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PREC: The Need for Mentoring

Public Radio Engineers Conference Day One looks at future engineers

Panel discusses finding young engineering talent. L–R: Jim Gray, Scott Hanley, Tom Nelson, Steve Johnston and Moderator Rob Byers.

Association of Public Radio Engineers board member David Antoine has provided us with this summation of the happenings from the first day of the Public Radio Engineers Conference, taking place as a prelude to the NAB Show.

The Association of Public Radio Engineers held its annual conference at the Tuscany Suites in Las Vegas, April 20–21. We had 92 registered attendees this year from across the public radio spectrum.

Dan Houg the current APRE chairman started the morning by welcoming the attendees and introducing the APRE board members to the audience. Also present were our three APRE Scholarship winners.

They are: Jessica O’ Rourke, WAMC, Northeast Public Radio, Albany, N.Y.; Joseph Haefeli, WRFI, Community Radio, Ithaca, N.Y.; and Jason Reed, WCQS, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Asheville, N.C.

The first speaker was Rob Byers, an NPR production engineer, who discussed audio production techniques. Rob imparted practical and time honored techniques for capturing and recording good audio for later on-air playback. Some lively Q&A followed and then a morning break.

Following was a morning presentation focusing on FM broadcasting. On the panel was Ben Barber of Inovonics speaking on FM/HD alignment; Michael LeClair, WBUR, on their transmitter site build; and William Harrison, WETA, on “Parallel Compression Strategies.”

The afternoon keynote session, “Recruiting New Engineers,” featured a panel moderated by Rob Byers.

Panelist included: Jim Gray from OMG, Scott Hanley, consultant and educator, Tom Nelson from MPR and Steve Johnston, consultant.

The lively panel discussion and audience Q&A centered on the necessity and challenges in finding and hiring the next generation of technical broadcast professionals. The solutions offered concerned mentoring those who are already attracted to broadcasting and forming partnerships with industry and educational institutions. The cooperation and support of station management is requisite because internship and mentoring requires time to happen and compensation needs to be competitive.

Highlights of the afternoon sessions featured SAS’ Al Salci examining the plusses of AVB and AES67.

Nautel’s Jeff Walton presented a live demonstration about implementing HD multicasting. Steve Johnston presented a paper on the increasing concerns of noise and interference to RF broadcast signals and their sources.

The afternoon sessions were both very engaging, and well received.

A brief APRE membership meeting closed the official first day of PREC with the introduction of the new slate of the APRE executive board chaired by Steve Johnston and co-chaired by Victoria St. John of Vermont Public Radio. The hot topic of that meeting was mentoring and how to offer more value and information to the public radio technical community.

A “Night Owl” session, in addition to sliders, pulled pork, chicken nuggets and libations in a more informal atmosphere, featured Tony Peterle of WorldCast Systems putting on an “SNMP Plugfest.” A live hands-on demonstration determining whether various “SNMP-enabled” devices were actually SNMP-compatible or not.