Allen Bryan WKLO News Q & A

WKLO
 
Allen Bryan was part of the WKLO news department throughout much of the '60s and early '70s, first as a reporter/anchor and then as News Director. He graciously answered our questions about the inner workings of the WKLO news department and his time there as News Director.

How did you get to be WKLO news director? What was your background in radio and news?

I was hired as evening newsperson at WKLO in May 1960. I had been in radio for about 5 years starting when I was in high school. My job when I was offered the position at WKLO was the News Director and only newsperson of KCCO radio in Lawton, Oklahoma. Until I was hired at KCCO I had been a radio announcer/DJ, doing a little bit of everything. My only prior top 40 experience was at KSWO in Lawton for about 6 months in late 1959.

While I attended the University of Oklahoma briefly after high school, I did not have a degree. I still don't today. In the early '60s I developed a philosophy that the most important thing you learn every day is how much more you don't know, therefore the most important activity in daily life is continuing to learn.

During my early career at WKLO I worked both as a newsperson and DJ at the same time, doing a 9 a.m. to 12 noon record show and the afternoon drive news shift every day. The news shift was a real challenge because we did two five-minute newscasts an hour plus traffic reports, sports, and other inserts during the hour, so I was on the air as much or more than the DJ.

After I returned to WKLO from the Army in late 1963 I was primarily working as a DJ until early 1965 when I returned to news. Ken Rowland, who had been News Director when I started at WKLO, quit to go to work for WLKY-TV at about that time. There was a period of two or three months where no one was named to fill the position, then I was named news director in 1965.


Allen Bryan (1967)

What were the responsibilities of the WKLO News Director?

One of the primary responsibilities was working a regular on-the-air news shift. While I was News Director I generally worked either morning or afternoon drive. I also often had to fill in for people who were sick or on vacation. This sometimes led to very long periods of consecutive workdays. I think the longest I ever went was three weeks without a day off.

My management responsibilities included scheduling the staff, making assignments for outside news coverage, and shaping the way we covered and reported the news. The latter included monitoring a large percentage of our newscasts and providing feedback to the newsperson regarding both content and delivery. I also did a lot of reading and research to stay informed about things that were in the news.

Another area of focus was improving the technical resources and quality of the tools we used to broadcast the news.

As WKLO's News Director, what was a typical day like? How much of it was managing people vs. actually directly getting news on the air yourself?

When I was doing the morning drive newscasts, I would get up at about 4 a.m. every weekday and try to get to the station by 5 a.m. My first newscast was actually at 6:25 a.m., but I wanted time to prepare for the morning by checking sources, clearing and editing the UPI teletype from overnight, reading the paper and following up any important stories that were new, and to check on any left over stories from the night before. We had a newsperson on until midnight and they would leave notes about things that needed follow-up. I would also review the UPI audio feeds to see is there were any good audio cuts I wanted to use.

The morning news shift was from 5-9 a.m. and between 6:25 a.m. and 9 a.m. there were six five-minute newscasts, as well as an hourly sports report, and traffic condition reports whenever something happened. Generally traffic was lighter in the morning than in PM drive except when we had ice or snow. Then it was chaos, especially if we also had school closings.

My last task at the end of the shift was to prepare a half-page news headline sheet that we distributed in downtown restaurants every day. We had our own print shop and a guy who would make the deliveries.

During the time I was doing the morning drive time newscasts, I would generally arrive at the station sometime between 5-5:30 a.m., and leave sometime around 5 p.m. in the afternoon. I had to go to bed by about 9:30 p.m. in the evening so I really only had about 4 hours a day of personal time. I loved what I was doing and never saw it as a problem, although I'm sure my wife and family did.

During the middle of the day, I would always be in close touch with the newsroom, listening to all the newscasts, providing feedback to the on-duty newsperson about delivery and content, answering questions, making suggestions regarding follow up on news developments, changing street reporters' assignments based on new developments, etc. We generally always had 2-3 newspeople working on outside assignments during the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. period.

