Tuesday, February 19, 2008


In the day at KLOL, when album rock was king, we had the support of an excellent news department too.

Originally brought into being by the first News Director, Jim Hilty (me), who went on to be KLOL Music Director and later Program Director, KLOL continued to develop into a solid news operation.

Bob Wright came on board from KENR as News Director shortly after our move to Lovett Boulevard. He later hired Brian Hill as a solid asset to the news team.

The news department accessed the national wire services over at sister station, news/talk KTRH. It was up to the KLOL newspeople to dig up the dirt on the local Houston scene. And, they did a great job.

The newsroom had a main office right in the center of the KLOL complex. The news studio was a mirror image of the KLOL production studio with state of the art equipment, and Ampex tape recording machines that used big 12 inch diameter recording tape reels. The Ampex machines were about the size of today's typical washing machine, but state of the art then too.

All of the studios had two microphones for a stereo effect, and two microphone controls. Each had to be turned on or off to operate the two microphones.
The news studio control room had stereo mikes too, and these led to trouble for Brian Hill on at least one occasion.

When you hear a newsmaker's voice on the news reports, these are called "Actualities" in the business. At that time, they were recorded on tape cartridges that looked somewhat like a car's eight track tape. They were placed in a slot in a tape player, and started when a button was pressed at the appropriate moment by the newsman. The cartridges were "cued up" to the right moment for a beginning word of a sentence of a newsmaker to be heard. The tape player could have room for three or four separate individual "cued up" cartridges. All slots were usually full during a newscast.

A KLOL news story may have sounded something like this...Hypothetically speaking....
"And the mayor denied making improper advances to his intern. The mayor had this to say today at his press conference"....(Enter the Mayor's voice as an "actuality" played at that moment on tape on the air)..."I did not have sexual relations with that woman......Ms. Brewsky."

Typically, a newsman's mike is turned off during the playing of an "actuality" to let the newsperson take a breath, collect thoughts, clear the throat, or cough if needed. Its a small break in the newscast for the newscaster that the listeners aren't aware of.

Brian Hill had both microphones on when he did one particular newscast during the midday program. He was reading his news copy, started an "actuality," and turned off only one mike. The "actuality" stopped dead suddenly while the newsmaker being quoted spoke. Nothing could be heard but the dreaded "Dead Air."

Brian had forgotten to turn off both mikes. He had just turned one off, so one was still live, and everything he said would be heard on the air. I heard over the air the word "SH*T live from the newsroom. Always the consummate professional, Brian continued with the story, ad libbing the rest of the newsmaker's recorded comments and story.
I was comfortable that he heard what he said over the air, knew of his goof, was suitably embarrassed, and would turn off both mikes next time.

He continued with another story, and another "actuality" malfunctioned when he pushed the button. The cartridge misfired. It played nothing when Brian pushed the button. I heard softly, but unmistakeably the words, "SON OF A BIT*H" over the air. At that point, I knew that Brian had still left a mike on and didn't know it. He turned on a mike, ad libbed about what the newsmaker was supposed to be heard saying, and continued reading his news copy.

I got up from the KLOL broadcast console then to go tell Brian that a mike was left on. Brian had tried to play another actuality for the same story while I was getting up and heading to the news department. It misfired and didn't work either. There was a serious problem with the cartridge playing machine.

I heard Brian say on the air, "G*D DAM**T...YOU MOTHERFU**ER." The one unknown mike was still on. He was live on the air. Brian continued his newscast, ad libbing around the missing parts of the story, and acting like nothing happened after, to his horror, I had motioned with a pointed finger to the open mike switch. He turned beet red, but carried on like the pro he was and got out of the newscast by giving the weather forecast.

When a mistake is made on the air, whether it is a misspoken word or sentence, or something like this, the best tactic is to say nothing about it. Don't draw attention to your faux pas. Just act like nothing happened. This isn't always possible though. Sometimes you burst out in laughter because of what you said. I have laughed till tears came over some things that I accidentally said or heard someone else say. You laugh so hard you can't say anything else.
But, most people will not even notice, or maybe think in the back of their mind, "Did I really hear that?"

Brian said three of the seven deadly words you can't say on radio and one other doubtful expression for the FCC, all of South Texas, and the rest of the world to hear in less than 20 seconds. Brian's goof was the brunt of jokes around KLOL, but nothing major ever came of it.

I always liked to intro Brian with the line that I stole somewhere, " Now, here's Brian Hill with the news. When news breaks, Brian fixes it." (Chevy Chase?)

There was no turnover in the news department, but there was a need for a part time news person in a position that would lead to a replacement for me when I went back to an on the air DJ shift. We received lots of aircheck tapes from would be KLOL news hounds.

One of those was from an experienced newscaster named Linda. Linda was out of work after accidentally sending a confidential and unflattering letter to a co worker about her boss. The problem was that the letter was accidentally went on to the radio station subscription wire service news wire at the company she worked for. She was responsible for everything that went to the radio and TV stations. She simply pushed the wrong button. Instead of it being a closed communication to a co worker, the embarassing letter went to every radio and TV station that subscribed to the news wire service.

Jerry Lee was the KLOL station manager. He had worked his way up the ranks of the sales department to the management position and made hiring decisions for department heads, such as the news director. Although she was an excellent newscaster, Jerry did not hire this lady who applied. She didn't do badly though in her career though.
She was Linda Ellerbee, who was hired soon after the newswire service fiasco by one on the alphabet networks as a national TV news correspondent and went on to a prominent career.

By the way, as far as I know, KLOL news was the only radio news department to have its own T Shirt, which is pictured at the top of this blog.