Opinion: Engineers: Still Cooking on the Back Burner

In our Sept. 28, 2005 issue, we took broadcasters to task for not doing more to officially - and frequently - recognize the efforts and accomplishments of their engineers.
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In our Sept. 28, 2005 issue, we took broadcasters to task for not doing more to officially - and frequently - recognize the efforts and accomplishments of their engineers. If we're the first to complain when engineers are excluded from consideration for company awards and accolades, let us be quick to praise the broadcasters that applaud their hard work.

The local management and employees of Cumulus Broadcasting recently honored Steve Griesbach with the 2005 Employee of the Year award for his cluster in Appleton/Oshkosh, Wis. And to boot, this is the cluster's first time bestowing such an award on its employees, and an engineer was chosen.

The company says it decided to let the staff make nominations; Griesbach, who has been with the cluster since January 2004, was the "overwhelming choice," said Market Manager Jeffrey Schmidt.

"Engineering is often a thankless job in the radio station because you are always 'fixing' things, which means things are broken, and when things are broken people get mad and engineering is usually blamed. Steve is truly seen as a partner to our staff," he said.

On the down side, radio leaders generally continue to omit engineers from their thinking. Schmidt told us the fact that Radio World even thinks the award is worth reporting is indicative of the problem. "When my employees set out to nominate an employee of the year, I didn't imagine that our award would be setting new standards in the industry."

Our latest offender is the otherwise fine group known as Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio. It aims to use its influence and resources to support women in radio to develop strong management and leadership skills. The MIWs say they are committed to advocating advancement of women to senior positions in radio companies and corporations; and they correctly report that women are not making much headway in program or station management.

But when the group announced its annual gender analysis recently, it made no mention of technical women, not even as a group that lacks advancement. It mentioned the standing of women GMs, PDs and general sales managers. Where are the engineers? Again we remind radio executives that engineering is one of the main legs holding up the radio table. How about reporting progress for women engineers in management? Admittedly there aren't many; but isn't that the point?

The MIW group does excellent work. Its own Web site links to information intended to help encourage getting girls engaged in math, science and technology. But you wouldn't know there were any women in radio engineering, to look at the MIW site or gender analysis summary.

We compare that to a welcome announcement by the SBE and American Women in Radio and Television of a new award that will honor Outstanding Woman in Broadcast Engineering. It will be presented in March.

So what can station managers do to change the "thanklessness" of the task, for engineers of either sex?

"Every day, every opportunity, reward them with praise for keeping your stations on the air," Schmidt said. "I don't think this is just an engineering problem. People need praise, people need to feel appreciated, and that happens in every department at every level. Managers have to be aware of the accomplishments of their staff, and recognize them publicly."

Griesbach added, "I read comments all the time indicating how an engineer feels they are not appreciated, or how the fun of this industry is gone. I have worked for a couple of stations where I felt that same feeling. However, I feel with Cumulus, and this market especially, the fun is still very much alive, and the appreciation level is there as well."

- RW

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