I had a two-way radio in my car so I was in touch with the newsroom anytime I was driving, and I also was generally available by phone if they needed me. I listened to as many newscasts as possible when I wasn't at work, and often called in to make suggestions or critique the on-air presentation. Sometimes I literally felt like I was plugged in to the station 24 hours a day. I remember one incident in particular where my wife and I were watching a movie, and an usher walked down the aisle paging my name. I went to the phone and learned that a fairly serious racial incident had broken out in the West End. I took my wife home, and went out to cover the story.

In short: I viewed it as a FULL TIME job. The only part of my schedule that was ever controlled by someone else was when I was doing the on-air news shift. No one told me I had to spend all those additional hours glued to the station.


WKLO Jacket Patch

Who did the News Director report to...the GM or the PD? How much say did either have in deciding what news was covered and how it sounded? Any major disagreements with either on how the news department was run or how the news was covered?

Interesting question. I never thought of myself as "reporting to" anyone. If you asked me who I worked for I would say Ernie Gudridge, the GM, but I had a very close working relationship with the PD, especially when Terrell Metheny was there.

The history of news at WKLO was that from the late '50s when they went Top 40 and Ken Rowland was hired, news was the lead programming feature of the station. As far as I could tell in the first couple of years I was there, nobody told the news department what to do. It was almost like two different stations (music and news) occupying the same frequency using the same call letters.

By the time Terrell Metheny arrived, and Ken Rowland left, things changed and the news was considered to be part of the total programming product. I don't recall ever having anyone in management telling me what stories to run or not run, but there was a major change in the programming influence over the sound of the news on the air. This included tightening up the production values of the newscasts, developing a more forceful and enthusiastic delivery style, etc.

One of the early things that Terrell insisted on was getting more tape actualities in the newscasts, and shortening them. I recall that I was pissed off about this as were most of the news people, and I set out to establish a world record. I wound up having something like 15 separate news actuality cuts in one five-minute newscast. Eventually Terrell backed off of the numerical quota, and we all learned to edit tape more carefully, and to seek out audio for stories.

Ultimately we made a number of major changes in the way the news was presented on the air, including eliminating newscasts in midday and evenings, but we never reduced our commitment to news, and newsmen always had the right to go on the air whenever they had something worth reporting.

I think the fact that I had been a DJ and understood the programming values and concerns made it easy for me to be a supportive partner in these changes. In addition the overall ratings success of the station meant that we had an even larger audience for the news.

Were you ever asked to pull a story or not cover an event (say, by an advertiser)?

I don't recall that ever happening. We probably did cover some stories that we wouldn't have otherwise covered because of an advertiser interest.

Besides the wire services, what sources did you use to get news on the air at WKLO?

WKLO was a UPI (United Press International) member so that was our source of wire copy. We also had a Weather Bureau teletype, and for several years we had a teletype connection to the Louisville Police internal teletype service which carried short summary crime reports that were primarily for internal police department use. As far as I know we were the only station in town to have this connection and we kept it very quiet. We actually had the police teletype in a dark corner of the basement of the station, and would check it several times a day and tear off the accumulated reports. We would never use a story from the police teletype without getting the info directly from someone at the police department on the phone.

We also eventually subscribed to the UPI Audio Service which provided several feeds a day of news actualities and voice reports from reporters around the world. We would also often make direct phone calls on national news stories, either calling the news source directly or calling a radio station in the area and getting a report from them.

Another important part of our news gathering process was listening to police and fire radio monitors. This made for a very noisy newsroom. We monitored Louisville police, Louisville fire, Jefferson County police, two channels for Jefferson County Volunteer fire departments, and we also had a monitor that we could tune to various other law enforcement channels. Since the Louisville Metro area includes Southern Indiana, we also had to deal regularly with several local police and fire departments as well as the State Police in Indiana. The newsperson on duty was literally surrounded by noise including the teletypes, police radios, etc. and you had to develop a very special skill in filtering out what wasn't important, and picking out what was.

