Thursday, March 20, 2008

Depth of news is terrific

We especially appreciate the news coverage by NPR each morning when we wake up and drive to work and again on the way home from work in the early evening. The depth of news coverage is terrific. It gives us a really good understanding of the news and the information behind the headlines of the day. When we can find the time we also love to listen to the Diane Rehm shows during the week and we rarely miss the Prairie Home Companion show on Saturday evenings. Keep up the great work.

--David from Oxford

The best online service

I used to subscribe to WGTE, but their programming just isn’t what I wanted--too much classical music and not enough of the programs I enjoy during the day. I can’t pick up your station on the radio, but I have found that you have the best online service I’ve found, and I listen every day in my library at work and at home on our numerous snow days. Thanks for the great service and great programming.

--Judy from Wapakoneta

Don't contribute to immorality

I only listen to Car Talk on Saturdays. I am offended by the ‘partner’ information request [on a recent show]. You would do well to not encourage or contribute to immoral life styles in our culture.

--Ronald from Dayton

Monday, March 17, 2008

Serious quality breakdown

As I listened to the first hour of Science Friday today [Friday 3/14], there was a serious quality breakdown. I have encountered others in my listening. Often, it,seems and old lead-in is used - apparently to avoid doing this live. Today was an especially horrible error - a male voice did what seemed like last week's Winter Storm Warning prior to return to the program. Spoke of snow, schools closing early.... Now, this was difficult to believe but then there are often big swings in weather here and a front was moving in. To make it worse, the next lead-in during intermission, a female voice gave what seemed like the current forecast involving rain. I wonder if someone at the station listens to what is aired. Why did not this next announcement, at the least, apologize for the earlier error?

More importantly, with fund raising coming up, it gives a sense that there might be staff slacking off and using tapes when they are expected to work live. Also, it seems someone there would monitor what is broadcast and make corrections quickly and acknowledge mistakes. Higher quality station work makes fund raising lots easier since the product sells itself. Seems there might be a better balance here. More time on quality, less on fund raising might get the same result.

--Bob in Somerville

[Program Director John Hingsbergen replied:

Thank you for taking the time to write. As both the announcer who made the mistake and the Program Director, I apologize for the error.

The only reason we did not acknowledge it on the air was that I was unable to, in a short period of time, both coordinate getting the correct information on the air and instruct the person who took over to give such an announcement.

Once that next station break passed, it would have been counter-productive to go back and "remind" hundreds of listeners who didn't hear the original of our mistake. That would have been 40 minutes eternity in radio time.

The error was noticed by station engineering and operations staff immediately but the station break was only a minute in length. From there, it was nearly 20 minutes before the next break and we did not want to interrupt programming.

Just so you know, we routinely record some of our station breaks during the mid-day although there are staff here monitoring and updating. Four or five station breaks are recorded at one time in the afternoon to maximize efficient use of our staff. Today was unusual since I had to be out of the office for a meeting and I totally forgot to follow through with the "backup coverage" I had planned.

This was totally my mistake and I am grateful to my staff for both noticing and correcting it. Thanks for your understanding and concern.

--John Hingsbergen, program director]

[Bob in turn replied to John:

I do have some comments as a result of your response.

1) Seems meeting is a broad generalization and that folks working for a salary would be having meetings for some business purpose on company time or would take vacation. To say meeting is to say little about the business purpose of the meeting which would seem consistent with full transparency.

2) You seemed to ignore my suggestion that there may be an imbalance in the amount of time devoted to improving the product vs. fund raising. Or whether it did make fund raising less important when there was a product evolving due to a continuous improvement approach to work. Have you done any research or studied any research on this topic?

3) Your specific comment that a person could not be able to go on air and say something like "oops, that was an error before. Hope none of you rushed home to be there for your children. Someone here dropped the ball and an old tape was used. Please accept our apologies. The weather is not as earlier presented, it is only rain that we will have to contend with and that is later today:" Simple, straightforward and to the point. Now how difficult is that.

I think there is an opague floor when it comes to your understanding the lives of those in the area who do not live the lifestyles of the WMUB on-air employees. Do you even see a life style where a person trusts the local radio to bring accurate, timely information to them? I got the sense of your expression of more excuses than an awareness of the consequences of such an error. After all, you are using the people's controlled FCC airspace and have an obligation for timely, accurate broadcasts.

