Anxious Dreams

The dream takes one of two forms. I’m either sitting in front of a live microphone with no copy or I’m late.

There may be some deep-seated repressed expression revealing my collective unconscious that compensates for the underdeveloped components of my waking psyche. 

Or maybe the sketti sauce I pounded down my throat last night was too spicy. 

(I’m goin’ with the sauce.)

The dreams stem from actual early career experiences. As an anchor/reporter/writer for a statewide radio news network, life was governed by the clock. The experience instilled a modus operandi within very strict time deadlines. 

The newscasts hit at exactly the bottom of every hour. 07:30:00. Not 07:30:02 or 07:30:10. Not 07:29:57.

07:30:00. Straight up. 

At its peak, the network boasted some 70-odd radio stations across Kansas. The poor schlub manning or womanning (personning?) the control board at the affiliate station in Iola or Garden or Emporia would backtime local programming so when they flipped the network switch at 07:30:00, they’d hear... 

“From the Kansas Information Network... this is Mike Matson.” If I was late, Iola’d flip that switch and...
...dead air.

What today we'd call an epic fail.

Timing trumped content. You had 5 minutes, exactly. No more, no less. Within the 5 minutes, a 60-second network commercial (which paid my salary) and a 30-second “local avail,” short for “availability,” for the affiliated stations to insert their own local “spot.”
So in addition to the noble mission of informing the masses of the goings-on relevant to their lives, dozens of local white-belted Herb Tarleks all across the Sunflower State were counting on us to feed their kids.

Repetition brought a knack to eyeball copy + “sound” and know how much it’d take to round out the 3-and-a-half minutes. I became proficient at editing, backtiming and ad libbing on the fly to stretch and fill time.

Bill Oliver reports. 

Bill Oliver has more on the story. 

Bill Oliver has more on the story from McPherson. 

Bill Oliver has more on the story and its impact on the community of McPherson. 

In McPherson, Bill Oliver has been following this story from the start and this morning filed this report. 

Started this gig in Wichita where the on-air studios were adjacent to the newsroom. About a year later, Stauffer Communications swooped in, bought the hardware, a couple of soft-tissued assets (me and a colleague) and moved us to Topeka, where our “network newsroom” was a closet, one flight of stairs and two hard lefts away from the on-air studio.
Co-workers in the hallways learned to move to one side at the bottom of the hour. 


Funny how an early career experience impacts your life. My appreciation for my home state didn’t start there, but the very nature of the work no doubt infused some value. I’m grateful the success spectrum became a bit more nuanced as the career progressed. 

But then again, that prolly has more to do with my perceptions of success.

Or maybe just my dreams.