We also did a substantial amount of coverage of local stories in person, sending reporters to news conferences, public meetings, etc. with portable tape recorders to gather, and report local news. We had a fairly substantial regular schedule of meetings to cover each month, as well as "beats" that were covered by specific newspeople every day, like police headquarters, the courts, the Mayor's office, etc.

In addition we monitored WAKY and WHAS to pick up leads on any stories we might have missed and would then get the details from the original source before using the story on the air. The same was true for the newspapers. (There were both morning and afternoon papers in those days.)

WKLO was a very comprehensive news gathering organization, and our own news staff gathered a large percentage of our local/regional news.

What did you look for when hiring news reporters at WKLO? Did you have a hard time finding qualified candidates?

It's interesting that after all these years I remember very little about the details of how people came to work for our news department. In my own situation, I was recommended by Jim Fletcher, who I had worked with in Oklahoma, and received a job offer from Barney Groven, the program director.

During the period when I was news director in the late '60s and early '70s, I don't recall that we ever had a problem finding people to fill our needs. It seems like there were always people contacting us who wanted to work for WKLO.

My recollection is that our first priority was generally on-the-air delivery (what they sounded like). This was generally true for daytime slots, whereas we hired relatively inexperienced people with potential for nights when we staffed an overnight news shift. We also hired several people over the years as regular weekend news people. Jack Thurston (Miesberg) was the earliest and longest serving. He was a local school principal and worked weekend news shifts for about 10 years.

The general approach to developing news staff members after they were hired was to work on developing both the news gathering/writing and the delivery to bring both up to our standards. One of the things I loved about my news work at WKLO was that it was a continuous learning and teaching experience in several dimensions.

How many news people did WKLO have? Who/what decided the number? Did you have somebody in the news department 24/7?

We normally had between five and seven people on the news staff including a part time weekend person. We normally staffed the newsroom from 5 a.m. -12 midnight Monday through Saturday and 12 noon - midnight on Sundays.

One of the interesting things about my experience as News Director of WKLO is that I never saw a budget. I'm not sure there was one. Personnel issues like what to offer a new person, or pay increases for existing staff were generally handled in one-on-one conversations with the GM. The same generally applied to anything else out of the ordinary. However, we made a number of technical improvements that I would just work out with the Chief Engineer. He never raised the issue of cost with me. We also did one major remodeling of the newsroom after we moved to Walnut Street. The primary purpose of this change was to reduce the amount of traffic through the newsroom to the showcase studio. One of the things we did in this remodeling was to create an enclosure to soundproof the UPI teletype machine. I was very involved in the planning and design of the changes, but had no clue what it cost.

What set WKLO news apart from the competition?

First what set WAKY and WKLO apart from the competition was the fact that we had so many more listeners than the rest of the stations. The two stations generally controlled about 60% of the total radio audience in Louisville. We were also both very aggressive in covering "breaking" news and particularly police and fire type stories. This dated back to the late 1950s when WAKY came into existence under the McClendon ownership and WKLO went Top 40.

In my opinion what set WKLO apart was that we had a more comprehensive journalistic approach to news coverage. We covered the full spectrum of news in Louisville and actually covered in person more stories and regular beats than any other station.

We had a high-energy fast-paced delivery like many top 40 stations, but we also had a very broad range of stories and tape actualities and on-the-scene reports. Our news gathering operation was very organized and methodical. We maintained a schedule of all the regular meetings we covered, and a file of leads to follow up on at the appropriate time. We also developed very good relationships with news sources which often led to them calling us with tips on developing stories.

Probably one of the most unique qualities of our news operation was the ability to make interesting stories out of things like the school board, board of aldermen, water company board, etc. This was generally accomplished by the newsperson thinking as the meeting was going on about what would be interesting to our listeners. At the end of the meeting, the newsperson would have to focus on what was important and interesting, identify places in the tape of the meeting where audio would support this important news, and then quickly build a story with audio inserts to tell the story. This would, of course, be before we had seen the newspaper or heard anyone else's story.