Thanks for listening,

--Bob in Somerville]

[and General Manager Cleve Callison adds:

I have discussed this matter with John Hingsbergen and am satisfied that his response is the correct one, despite your misgivings.

As a matter of fact I was with John when we were returning from the meeting in question and I can testify to his concern about the error once it was discovered, and his thorough-going efforts to fix the problem. I respectfully disagree with your suggestion that the fundraising meeting was inappropriate for him, or that he should have done it on his vacation time (since I had asked John to attend the meeting, to require such would be illegal as well as unprofessional). You ask for more details for the sake of transparency; but there is another issue here, which is that of donor confidentiality. Suffice it to say that John’s presence at the meeting and his answer were perfectly appropriate.

Having worked with John for nearly 8 years, I can tell you that I have never found a more conscientious program director in all aspects of operations. Since we broadcast 24/7/365, those 168 hours per week add up to around 840 separate ‘breaks’. Slip-ups are regrettable, indeed, but I’m proud of the overall record of consistency we maintain thanks to John.

As for jumping in to point out and correct the error — there’s a case to be made for that if it can be done nearly immediately. That was not possible, unfortunately, in this instance. We elected to provide correct information in the next available break without interrupting the program in progress. Had we done so I feel confident we would have generated a separate set of concerned emails.

Thank you for your suggestions for improvements. We appreciate your wish for WMUB to be the best it can be, and we strive to do just that.

--Cleve Callison, general manager]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Shame on Boeing

I listened with interest to the coverage re the controversy over the awarding of the Air Force contract for refueling planes to Airbus and Northrop Grumman rather than Boeing. I, like many of the people you interviewed, am outraged at this outcome. I am outraged at Boeing which cares so little for our troops and our country that it didn't bother to make the best product at the lowest cost and did not even bother to submit a prototype boom. I am outraged that they did such a pitiful job that they did not come out on top in even one of the 5 criterion. I am outraged that we have citizens who are so unthinking that they simply say Boeing makes the best planes despite the overwhelming data to the contrary. I am outraged that Boeing is not devoting its time and energy to analyzing why they did not win the contract and doing what they need to do to make sure that such an outcome will never happen again, because they will fix the problems that led to such an outcome. I am outraged that instead they are assuming the favorite position in America today...that of victim and responding with the weapon of choice, a lawsuit.

How stupid do they think we are? The Air Force would have welcomed the opportunity to give this contract to Boeing, but by their decision to assume they were entitled to this contract, Boeing did not give the Air Force that opportunity. We live in the land of opportunity. We have some of the most productive, hard working employees in the world. We have only ourselves to blame if we let our complacency and entitlement mentality interfere with our willingness to focus on the fundamentals for success, namely:

--Creating a safe workplace
--Being as productive as possible and finding new ways to be more productive
--Producing a quality product and finding new ways to increase quality
--Eliminating waste and cost
--Delivering the product on time

It is time for Boeing to stop whining and spinning and start figuring out what needs to be done to insure that they can be competitive against the best in the world, wherever they may be domiciled. How dare they suggest we should buy an inferior product from them, because they are an American Company. Our troops deserve better.

Shame on Boeing.

--Mary in Dayton


Friday, March 07, 2008

Public radio should maintain standards of language

One of the functions of public radio, it seems to me, is the maintenance of high standards for the language it uses for broadcasting. In general, I believe that NPR and WMUB accomplish that. Certainly, the language we hear on NPR is head and heels over that heard on most commercial radio stations where the lowest common denominator of vernacular English seems to rule. However, I still hear a number of common but incorrect uses of language at the local, regional and even national NPR levels that I find grating.

One of them is the tendency to use the word “more” with an adjective that has a comparative form. Recently I heard a reporter from Columbus use the phrase “much more narrow” when, in fact, the phrase should have been “much narrower.” This morning I heard a woman interviewed use the phrase “much more safe” when she should have said “much safer.” I can forgive the interviewee for her error because she is only saying what she hears; but it is much more difficult to overlook the same error made by an NPR reporter from Columbus, Oxford, or Washington, whose reporting ought to be conveyed in flawless English.

