Thursday, July 28, 2011

News and Weather on the Radio

Posted to OGR on 03/27/3011

Most radio stations today don’t offer news, and only a few have weather forecasts, but back in the day, every local radio station presented the news and weather several times per hour. Two of the stations I worked for had network news that came down from the network on the top of the hour. We had to back time the songs to end just in time to broadcast a legal station identification before the news started. At the top-40 AM station where I worked we had local newscasts at 5 minutes before the hour and on the half hour. The weather forecast was a part of these newscasts and we read the weather forecast also at 15 before and after the hour. During the time I was doing my show at a drive in restaurant, there was a newsman back at the station that ran the transmitters and kept the FM automation going while reading the news for me. But the rest of the time, I was on my own.

Left: Veteran newscaster, Mike Rast at WCOS, Circa. 1968!

Now, none of us were “real” reporters despite the fact that we sometimes covered big local news events. Most of the time, we read the national and state news off the Associated Press teletype and the weather from the National Weather Service teletype. These two machines were standing side by side just a few steps from the control room. I’ll never forget the clacking sound they made as they typed out the news and weather. Each had a bell that would ring whenever they wanted to send a “bulletin.” Many stations recorded the teletype sound and played it back as a sound effect whenever we read the news. Sometimes there was a bell that the DJ/News Announcer could ring for emphasis. Sometimes there was a button you could push to enhance the reverb system. These were used when announcing the location of the story which was always the first word in the story.

Deejays who doubled as news announcers were very busy people; we had to select and queue up the records, play jingles, commercials and public service announcements, operate the transmitters and be entertaining all the while. This meant that pre-reading the news before we read it on the air was a luxury that most of us didn’t have. We would rip the news copy off the teletype, leave it in a pile on the edge of the console and read it “cold” when it was time for the news. This was called “Rip and Read” in the business and quite often led to unexpected consequences.

On night, I was alone in the station and pulled fresh copy off the AP teletype while the last song before the news was just ending. I punched up the news sounder and happily began reading. “DALLAS: An unusual winter storm has dumped four inches of heavy snot on Northeast Texas!” Fortunately for me, the instant editor in my brain changed the word to snow, but all of a sudden I realized what the copy really said. It broke me up so badly that I couldn’t complete the newscast. I played the commercial that was included in the newscast, somehow stumbled through the weather and everybody got an extra song that hour. Oh MY!

Copyright 2011 Rick Wrigley

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