If there was one factor that made our news department successful and effective, I would say that it was an ability to process large amounts of information and sort out what was important and interesting in a very compressed time span, to produce interesting stories and newscasts which were constantly changing. This was a skill that was learned on the job. The only effective teachers were other newspeople who had learned before you. It also placed a very high premium on creativity, quick thinking, and the use of words.

Our primary news competitors were WAKY, WHAS, and WAVE. WHAS and WAVE shared news resources with their sister TV stations that were then under the same ownership, so it is hard to compare them. WAKY was more directly comparable, and my guess is that we generally had one or two more news staffers than they did, but I never really counted or made a direct comparison.

What were some of the rules and guidelines used in putting a story on WKLO?

I think that our institutional guiding philosophy was to be responsible. We always wanted to be first with a breaking story, but it was just as important to be right. It is interesting that we once used this tag line for bulletins: "We get the news first, but first we get it right." That same line is being used today by WHAS radio in 2006.

A good example of this was something I learned very early in my career at WKLO. We often used a cross index telephone directory to make calls to the scene of events like fires, robberies, accidents, etc. trying to get "eyewitness" descriptions. The lesson I learned was to make several calls to people in the immediate vicinity and look for facts that were supported by more than one person. Frequently one person's view would be very distorted or mistaken, but two or more similar descriptions were generally reliable.

Another break-through rule that I implemented was to eliminate the word "today" from our stories. My theory was that after the morning drive time, virtually all of our stories should be happening today. It was okay to say "yesterday" or "tomorrow" if it was necessary to the story. But "today" was a carryover from newspapers and wire stories that had little relevance for our kind of news operation.

I also waged a very serious campaign to try to generally eliminate unnecessary words from our stories. Many of these words were good proper English words used to hold together "proper" sentences. My theory was that most of these words that you read every day in newspapers and magazine are words that you skip over mentally as you read for information. Getting newspeople to change not only their habits, but essentially this whole concept of news writing was a tough sell. I did it myself to set an example, and kept working with others to break the old habits, but I was never completely successful.

Other general rules that were important related to how the newscast was put together and the relative emphasis on national and local news. Our general approach was that local and state news were first priority, and national/international news was used to fill the remaining time. We would try to at least do short headlines on the top non-local stories unless there was a good breaking national/international story. During the Vietnam War, for example, there were often hot action-oriented stories about the war.

Did WKLO always give you the tools (manpower, equipment, other resources) to get the job done?

During the time(s) I was in charge of the news department, I feel I was given great support from management in almost every respect. We had an excellent newsroom set-up: portable recording and two-way equipment, UPI Audio, etc. Management was always receptive to my suggestions for improvement. Probably the only area that fell short of my expectations was in the area of what we paid our news people. I always wanted to do more. As far as I know, at the time, the whole pay structure for air talent was relatively low. (See comments about Bill Bailey's pay elsewhere on this site.)

I personally was treated very well by WKLO management and had management opportunities outside of programming and news while I was there. My experience at WKLO prepared me well for all the challenges and opportunities I faced outside of broadcasting for the rest of my career.

When I was news director, Ernie Gudridge also made it possible for me to be a member of RTNDA, to attend their national conferences, and to attend various educational seminars presented by the Southern Regional Education Board. He also supported my participation in a number of civic and community activities. I also recall attending an all-day news background briefing for radio and TV newspeople at the State Department in Washington D.C. which included a reception with the Secretary of State.

Besides manpower, were the news resources of the WKLO news department comparable to other leading stations in Louisville and in similar markets?

This is difficult to answer because there were so few directly comparable stations. WAKY was the only one that was truly comparable because they were also a stand-alone radio operation rather than a partner with a TV news department. In my opinion WKLO had the best combination of personnel, technical resources, management commitment and support of any radio news operation in Louisville during the time I was News Director. I think the key difference maker was our never-ending quest for improvement in every aspect of what we did. We were particularly progressive in enhancing the technical tools and methods we had to work with.

