Friday, May 29, 2015

MEET MY 100% ANALOG ALARM CLOCKS

KEN MILLS, AGE 14
 
 
 

NOTE TO READERS:

I am having eye surgery this week and won't be posting new stuff for a few days.

This is a updated story from the blog archives.  It was originally posted April 1, 2015.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS YOUR MORNING MEDIA?


Larry Rosin and the good folks at Edison Research continue to release fascinating, sometimes offbeat research about how people use media. Their most recent project is no exception. Edison has released Wake Me Up – a study of lifestyle and device use during this important time of the day.  The first media choices of the day are indications of which media platforms are important for a person's daily life. See the Wake Me Up study at LINK.
Edison conducted a national online survey of 1,550 respondents age 18-54 in January 2015. Let’s look at the top-line results:
HOW DID YOU WAKE UP THIS MORNING?
About half of the Wake Me Up respondents use a device for an alarm.
IF YOU USED AN ALARM, WHAT KIND OF ALARM?
About half of the Wake Me Up respondents use a mobile device to wake themselves.
AT WHAT TIME DID YOU WAKE UP THIS MORNING?
I was surprised to learn that more than half of the Wake Me Up respondents said they are up by 6:30am.
MEET MY “ALARM CLOCKS”
SKYLAR & SCOUT -- 100% ANALOG ALARM CLOCKS
I am one of the 4% of people who is often awakened by pets. Today (Tuesday, March 31, 2015) I woke up at 5:55am to the sound of a fur ball being vomited.  The culpret, Scout is a very very fluffy Norwegian Forest Cat.  I didn;t use any media while I cleaned up the puke.
My typical morning routine, after getting out of bed, is a trip to my  home office via my laptop.  The first thing I do is check to see if this blog is still there and that today’s post is appearing.  Next I check my mobile to see if there are any incoming messages.  I don't use mobile as much as most folks because of my vision problems.
While checking messages I usually switch on the TV with the sound down.  It stays that way most of the day – video wallpaper for the blog newsroom.

Some days I listen on my headphones to NPR News from 91.1 KNOW or music from 89.3 The Current while reading news online.  But on other days, I don’t turn on any audio at all. I love the Zen of the morning -- the calm of silence.
Then I go totally old-school – I read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper.  I love newspapers. I follow Rachel Maddow's advice and support local print journalism.
ARE YOU A MORNING PERSON?
Wake Me Up asked respondents if they consider themselves “a morning person”:
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to love mornings.  The world is fresh and I concentrate best on work then.
I used to be a night owl.  Not that long ago, a night was still early when it was midnight.  I disliked mornings, particularly when I was a doing the 6am – 9am airshift at a country music station.  I had a rough break up with a girlfriend and EVERY COUNTRY SONG WAS ABOUT ME. George Jones said it best:
From the blood of my body, I could start my own still.

If drinking don’t kill me, her memory will.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

KUNM FIRES A VOLUNTEER LIVE ON THE AIR


NOTE TO READERS:

I am having eye surgery this week and won't be posting new stuff for a few days.

This is a updated story from the blog archives.  It was originally posted December 12, 2014.





Today KUNM, Albuquerque airs freeform music every weekday afternoon.  The reason is what happened in May 1987.  Management announced upcoming changes in KUNM'a program schedule including moving the freeformers to overnights.  That's when all hell broke loose…



GM Tim Singleton and PD Patrick Conley had the right idea but they were in the wrong place at wrong time. 

Singleton moved on to better situations and retired at the end of 2013 from WBBA, West Lafayette, Indiana.  I don't know where Patrick Conley is now. The freeform hosts are still on the air at KUNM.
  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

THE DAY WALLY SMITH SAVED AMERICAN PUBLIC RADIO




NOTE TO READERS:

I am having eye surgery this week and won't be posting new stuff for a few days.

This is a updated story from the blog archives.  It was originally posted January 9, 2015.



Back in the 1990s I was Director of News at American Public Radio and Public Radio International.  I did orientation sessions for new PRI board members and staff about the history of public radio and PRI's role.  I did a series of oral history interviews with people who played important roles in the development of public radio

One of the people I interviewed was Wally Smith.  At the time, Wally was the GM of KUSC in LA. Today he is President of Peconic Public Broadcasting and runs WPPB-FM serving the Hamptons on Long Island.

Wally Smith had an important role in the creation of American Public Radio in 1983. That was also the year of the “NPR financial crisis” caused by overspending and foolish business ventures.  The shock of almost loosing NPR to bankruptcy caused Smith and others on the NPR Board to request that CPB change the way it funded much of public radio.

Up to that point, NPR received direct funding from CPB.  Smith, Bill Kling and other members of the Station Resource Group, succeeded in getting CPB to channel programming funds to the stations who then “shopped” with NPR.

This created a market economy for public radio programming and made possible the near-instant success of American Public Radio. MPR’s A Prairie Home Companion – a program NPR turned down earlier – became an essential program for public radio stations.

The founding organizations of American Public Radio were Minnesota Public Radio, KUSC, WGBH, WNYC and WGUC.

Few people know that the APR brain-trust almost perished in a fire on the day APR was founded.  Wally Smith tells the story:

A

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MEMO FROM JIM RUSSELL: DON’T DISS JAY KERNIS



Last week I posted about Eric Nuzum, NPR’s VP for Programming, who is leaving the network for a new gig at Audible.com [LINK].  In the post I said:

Nuzum more than filled the shoes of his predecessor Jay Kernis.  Kernis, when he was in charge of programming at NPR, was a brilliant strategist and coach but he also had a tin ear.

