call on another hundred or so businesses, in hopes of getting ten "yes" answers to offset the ninety "no" answers. John didn't seem too enthusiastic about the idea of making that many calls, but he's still trying.
The Christian Unity Service will probably go on this weekend with no sponsors at all (we had five $50 sponsors in 1975 and in 1976). John called on most of last year's sponsors and got the usual answers like "We don't have any money right now" or "The boss won't be back from vacation for another two weeks."
Wednesday, January 26, 1977
John got some more "no" answers on Bingo from stores like K-Mart and Gaylord's and Hills, all discount department stores that we figured might welcome the welfare recipients who seem to make up a large part of the Bingo-playing audience. The most common reason for the turn-down was the extra work it would mean for the girls running the check-out lines.
On the programming side, we're going to cover a wrestling match tonight that wasn't on the previously announced schedule. One reason is the natural gas shortage; we figure it'd be safer to cover matches now and get the sponsors' commercials in, rather than stick strictly to the one-event-per-week schedule and have half the February events canceled because of the cold. Besides, this should be a good match tonight.
Since the schools might not re-open until April because of the natural gas shortage, we've brought up the idea of having teachers come to our studio to give lessons over the cable for the duration.
Monday, March 14, 1977 (excerpts from report)
Local Origination is helping the Pay-TV division in a way that doesn't show up on the books. Each month LO donates some $840 of free advertising to [the HBO marketing effort]. So whether Local Origination is "losing money" may be largely a question of bookkeeping.
We're suggesting that [an operating loss] is acceptable because of the worth of the LO operation to Washington Channels as a whole. A $2,000 monthly LO loss is worth it if we're able to get a 25-cent-per-month rate increase approved because of it. And it certainly helps at rate-increase time to be able to point to what LO has done for municipal governments, the schools, the churches, civic organizations, boys baseball, and the like. Any LO losses on the balance sheet could be considered as investments in public relations.
Nevertheless, we're concerned about excessive LO losses. We've steadily cut back programs. For example, four years ago we covered 30 high-school regular-season wrestling and basketball events. The next year it was 27, then last year it was 20, and this year it's only 12. There's not much left to cut. Although [further] reducing the number of programs would reduce our losses somewhat, it wouldn't really solve the problem.
Sunday, April 3, 1977
On Monday we took our camera to the new county home for the aged for a half-hour tour of the new facility. They'll start moving patients from the two old county homes tomorrow.
On Wednesday, we covered the dedication of the remodeled YWCA building, at which the national executive director of the YWCA was the guest speaker.
On Thursday in our studio, we taped a mildly interesting discussion between a Methodist minister and a Catholic priest about the stations of the cross. The minister hosts a weekly program on Channel 3; the priest is the pastor of the larger of the two parishes in town.
And on Friday, we taped some dance classes at the city elementary school for use in our weekly series on the schools.
One of the reasons the YWCA wanted us to cover their dedication was so that it could be preserved for posterity. We're going to give them a copy of the video tape to be sealed inside the cornerstone; then it can supposedly be viewed when the building is next remodeled or torn down, probably sometime in the 21st century. The program was an hour and 17 minutes long, and we're going to put it on an hour and a half of tape.
I'm thinking of filling out the other 13 minutes with a tape of our data service, which shows Channel 3 viewers the current time, temperature, humidity, windspeed and direction, barometric pressure, and daily rainfall, plus community announcements and advertisements. The people who view the tape 50 years from now will undoubtedly find this all very quaint, especially the old-fashioned measurements in inches, miles per hour, and Fahrenheit degrees.
Wednesday, May 18, 1977
Technical problems continue. Buck has been working on the data channel camera, in which he found a broken transistor socket which had been causing the loss of beam voltage, but it still looks kind of washed out.
I just got John's sales report from yesterday, which turns out to have been a good day. Thirteen calls, including 5 sales, 2 no sales, 3 who are going to think about it, 2 not in, and 1 service. Total sales were $473.
But other than yesterday, he's sold only $60 since May 6. These things seem to run in spurts.
Monday, June 6, 1977
Well, my present activities are centering around baseball. We're covering 16 games in the space of about eight weeks, sampling each of several leagues for boys from 7 years old to 16 years old. So every few evenings, it's out to the old ball park for another couple hours of sports announcing.
. . End of