A prime example of this was our approach to doing election coverage. We had traditionally done remote coverage from various political headquarters on election night, but at some point in the mid-60s I decided that the production values on these remotes were very sloppy and not in keeping with the general sound of the station. So I decided to explore with the phone company how we could improve our off air communication between the remote sites and the studio. This sounds so basic today that it is hard to believe we had to invent a way to do it. In my discussions with the phone company's technical guys, I discovered that a non-broadcast quality open circuit line could be set up at relatively low cost. This allowed us to set up an off-the-air talkback channel that was an open circuit to everyone on the line. We used a telephone headset at every location, and we were able to dramatically improve the programming quality of our election night coverage by eliminating a lot of on the air conversation that had been necessary to give cues and directions as to where we were switching to next. We could now do all of this off the air. It improved both the content and the programming quality of what we did. Of course, this later became a very common method of communication in television, but in the mid-60s it was new, at least in radio in Louisville. As I recall we were doing this for two or three years before anyone else picked up on it.

The comparison with stations in other markets is difficult because I don't recall being that aware of what stations in other markets were doing. I suspect that some possible areas of difference were the quality and pay of news staff, and the availability of mobile units. We never had a mobile unit vehicle provided by the station, so Bob Henry and I had two way radios installed in our personal cars. Another general observation is that many of the top radio news departments were in radio/TV situations under the same ownership and shared resources including people.

Did you "network" with newspeople from other stations or media (say, TV stations and newspapers)?

As far as the daily news coverage was concerned, it was very competitive. The regular band of roving reporters generally included WHAS, WAVE, WKLO, and The Courier Journal and Louisville Times. Our primary street reporters, Bob Henry, Eileen Douglas and Ken Knight would see the other regular street reporters a lot, and they would often pick up tips from each other, but it was more on a personal level. I also recall that when you were sitting around waiting for a news conference or a meeting to start, and one of the other guys mentioned a story you weren't aware of, you never let on that you weren't. You just made a mental note to check it out.

It the late '60s I became a member of the Radio TV News Directors Association and began to have conversations with other news directors in the market about issues that affected our work. The people I recall working with were Jay Crouse from WHAS, Rodney Ford from WAVE, and Bob Watson from WAKY. I also recall that in 1968, Jay Crouse asked me to serve on an RTNDA committee to judge entries for RTNDA awards that year.

One of the issues that I was particularly interested in was to develop some kind of instant communications link that would allow local government, police and school officials to simultaneously contact all media outlets with important information. We never accomplished this while I was still with WKLO, but after I joined city government in December of 1973, I took the lead in implementing such a system. Unfortunately it was not implemented until after the April 1974 Tornado that hit Louisville.

One of the interesting things I remember about this experience is that we never really developed much of a relationship with the other Air Trails-owned radio stations. We would call them if there was a story we were interested in, or they would call us, but that was about the extent of it. Each of the stations operated pretty independently.

Any news blunders, like reporting somebody was dead when they weren't?

Everybody makes mistakes, I'm sure I did, and anyone whoever worked as a radio newsperson. After all these years I don't remember any one in particular that stands out. However I do recall one specific mistake that was an example of one that happened more than once.

We often had scoops: stories that no one else had. I mean no one, including the newspaper. There was one story in particular that I remember. Through one of my personal contacts I learned that Neville Tucker, who was a police court judge and president of the local NAACP, had resigned his NCAAP position. I called Tucker and interviewed him and wrote the story, with several tape actualities, which we ran for about a day and a half. I watched and listened, but no one else picked up the story, not even the paper.

Then about two weeks later I was listening to one of our newscasts and heard the story. It turns out it was a UPI wire story. The newsperson on duty had picked it up and was using it as if it were a fresh story! He had been there when it originally aired, and just didn't remember (or something). I had to call in and tell him to kill the story and put up a reminder in the newsroom that we had already done that one a couple of weeks earlier. As it turned out, UPI had picked up the story from the newspaper.

