KOOP’s Chief Operator T.J. Masters is leading the effort to assure both technological and training success as we all get ready for real-time broadcasting. I spoke with him on July 2.
Michael A. Brown: In a June interview, KOOP General Manager Federico Pacheco said, “During the lockdown, we have upgraded much of the studio software and some equipment, including ENCO and the phones.” What are the implications for training new people and re-training experienced folks?
T.J. Masters: Not only do we have seasoned programmers who are getting a refresher, we also have new, remote programmers who joined KOOP during the pandemic and who have never seen any of the studio equipment. So we didn’t want to get complicated and throw entirely new everything at people. Instead, we’ll explain and demonstrate what’s similar and what’s new, to make learning simpler and easier on the brain.
MAB: What training is underway and what’s yet to come?
T.J.: Starting in June, we spent two weeks “training the trainers,” which meant offering a slightly more intensive 3-day training program to prepare volunteers to spend the rest of the summer re-training our 90-odd programmers. Now we’re hosting two training sessions a week, two evenings each, for six programmers per session … which means all programmers will be trained within 6 weeks. And we have an additional goal to recruit enough new trainers to establish a more robust ongoing training team. That’s important because there are so many cool things KOOP programmers can do, such as live remote broadcasting, but they haven’t been widely taught. I take the training part of our community mission seriously, so we intend to address that.
MAB: Besides operational procedures, are there new station and FCC topics to be trained?
T.J.: There are no new FCC topics. Procedurally, I expect we will be overhauling the apprenticeship for new programmers. It likely will be shorter but involve participating on more than one show, to provide a broader and deeper learning experience. For example, new music programmers will also apprentice on a news and public affairs show, and vice versa.
MAB: What are the challenges to enable hybrid broadcasting, with some programmers producing from home and some from the studio?
T.J.: We are a terrestrial radio station, not just an online content provider. And part of our mission is to teach and perform terrestrial radio. That said, our upgraded automation system does make it easier to plug pre-recorded shows into the daily playlist. The details are still being worked out … options may include accommodating programmers who have day jobs or other scheduling conflicts, and possibly enabling show collectives to do limited remote programming.
MAB: What else should KOOPers and listeners know about the return to “live?”
T.J.: It’s been a long time coming and we’re all looking forward to it! To be sure, live shows can and do often include pre-recorded segments such as interviews, but the programmer being there live in the studio makes a world of good difference. That’s why our training will focus on what makes radio work and what makes it vibrant.
Interview by Michael A. Brown