Another similar problem is the use of “less” when “fewer” is correct. We don’t want to pay “less taxes”--as we so commonly hear—we want to pay “fewer taxes.” “Less” is used correctly with a collective noun such as water, gravy, or traffic while “fewer” is used correctly with a numberable such as dogs, books, or cars.

These and other language errors are so common today that they have almost become standard English rather than merely common misuse. I would like to see WMUB, Ohio Public Radio and NPR make a concerted effort to avoid these sorts of errors and maintain the highest standards of English. To believe that the listenership is not affected by the language used in broadcasting is to ignore Marshal McLuhan’s famous dictum that “the medium is the message.” The medium may not be the only message, but it says a lot.

--Bob in Oxford

[A comment: in a response to Bob and his further reply we agreed that "fewer taxes" is somewhat ambiguous (does it mean less money, or a smaller number of individual taxes?) and that "less tax" is the best option to illustrate his point -- Ed.]

News story did not do enough research

[There was considerable election material on the air in the the week of March 2, 2008, leading up to the Ohio presidential primary on March 4th. We quoted from an Ohio Poll that showed Hillary Clinton in the lead for the Democratic nomination. Listener Steve felt we needed to go beyond stories from the Associated Press and Ohio Public Radio. He directed us to a Reuters web site that reported a Zogby poll finding that Barack Obama was gaining ground. He went on to add:]

It would be a simple thing for [your news reporters] to google Texas or Ohio poll and find the correct information,. . . [I question] . . . the wisdom of reporting that poll without at least reporting some of the others which contradict it. I consider this a serious problem, one that any news director should not ever make on something as important as tomorrow’s election . . .

I just can’t understand how someone could just report a poll result in the face of the common information throughout all the main media that the race is too close to call. How hard is it to just google “Ohio Primary” and get some information that might helps one make a considered judgment about what to report? It is not good to plead ignorance in things like this in a matter so important as choosing the President of the US. But ignorance is better than willful political intention to try to sway undecideds, which I am sure is not the case here. So I guess things could be worse.

--Steve in Oxford

[We’ll point out that the Ohio Poll we had quoted turned out to be more accurate than the Zogby poll and that 'the common information throughout all the main media' can sometimes be a house of mirrors. But that of course is hindsight; we were lucky this time, and we appreciate the comment. -- Ed.]

HD radio doesn't help reception

Apparently Kettering is one of the places that is too far from [your transmitter], because after purchasing an HD Radio over the holidays and eagerly looking forward to having WMUB back at our weekday breakfast table--- no luck! The channel scanner slides right over 88.5 and gives us either 88.1 or 88.9. I can usually get the (analog) signal in my car, although with significant breakthrough, especially at certain spots. This means that for the 8 minutes of my commute each morning and afternoon, or if I happen to run to the store or up to UD for some reason, I can enjoy your station. But it's getting harder to justify paying for a day sponsorship at a station that we just can't listen to anywhere in the house. If there's a fix, we'd be glad to try it. Otherwise we'll need to think about giving our membership money to a station we can receive.

--Lin in Kettering

[We applaud Lin for trying. It’s true that the current HD technology limits that signal to a smaller area than our analog FM signal. That may change in the future depending on the FCC’s technology rules, but for now adding an external antenna may help listeners like Lin. -- Ed.]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

We can't afford another snow day

[This is a response to a story on a recent Talk of the Nation. In a recent article for the Hartford Courant, English teacher Mark Dursin revealed the little-known snow superstition among his students: "the Pajamas-Inside-Out, Spoon-Under-the-Pillow-Snow-Day Ritual."]

Please advise children in the WMUB listening area to stop wearing their pajamas backwards. We can't afford another snow day. Growing up in the snow belt of Cleveland, we had a name for days when arctic winds whipped across the frozen lake bringing overnight snowfalls of over 6 inches. We called them "Wednesdays." Down here, when a little girl in Reily names her kitten Snowflake we have a 2-hour school delay. So children, please stop flushing the toilet at 8:00 PM, wearing your mittens to bed, and please put on your PJs the regular way. Your teachers miss you and you're making me sound like an old fuddy-duddy.

--Christopher Wolfe, Oxford