After you did the news, did you keep all the stories? If so, for how long? Did you archive the actualities? Do any yearend specials?

Yes we did. We archived the copy from every newscast, and we also archived the master tapes of all the tape actualities that we used as well as the cue sheets for them. I think we saved stuff for at least four years, and tossed the oldest year at the beginning of each new year. Yes, we did do a year end news special recapping the highlights of the past year. I have no idea what happened to all this stuff (probably all went to the trash).

What was the newsroom equipment like (board, cart machines, etc.) and how did it change during your time at WKLO?

The newsroom as it existed when I started in 1960, and until we moved to Walnut Street in 1964 is partially shown in the picture with Bob Henry at the news desk. Unfortunately only part of the set up is shown. The newsroom was a fairly large room, about 20x20 feet. There was a window facing the lobby that would allow visitors to look into the newsroom, and the teletype machines were actually placed so you could see the copy from the lobby as it was being typed.


Bob Henry in the WKLO newsroom in the Commonwealth Building

The news desk set-up was facing a wall with a large double-pane window separating the newsroom from the control room. The floor in the control room had been raised to accommodate all the wiring so the DJ was looking down on the newsperson. It was actually a pretty efficient line of sight and made it pretty easy to communicate by hand signals or even notes. Of course we had an intercom, but it wasn't necessary to use it that often.

As the newsperson faced the desk, all of the equipment was arrayed around him. The desk was actually a large heavy metal office table, with a sort of rubberized top surface. Directly in front at the center of the equipment was a panel that contained the mike switch and switches to put the various tape machines on the air. There was also a small patch cord panel to allow switching audio to-and-from different tape machines or sources. I can't recall exactly, but I believe we had two or three tape machines that were sort of permanent fixtures in the newsroom. One of them was a fairly small Ampex reel-to-reel recorder that was what passed for "portable" in the late '50s. It had a snap-on top and you could carry it with a suitcase-type handle. The other one or two machines were Magnacorders that were still regarded as "portable", but were much larger and heavier than the Ampex. We also had telephone-recording capability built in to the switching box so we could record on any of the tape machines.

Another feature of the set-up was an electronic telegraph key that was used as a separator on our "bannerline" reports at :25 in non-drive time periods. We also had a reverb button that was used on newscasts to highlight the name of the place the story related to.

Of course we also had the ever dependable Royal manual typewriter that all of us loved because it had such an easy carriage mechanism and you could type fast without a lot of wear and tear on your fingers. (Note: When I left WKLO in 1973, I had never used an electric typewriter.) As the years went on these typewriters became harder to find, and we were always looking for them as back-ups. Another personal note: to this day I have never learned touch typing, but am still a very fast hunt-and-peck typist.

During this time in the early '60s transistors were just beginning to appear, and we were able to find a reel-to-reel portable tape recorder made by Norelco that was fairly effective for street work. However these machines were notoriously unreliable, and often would jam while recording, and you would lose everything.

When we wanted to feed a tape back to the newsroom from an assignment, we would normally call on the phone and hold the speaker up to the mouthpiece of the phone. It was very primitive and low quality.

During this period in the early '60s we had no cartridge machines or even cassette recorders.

One of the features of the old newsroom that most of us really liked was the microphone. It is partially visible in the picture of Bob Henry. As I recall it was a Western Electric model that had been a staple of broadcasting since the '40s. I always thought it had a great sound/presence. One of the advantages also was the fact that it had a built-in screen that kept you from getting too close to the actual mike pickup. This meant that you could work close to the mike without getting a lot of extraneous pop and hiss noise. I seem to recall that this was also a fairly directional mike. After the move to Walnut Street we were always complaining about the new mikes.

When we moved to Walnut Street in mid-1964, I was not involved in news at all, I was working solely as a DJ, and therefore I was not involved in the planning and layout of the news facilities at the new location. However, I can explain what was done.

