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Readers Comment on Engineering Extinction

The following comments were about the column “Are You Doing Your Part” in the June 12 issue of RW Engineering Extra.

The following comments were about the column “Are You Doing Your Part” in the June 12 issue of RW Engineering Extra.


Getty Images/Mario GutiérrezHi Cris, I was fortunate enough to have worked with the late Tom Osenkowsky in the early 1990s. While I was holding down afternoon drive, he appointed me “assistant chief operator” of WLAD Danbury, Conn. — more an honorary position than a functional one, but it meant I could field tech issues and check logs when he wasn’t around.

My deeper interest in engineering didn’t happen until a couple of years later — 1994 — when Tom Walker (WNNK-FM Harrisburg) suggested I join the SBE. Along the way, I got my CBT and CEA certifications and I did my best to wrangle my way into working with any engineer I could who was in charge of an AM directional system. I wanted very much to learn how those things worked.

Well, I must have been speaking to all the wrong people. Nobody anywhere wanted to share their secret knowledge with me. Between stations along the southern tier of Maryland and much of Northern Virginia, I couldn’t get my nose into the tent. One told me his skill was all that was keeping him employed and didn’t want to risk losing out to someone (slightly) younger and no doubt less expensive to hire. Another told me I was just a dumb disc jockey who had no business getting into engineering. Whatever I learned about directional RF came on my own from being a ham, and even then that’s limited to two sticks and a little algebra at best.

I sympathize with the industry and the shortage of qualified folks. I also sympathize with those before me who needed to make it to retirement with a paycheck. I’m now a few years out from hanging up the headphones myself, so a mentoring program would be wasted on me. I’ll eventually walk away from the biz pleased with other things I accomplished, but always a little unhappy about the selfishness I experienced, and flummoxed by the lack of foresight that caused AM to shoot itself in the foot in slow motion.

Alan Peterson, KJ4IVD
Arlington, Va.



Just read your “Radio World” article. “A few funerals away.” What a capsualization! What a brisk way to report the apparent future of broadcast engineering.

I hold SBE certification, but broadcast engineering is at arms’ length.

Thanks for that crisp designation.

Ludwell Sibley
Medford, Ore.



Excellent commentary, Cris! Much like my advice at the NAB Engineering Achievement Award event two years ago, and Gary Cavell’s this year — to pass knowledge on to younger generations. Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to forget the need as we get involved in our day-to-day work.

In my career, there were a few “senior” engineers (a generation older than me, at the time!) who gave me some lifelong lessons in technology and engineering philosophy. Their contribution to me and others were extraordinary. However, I wish their experience could have extended to many others. I believe we should develop more opportunities to teach and discuss in sessions with others, so that the knowledge is passed on.

It is difficult for national conferences to be a venue for education — sessions seem to be increasingly shorter and lighter in detail. But educational venues could be developed elsewhere. Maybe at SBE meetings and conferences? Personally, I’d welcome the chance to teach, and I wonder how others feel about this.

Thanks for bringing up the transfer of knowledge and wisdom. It is indeed an important issue for our industry!

John Kean
Falls Church, Va.



Great article, Cris. The Colorado Broadcasters Association has hosted three “Introduction to Broadcast Engineering” classes in the last two years. These are modeled after Alabama’s program and taught by their staff engineer, Larry Wilkins. The courses are free to everyone, not just members, and we invite anyone with an interest in broadcast to attend. On average, the course has attracted as many as 22 individuals who attend all three days of the course.

I hope you’ll send some “potentials” our way the next time we host this (currently looking at October 2019) and I would really appreciate any outreach you could provide to get more people to attend the classes.

Thanks again for this article. The call to action is desperately needed!

Justin Sasso
President & CEO
Colorado Broadcasters Association
Englewood, Colo.


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