Sun. Sep 23rd, 2018

Attention to Detail

Over the past week I have heard a myriad of mistakes while listening to both local and national radio. As a radio programmer these are the kind of mistakes that make my head explode. Simple mistakes that make an otherwise solid station sound worse than a high school radio station. To the average ear the examples I lay out may sound like nit-picking. But these are problems that cause confusion, create dead-air or double audio, and can hurt a station’s credibility. While most of these mistakes were on non-sports stations, they all apply to the sports format.

Morning Show Traffic problem

There’s a very popular local morning show in the DC area whose traffic reporter is not based in the DC area. Frankly, I don’t really care where the report is originating from as long as it is accurate. Instead listeners are subjected to a ton of incorrectly pronounced streets and cities. For example, there’s a suburb of DC in Virginia named McLean. The correct pronunciation is “Mih-Clain” yet on a daily basis we hear about traffic happenings in “Mih-Clean”. The same reporter has pronounced Glebe (Gleeb) Road as “Glebb Road” among other mistakes. Not only does it hurt the local credibility of an otherwise exceptional morning show, but it highlights the fact that this person is not in the DC area and doesn’t know the area either.

Play by Play IDs

One great feature of national audio outlets nowadays is being able to catch your favorite baseball team’s broadcast no matter where you are. I’m from Chicago and love listening to the Cubs games when I am in the car. Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer do a great job on the broadcasts and along with the local commercials and promos the entire broadcast brings me a taste of home out here on the East coast. There’s only one problem I hear as a programmer. Every hour when Cubs announcer Pat Hughes throws to “10 seconds for station identification, this is the Score and the Cubs Xfinity Radio Network” all you hear on this national outlet is dead air. They don’t legally have to run a :10 Legal ID like the terrestrial stations down the line, but they’re missing a :10 opportunity to speak to Cubs fans, to promote their brand and other sports programming. Is it the end of the world? Of course it isn’t. But there’s no reason to miss out on :30-:40 of promotional opportunities throughout every Cubs game.

Top Station, Audio Issues

In listening to a local all-news station in the DC-area, I can’t help but wonder “who is running the board?” It’s a station with incredible ratings and billing, yet you can’t listen to an hour without hearing the wrong audio being played or two pieces of audio being played over each other. It is painful when you hear it. As someone who started his career as a “board-op” it is especially hard to hear. I’m shocked every time I hear audio errors on this station because it has a spectacular reputation, yet it happens quite frequently.


The above three problems are caused either by a lack of quality control or a lack of accountability. I can’t imagine that the Program Directors of these stations aren’t aware of these problems. None of them are one-time occurrences. Even if the PD hasn’t heard these mistakes, where are the editors, producers, board-ops, and other staff during all of this? Someone other than me has to be hearing it. Are they just blowing it off? I sure hope that’s not the case. Any PD worth their salt would want to know of the above mentioned problems. They’re not hard to fix. There are very basic solutions to these recurring issues:

  1. Morning Show Traffic Problem: Someone needs to sit with the traffic reporter and go over all of the major towns and thoroughfares in the DC-area. The reporter has to also be encouraged to ask someone if he/she doesn’t know the correct pronunciation. It’s better to get that resolved before it hits the air incorrectly.
  2. Play by Play IDs: My suspicion is that the Cubs game broadcasts are automated, explaining why nothing is playing during the :10 ID. The national outlet needs to figure out why the ID tones aren’t triggering the ID and get them fixed. Or if that can’t be done, they should board-op the games to fill those :10 IDs. As an outlet that carries every MLB game, there needs to be someone in charge of quality control to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.
  3. Top Station, Audio Issues: This one is the easiest fix. The board-ops need to be held accountable. If they’ve been trained and can’t make it through an hour without a mistake, they have to be replaced by people who can do the job well. A station with top ratings and high billing can’t afford for sloppiness to harm their business.

In a world with ever growing audio choices, sports radio stations must have strong attention to detail. This goes for issues like the above and all other details that go into running a radio station. The professional execution of talk shows, updates, news/traffic reports, and play-by-play broadcasts is essential to protecting and promoting the strength and quality of the radio station and the overall brand.

1 thought on “Attention to Detail

  1. Regarding #3 (which is clearly about WTOP), I believe that the on-air anchors there run the board themselves. This actually was debated a bit when the station was being challenged by WNEW–and, IIRC, someone who had worked at both stations said that the anchors at both did indeed run the board.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still getting used to running the increasing number of produced billboards and related elements–including for the TOH newscasts from ABC. (Such billboards weren’t being used much when the station was still with CBS.)

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