As everyone knows, the new studios were a showcase arrangement that put the DJ behind a ceiling-to-floor showcase windows. The DJ was only about six feet from the window and people walking by on the sidewalk. This was a radical departure from our previous set-up where visitors to the radio station could not even see the DJ.

The new arrangement also created a position in the showcase studio where the newsperson would actually sit to deliver the newscasts. This was a major departure from the old arrangement in which the newsperson delivered the newscasts from the newsroom, and did not have to move to another location to deliver the news.

The best thing about the new newsroom was that it was designed from the ground up
to be a working newsroom. One of the problems with the original layout was that the only way to get to the control room was through the newsroom. This meant that a fairly large chunk of floor space was taken up by the path to the control room. The rest of the space was highly compact and well-organized. In the pictures you can see both sides of the newsperson's workspace. It was all custom made to provide a "U" shaped workspace that made it easy to reach almost everything without having to get out of the chair. It also accommodated a lot of wiring that previously was exposed.

The left side of the workspace included the typewriter, and spikes for sorting the various categories of wire copy (both visible in the picture). The right side was where all of the tape recording and editing equipment was located. By this time we did have a cartridge recorder/playback unit (only one). We also had three reel to reel machines, as I recall two Ampex and one Magnacorder. One of them is not visible in this picture. It was under the counter and was used strictly for UPI audio. In the center of this photo is a custom made control panel designed and built by our engineering staff which was used for editing and recording.

In between these two sides was the center desktop section facing the showcase studio, which included a small custom made console, mike switch, etc. for doing live reports from the newsroom. Our array of police and fire monitors was now largely hidden. I think some of the actual receivers were in the basement, and just the speakers were in the newsroom. The whole newsroom setup was a huge improvement over what we had worked with in the Commonwealth Building. One of the big improvements was that all of the switching between sources and machines were hard-wired and no longer required patch cords.


News position in the WKLO Showcase Studios

The news position in the showcase studio was a custom-made control panel which allowed the newsperson to take control of a couple of the cart machines in the control room which were used for the news intro and closing format, and for the commercial insert in the newscast. It also included control of tape machines in the newsroom. In addition, the newsperson had their own mike switch. Once the news intro cart was running, the DJ was free until the end of the newscast.

On the news console, there was a switch on the bottom left side that transferred control to the news console; in the center was a master volume control; and on the right was the mike switch. The parallel series of switches across the top of the panel were tape remote start/stop buttons. As I recall this setup remained essentially the same from the day we moved in 1964 until I left the station in 1972. We probably changed the mike a few times trying for better sound, but that was about it.

One of the changes I eventually made for myself is that I started using a small transistor radio with an earplug/earphone as my on-air headphone. I discovered that it was much more realistic because I could actually tell what I sounded like on the air, instead of the pure "off the board" sound fed through the regular earphones.

Later changes after I became News Director eliminated the traffic through the newsroom to the showcase studio, and we created a small closet for the UPI teletype to cut down the noise.

In addition to the newsroom space, we also had access to a small production room located directly behind the newsroom that was often used by the street reporters to dub/edit tape from the portable recorders to tape cartridges.

As I recall the evolution of portable recorders, we started in the early '60s with the Norelco portable reel-to-reel recorder I mentioned earlier, and later switched to a Norelco cassette portable recorder. The original reel machine were probably about $125 which was a lot in 1960. When the cassette recorders first came out they were still expensive, but gradually the price came down to the point that we would buy a new one rather than fix an old one. These recorders were not designed for professional use, but were very effective and generally reliable tools for us. The biggest problem was making sure the batteries were fresh.


Eileen Douglas with portable recorder

One of the really irritating things that existed in the early 60's was the "mandatory" use of the beep on telephone recordings. This was some kind of FCC requirement to warn people that their conversations were being recorded. It sounded terrible on the air and interfered with the sound quality as well as the content. Somewhere along the way, probably in the mid-60s, we decided to kill the automatic beep tone, and also to make it possible to record on any of our phone lines. I don't recall how we rationalized our way around the requirement, but part of the practical application of it was the fact that many of these recordings were of our newspeople calling reports or feeding tape to the station.

