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Back Then…The Unofficial History Of NJ 101.5

Matthew White, Townsquare Media

An “Unreel” evolution….

One of the more interesting changes that has taken place over the years at New Jersey 101.5 is the technology evolution. I have witnessed progress first hand here, in the newsroom and in the main studios. We have evolved, technologically, from a vinyl records-recording tape-analog world of sound back then, to a digital, computerized environment at your favorite radio station and mine.

But since this is about, “back then”, as the Lone Ranger’s announcer used to say, ‘let us return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.”

When I arrived here in 1989, turntables were on their last leg as a means of transmitting recorded music. In fact one of my first jobs before I settled into news, was transferring our vinyl music collection to tape cartridges, which were the staple of the broadcast industry from the early 60’s until the early 90’s.

But recorded CD’s, with their digital purity of sound…no scratches no skips and no tape noise…quickly usurped the role of tape when our music came out to play back then. In the newsroom in the early 90’s, we were still going about our daily labors with those big old reel-to-reel Ampex tape decks that would capture over-the-phone interviews when we spoke to a news-maker.

Everyone who worked here in news back then, John McCullough, Andrea Ramsey, Bob Dowd and many more, knew our news sources by how well they could explain themselves in 10 or twenty seconds. Many politicians back then, (and even now) cannot express their thought in that short of a time without pauses, stutters, etc. It does not mean they are dumb or they don’t know what they are talking about. It is just that in our everyday speech, we frequently take our good ol’ time getting to the point. Plus the fact some sources get very nervous when they know they are going on the record.

The point I am making here is that back then, when we used those big reel-to-reel recorders, we did not have the time to cut up long-winded responses to questions with a razor blade. Our news operation operates, now and back then, at the speed of light. The rule has always been, “get it, get it right, and get it on.”

Now, we use digital recorders both in the field and in the newsroom, and they are marvelous! We always tell a news source that we may edit down a comment they make to eliminate the pauses, throat-clearing and stutters for the sake of brevity and to make them sound better. But we emphasize, before we start an interview, that we will never shorten or edit anyone’s comment to CHANGE the meaning of anything they tell us.

Even so, I still begin a phone interview by telling the source, “the tape is rolling, and for the record…”

I have seen many, many other technology changes at New Jersey 101.5. We will tell you more later.

Stay tuned….

Read past editions of  “Back Then.”

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