As I rotated
off as a voting member of the SBE board of directors, I asked outgoing President
Vincent Lopez for an opportunity during our fall meeting to share some
observations from my time near and on the board, and as president. This
commentary reflects the message if not the actual words read into the meeting
I’m extremely happy to see the large
number of new faces joining the SBE board of directors. A vibrant, changing
leadership is vital to the health and long-term survival of the SBE. Changes
like this keep the society relevant and responsible to our chapters and
members. I personally thank our board members and officers for stepping up.
In the past years, the SBE began to
address some perceptions that were discussed at the last national strategic
planning meeting and demonstrated during a later online member survey,
including a disturbing perception that the SBE was disconnected from the
More than one national board member has
observed a perception that SBE was about “BAS, EAS, frequency coordination and
We’ve started some bold efforts to make
changes in recent years to concentrate our limited volunteer time, money and
people on efforts that have attributable and, ideally, direct member benefit, and
also to focus on battles the SBE could actually win … and in doing so remind
our members and our industry just how vital the SBE is to all of us.
The turning of this ship has been slow
and sometimes painful. In the process I have made enemies of some people who
were my inspiration, my teachers, my mentors, both in the business and in the
SBE. This pains me greatly because these people have been close and important
friends. Perhaps this is the price of helping the SBE achieve what its board
chose to do and to ensure the survival and success of the society. Perhaps I
will have to resign myself to that consequence.
The society started well before 2007
improving our public and industry face through increasing the level of member
communication and improving the sophistication of our marketing efforts in
order to educate our members and our industry about what we truly do.
Unfortunately perceptions change
slowly. It’s going to take years of educational programs, member outreaches and
programs to make the impression stick. It will take all SBE members, not just
the faithful, to be the evangelists of what we are about, the purposes written
on the back of our membership cards: supporting, educating and certifying
As our new board considers the society’s
current efforts and looks at new projects, I urge them to be careful and
suspicious. Just because something should be done, or someone important asks,
or even if we might be good at something, it doesn’t mean we should be
responsible for it.
As broadcast engineers we often are
asked to do things for which we should not be responsible. The effective
engineer doesn’t take on someone else’s tasks to the detriment of his own. The
society must be run this way. We must find that balance between providing “customer
service” while making sure responsibility remains in the appropriate place and
with the right people.
And never think that “because we’ve
always done it” is a suitable reason to do anything. Our board members must
make their own decisions based on what our members want and need. We as members
must count on that.
The SBE is responsible, above all, to
its members — not even to broadcast engineering or to the industry, except
through the excellence and education of its members. We know the best way to
benefit our profession and our industry is to fill both with strong, educated,
experienced, engaged and involved SBE members. Through a succession of
priorities — SBE members first, then broadcast engineers — we will improve our
industry, the industry of mass media.
Don’t seek to maintain a status quo, or
try to slow or stop an inexorable or impending change, in the society or our
industry. That is the path to irrelevance and ultimate loss, as many, many
industries have learned. Our best purpose is not to impede change but to
prepare our members to exploit it and build a better industry through informed,
As much as we can see the problem and
desire to solve it, our job as a society is not to find the next generation of
engineers, to ensure our employment or even to attract people to the industry.
The SBE’s role is to provide exposure,
support, education and a measure of the skills for the people who are in the
We must certainly work to preserve the
knowledge within our ranks by creating opportunities for mentoring and to
sharing experience with new engineers ... but the industry will change, and its
appetite for talent and skill sets will too.
Business puts its own value on the
people that make it go. Be that good or bad, it’s a truism in a capitalist
economy. The SBE just needs to be the place technical media professionals come
to learn, share and measure their abilities, and a place for the industry to
find those professionals to solve their unique media engineering problems.
As the society takes on new challenges,
remember this: We are volunteers.
Look at the list of the board of
directors, committee and chapter chairs. Everything that the national
organization does or will do is done by these people.
The seven professionals of the SBE
national office staff, John
Poray, Megan Clappe, Kimberly Kissel, Hannah Trowbridge, Scott Jones, Debbie Hennessey and Carol Waite, will amplify the volunteer efforts 10-, 100-,
1,000-fold, but the purpose of the national staff is to run the business of the
It is the job of the dedicated
volunteers to guide the efforts and, more importantly, make progress in the
strategic objectives of the SBE. If there is an objective that is important for
society to achieve, it is yours as volunteers to make it happen.
During the summer of 2012, President Ralph Hogan
is planning another national strategic planning meeting. SBE chapter leaders
and concerned members should plan to attend and help set the course for the society
for the next 5 to 10 years. If you cannot make the trip, at least make your
thoughts known to the leaders of the national society. Contact either one of
the directors or officers you may know or reach out to the board member
assigned as a liaison to your chapter. All are surprisingly accessible. Their information
is on www.sbe.org.
Thanks all for the many years as one of
the leaders in this society. I am proud and humbled to have been a part of
Barry Thomas, CPBE CBNT,
was president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers in 2007–2009. He chairs its
Government Relations Committee.