Our policy was that we were supposed to advise the person on the other end that the conversation was being recorded, and then at the conclusion ask them for permission to use it on the air. In practice, both of these steps gradually disappeared. I don't recall that we ever had any serious complaints.

Of what are you the proudest of as News Director at WKLO?

What I am most proud of as far as my tenure as a newsperson and News Director at WKLO is the revolutionary innovation and change that took place during that period (1965-1972) to develop a unique approach to news in modern top 40 radio. I viewed this generally as a partnership with Terrell Metheny, Carl Truman Wiglesworth and Bill Hennes as the Program Directors I worked with and my own creativity and quest for continuous improvement, as well as the support of the news staff in carrying out these changes.

Many of the innovations we made during that period were revolutionary, and most of them didn't survive in radio for the long term. Radio news today, in 2006, is more like what it was in the late '50s and early '60s than what it was at WKLO in the period from 1965-1972. In short, it is pretty dull. This is true even in stations with an all-news format. Newscasts and other news presentations are generally forgettable as a programming feature

One of the elements of our success was to make news a truly seamless part of programming, woven throughout the hour and the day. If you went away for a few minutes you might miss something worth knowing, but you still had a chance to catch up with newscasts during the key news periods of the day. The most revolutionary move in this area was what we called "continuous news." There were no scheduled newscasts between noon and 3 p.m. and between 6 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. at night, but we had newsperson working in the newsroom during those periods, and they did traffic reports, sports, and news stories when something new happened that merited coverage. The intent was to make sure our audience didn't miss anything, but to avoid straining their attention span by airing five-minute newscasts every hour made up primarily of old news.

How did radio newsgathering and reporting change from the early '60s when you started at WKLO until the early '70s when you left?

A lot. From the time I arrived in 1960 until Ken Rowland left in late 1964, things were fairly stable. The basic approach, on-air sound, news gathering routine, etc. were fairly consistent. We worked hard, we had a lot of pride in our work, and we were very competitive about getting the stories. From 1964 through the time I left in 1972, as I have already mentioned, change was a constant process.


Allen Bryan in July 2006

What was your favorite part of the job?

I really liked being on the air doing news especially in afternoon drive. I did this at two or three different times in my career at WKLO and it was always extremely challenging and interesting. It was also exhausting. I would usually go from 3-6 p.m., and during that time I would do five five-minute newscasts (3:55, 4:25, 4:55, 5:25, and 5:55 p.m.). I would also do frequent traffic condition reports; a sports report each hour, and breaking news stories as needed. The on-air time pattern was similar to morning drive, but usually there wasn't much news actually happening in the morning so the pace was a little more relaxed on normal days.

The afternoon was totally different. All of the news stories that had been developing or breaking during the day were now piling up, and new stuff was happening between every newscast. When I was finished with one newscast, the 25-minute countdown clock was ticking toward the next one. Often the next newscast could be entirely new with nothing carried over from the last one. It was not unusual to have a newsperson calling in a story as I was going on the air. I would start the recorder, go into the studio to start the newscast, then when the commercial was running in the newscast, I would run back and cue up the tape that had just been called in. It was almost always a very pressure-filled and noisy three hours.

What was your least favorite?

My least favorite part of the job was dealing with problem employees. This was my first job as a manager or supervisor and I had absolutely no training or experience in dealing with the "problem employee" issues that invariably occur. One of the most important lessons I learned quickly is that you can't really be buddies with the people who work for you. I was used to being one of the guys for several years at WKLO before I was named News Director and I really had an "employee" perspective. I had to change that right away, and I benefited from that lesson for the rest of my career no matter where I worked.

Related Links

Allen Bryan Audio Interview
1967 WKLO News Article
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 1
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 2
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 3
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 4