Friday, February 27, 2015


Willis Conover was one of America’s greatest radio announcers but few people in the US ever heard him.  Conover was the voice of American Jazz on Voice of America for much of the Cold War.  He had millions of listeners in Eastern Europe and the USSR.  He opened up worlds of thoughts and expression for eager listeners via shortwave radio.

But Conover hated rock n roll.  Because of his strong views, VOA missed an opportunity to provide Pirate Radio to hungry ears.

Today’s clip includes comments from Dr. Michael Biel, professor and audio historian, at Morehead State University.  I interviewed him in 1999.


Thursday, February 26, 2015


Tanya Ott is one of the best teachers in public media.  She is Vice President of Radio at Georgia Public Broadcasting.  I’ve worked on a couple of projects with her and I am amazed by the way she shares her knowledge.


Last Friday 2/20/15 I saw a post on the AIR list from Tanya that I just have to share.  She was replying to a question about how to get a job in a newsroom:

I've been working on getting my resume together to start applying for producer/reporter jobs at local NPR member stations, and I've run into an issue: I'm not entirely sure what an air-check is.
Would anyone be able to chime in with their two cents on what a station might be looking for when they ask for an aircheck with an application?
Thanks in advance for any input you might have!
Here is Tanya’s Reply:

From: Tanya Ott (
Sent: Fri 2/20/15 2:58 PM
To: (
I've worked in and managed public radio newsrooms for 26 years and hired many dozens of reporters, hosts and producers (In fact, I've got two jobs open right now - listed under TV at although they're radio and digital-centric, not video)
Anyway, my advice (besides highlight your best work) is this:
1. Match your aircheck (or reel .... And yes, I do still know how to splice reel to reel tape) to the job description. If you're applying for a host position that occasionally reports front load your aircheck with hosting samples, then include some reporting towards the end.
And vice versa for a reporter position that occasionally fills in as host.
2. Research the station and know that they do. At my current station (and my last station) our focus is long-form reporting. In fact, my last station didn't do any traditional "spot" news on a regular basis... so putting a bunch of :45 voicers or wraps on an aircheck/resume tape would have been kinda pointless.
3. Do not telescope or montage your reporting if you're applying for a reporter position. I want to hear not only your voice and how well you write in and out of tape, but I'm also judging your reporting prowess on the narrative arc and structure of a piece.
4. Provide a summary of your aircheck listing the type of story (feature, wrap, voicer, audio postcard, live election coverage, etc) and length so I can easily get to what I want to hear. This may not be as necessary if you're simply pointing a potential employer to your online resume/work samples.
5. You may be asked to submit a sample of your newscasts go or hosting. This can be tough if you haven't held a host position. It's okay to record a "mock" newscast, just indicate that in your cover letter or aircheck rundown. And make sure it's as close to what a normal newscast would sound like (ie include a weather report, etc)
Hope this is helpful! Happy to answer any other questions you might have. Tanya
I want to underscore two points:

• Research the station before you apply.  This will help you with the way you approach the station.  As a consultant, I always listen to a client’s station or program to catch a vibe of the place.

• Do provide a printed rundown of your “reel” with the time(s) of segments. For me, nothing is worse than getting an unmarked audio file.

Here are a couple of my own recommendations for audio or video job demos:

• Remember, the first thirty seconds of the demo are really, REALLY important.  They are the listener’s first impression of you. I’ve never hired anyone based on thirty seconds of content but I have discarded many applicants because of obvious deficiencies in the first few moments of their demo. 

• The total time for the demo should be five minutes or less.  Put the total time for the reel on the rundown.

Happy hunting.  We need new people in public media.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Yesterday I posted an open email message I sent to London-based digital and broadcasting consultant James Cridland.  On Monday 2/23/15 Cridland said this in his weekly e-newsletter:

Ragtag of nonsense about HD Radio. Still, whoever wrote this can keep the DAB haters company. Tip: if there's a technological solution to making radio better, embrace it. Thank people for trying. Don't "do a Ramsey" and blindly slag it off
Here is Cridland’s reply to my message and my comments:

KEN SAYS: Dude, your reply message to me starts with a personal insult.  Here are your replies and my comments about four questions I asked you:

KEN SAYS: To me, saying somebody’s views are “a ragtag of nonsense” is an insult. You frequently use the term “hate.” I recommend you retire this kind of verbiage because it seems childish.

KEN SAYS: [Full disclosure: Mark Ramsey is a friend of mine.] From what I’ve seen and heard, Ramsey is a respected consultant and commentator. I don’t always agree with his analysis but I always listen to him.

KEN SAYS: I can’t accept this explanation. You seem to take things very personally and react with anger.