I received a comment from Jim Russell saying I had dumped on Jay Kernis in the process of praising Nuzum.  I have posted Jim’s complete comment at the end of this post.  In his comment, Jim said:

Ken, I join you in praising Eric Nuzum for his accomplishments, as he departs for what I expect will be his next success at Audible.com. But, I disagree with praising Nuzum by dumping on Jay Kernis.
I have known Jay for more than forty years and have worked directly with him, especially when he was a very young producer of on-air promotion at the startup NPR. His smarts and his talent, and his GREAT ear for radio were unsurpassed. He almost single-handedly invented Morning Edition and, with Scott Simon, Weekend Edition. He is the guy who “greenlit” such projects as StoryCorps.
I took a look in the mirror. I am guilty as Jim charged. My dump on Jay was not intentional. But, intentional or not, I was dismissive and rude.  I apologize and will try to do better in the future.

In his comments, Jim corrects my factual errors and provides important context.  Again, I urge you to scroll down and read Jim’s full comments.

SECOND TERMS ARE OFTEN TOUGH

Jay Kernis was in charge of programming at NPR twice: 1974 – 1987 and 2001 – 2008.  During his first term he led the team that created Morning Edition, Weekend Edition and fostered unprecedented growth in NPR’s audience, revenue and influence.  NPR became an adult during Jay’s first time at the helm.

To me, his second term was not as successful for Jay because of many factors. His second term was the basis for my comments.  Jay did something during the second term that I very much admired: He broke down the internal Imperial NPR mindset -- the myth that NPR was in charge whether stations liked it or not.

Disconnects between NPR and stations is as old as the public radio system. Jay keenly studied audience-building efforts by the Public Radio Program Directors (“PRPD”). He mplemented station-friendly improvements in NPR programming.  He embraced key station programmers and took their advice, making NPR programming more successful for everyone.

JAY KERNIS PAVED THE ROAD FOR ERIC NUZUM

Jim Russell makes an excellent point about how the failure of Bryant Park (and later Day To Day) brought an end to new big budget programs at NPR. Jay wasn’t solely responsible for these mistakes but they happened on his watch. They caused many observers to believe that Jay had lost his golden touch.  Which he had.  Sometimes returning to a place of past glory leads to disappointments.

Eric Nuzum learned from Jay’s failures and he did NOT repeat them.  Nuzum brought aboard Here and Now, Ask Me Another and TED Radio Hour. Nuzum leveraged other people’s content (and money) to create good new national shows. Building on Kernis experiences, Nuzum brought affordable, sustainable, quality programs to stations.
  
JIM RUSSELL’S COMPLETE COMMENTS:

Ken, I join you in praising Eric Nuzum for his accomplishments, as he departs for what I expect will be his next success at Audible.com.
But, I disagree with praising Nuzum by dumping on Jay Kernis. First, to correct some factual errors – Nuzum’s predecessor was not Jay Kernis. Jay was a Senior VP, and his successor was Margaret Low Smith for whom Eric worked. And Jay did not leave because of “a revolving cast of senior executives.” He left because of serious disagreements with one – Ken Stern.
But, beyond these errors, you accuse Kernis of having “a tin ear” despite acknowledging that he was “a brilliant strategist and coach.” You base your charge on the failure of the Bryant Park Project, which you call his “Waterloo.”
I have known Jay for more than forty years and have worked directly with him, especially when he was a very young producer of on-air promotion at the startup NPR. His smarts and his talent, and his GREAT ear for radio were unsurpassed. He almost single-handedly invented Morning Edition and, with Scott Simon, Weekend Edition. He is the guy who “greenlit” such projects as StoryCorps. He brought stature, passion and great programming chops when he headed NPR programming. Yes, he presided over some programs that failed to make it in the marketplace – but they were important experiments that helped NPR grow and figure out much of its future. They included Bryant Park Project -- the network’s first attempt at a combined radio-digital project, and Day to Day -- the network’s first program from its brand new West Coast production center in Los Angeles. It is important to remember that experimenting, risk-taking and failure are the prices of invention.
If anything led to Jay’s departure from NPR and the aforementioned experiments that failed, it was a sea change in the way new programs were created at NPR. Gone was the tolerance for big budget launches of new programs – this tried-and-tested approach was simply too risky in a period of limited funding and a lack of station consensus about what was wanted next. In place of this approach came a lighter, more nimble and considerably cheaper strategy ... one aptly named “agile” by its proponents, many from the Silicon Valley of California. Eric studied, learned and applied this new approach to mostly positive effect, backing programs like Ask Me Another and The Ted Radio Hour. Even Nuzum didn’t always succeed: John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders failed. Eric also had the opportunity of timing and the growth of digital media to begin conceiving and supporting the much-lower-budget development of Podcasts.
As for Jay Kernis, he went on to even greater heights after he left NPR, as a producer for 60 Minutes and then NBC. He is currently a producer for CBS Sunday Morning. Instead of a “tin ear,” he has consistently demonstrated his aptitude for hearing (and seeing) the human story in the productions he has created.
The bottom line is this: I agree with your praise for Eric, but not at the expense of your denigration of Jay Kernis.

Monday, May 25, 2015

"WHEN BILLIE MET KENDALL"

On Memorial Day I often think about my father and uncle who served during World War 2.  My uncle was killed in action in August 1943 while dive-bombing Nazi U-Boats off Trinidad. His name was Kendall LaCraft - I am named for him.

In 2013 I created a short film about him.  While doing research for the project I became aware of a serious fling he had in the year prior to his death. Her name is Billie and she is still living,  I interviewed her for the film.

WHEN BILLIE MET KENDALL features the voice of Nick Marcotte reading my uncle's words.  Nick is the son of Michael Marcotte, a news consultant, writer and teacher known to many folks in NPR Newsland.

Hope you enjoy the short film.