KEN SAYS: I appreciate your acknowledgement that you “don’t know enough about the US ratings system.”  You might want to come up to speed on Nielsen Audio’s inclusion criteria.  HD channels are tracked like AM, FM and streaming audio.  If a station doesn’t show up in “the book” it means it doesn’t have many listeners.

KEN SAYS: I disagree – your comments are harsh and personal.  Thank you for letting me know that you do not mediate much of the information that appears on your site. You should tell your readers that you publish “raw” press releases without concern for the truthfulness of the content.

KEN SAYS: You seem obsessed with “haters.” Maybe I am on your list now.  I know I am in good company.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I receive weekly e-newsletters from James Cridland, a consultant, blogger and speaker from London.  You’ve probably seen his name doing product reviews or when he appears at digital and broadcast media conferences.

James Cridland, Radio Futurist

Cridland is an alumnus of Virgin Radio back when it was in its prime.  He publishes, a broadcast and digital media information aggregator. I’ve enjoyed Cridland’s work until today.

Consider this item today in Cridland’s e-newsletter about HD Radio:

(Link: Ragtag of nonsense about HD Radio.) Still, whoever wrote this can keep the DAB haters company. Tip: if there's a technological solution to making radio better, embrace it. Thank people for trying. Don't "do a Ramsey" and blindly slag it off.

The article Cridland is referring to is Digital Watch: Why HD Radio Isn’t Actually Radio
by Paul Riismandel on Radio Survivor.  Paul mentions an important point that I’ve also reported: Broadcasters are tending to use HD Radio signals for tasks such as feeding signals to analog FM translators and data transmission.  This didn’t seem like nonsense to me.

I decided to write a public e-mail to Cridland and learn where he is coming from:

Date:          February 23, 2015
To:             James Cridland
From:         Ken Mills
Subject:     Questions About HD Radio

James – I hope this message finds you well.  My name is Ken Mills.  I am a consultant and blogger specializing in noncommercial media, particularly radio broadcasting.  I’ve been enjoying your weekly e-newsletter for some time.  Until today when I read this item you wrote:

Ragtag of nonsense about HD Radio. Still, whoever wrote this can keep the DAB haters company. Tip: if there's a technological solution to making radio better, embrace it. Thank people for trying. Don't "do a Ramsey" and blindly slag it off

Before my questions, here is where I am coming from: I have asked to FCC to establish an independent panel to review the track record of America’s current digital radio system and consider alternatives to the in-band-on-channel system.  I believe that iBiquity’s HD Radio has failed gain enough consumer usage to merit continuing the service.

My questions:

1. Why did you choose to insult the author of the article you dislike rather than discuss the issues he raised? Why is what the author said “nonsense”? What does “do a Ramsey” mean?

2. You say the author is a “DAB hater.” Does this mean that if someone is critical of iBiquity’s HD Radio they “hate” all forms of digital audio broadcasting?

3. According to iBiquity, they have no idea how many people are listening to HD stations. They have no idea if people buying new vehicles with HD Radio receivers are actually listening to HD Radio. I have NEVER seen an HD station show up in the ratings without a simulcast on an FM translator. By what metrics do you consider HD Radio a success?

4.  According to your website, one of your clients is iBiquity. In the past month on your site you have posted 12 cheery press releases for iBiquity promoting their equipment.  A cynic might say you are dancing for the money and denying the truth.  Does this reflect your harsh comments about people who disagree with you?

I hope to hear back from you.  I am posting this e-mail on my log Tuesday 2/24/15 and I will publish your comments.

Thank you, Ken Mills

Monday, February 23, 2015


I am a huge fan of Current’s new podcast THE PUB.  Host, producer and creator Adam Ragusea is a confident guide and appealing companion. THE PUB is a magazine program that is timely and provides a valuable mirror of public media.  You’ve got to hear it.

Adam Ragusea -Host, producer, creator THE PUB

THE PUB is the latest improvement by the new management at Current.  Before American University acquired Current, it had become tired and increasingly irrelevant. Now Current often leads the public media conversation. THE PUB provides smart criticism of a business that sometimes takes itself too seriously.

Here is my take on the most recent edition of THE PUB – Episode Six:


While I enjoyed the tie to Adam’s son also named Fred, this segment went on WAY too long.  Around 40 minutes of the 64 minute podcast is devoted to everything Mr. Rogers. Individual moments of interviews work, but as a whole this piece wanders. I hit fast-forward.


I would have put this story at the top of the program.  Adam Ragusea shows terrific enterprise by going behind the scenes of public television’s “clearances” issues.  If WNET drops your program, the loss of viewership can threaten your fiscal existence. Please continue this type of coverage. Also, it is good to hear Andrew Lapin on THE PUB.


Thank you for providing David Carr’s voice so soon after his sudden death.


I wish you had included audio samples so we could hear the people you are discussing. I love the idea of “audio letters.”  I am looking forward to future episodes of THE PUB.