KDHX Update From Production and Technology Director Andy Coco
Just about the same time as KDHX turned 34 this October, I marked 20 years as a staff member and volunteer. It has been a wild ride, and I can say with fondness that I have seen many different faces in this wonderful community resource, and feel today as warmly and proud to be a part of it as ever.
It strikes me that the now mainstream language related to equality in our communities is aligned with KDHX’s long standing ideals. Terms such as “equity,” “inclusion,” and “diversity,” now standard in the modern workplace, are the very concepts that drew me to leaving my corporate agency job for that “odd little non-profit community radio station on the South Side that plays everything, and does a healthy amount of live music.” (In fact, the first band I joined as a new musician in St. Louis played on air, on Stumble in the Dark at least twice in the late 90’s.)
Providing training and access to broadcast tools and to the airwaves, and thereby enabling our skilled and unskilled volunteers to participate at a professional level is one of the great tenets of the KDHX legacy, and one of my greatest joys in practice. The production department assumes direct responsibility for maintaining the systems and culture of learning that allow our volunteer producers to entertain and inform you on our platforms with near autonomy. The department’s team of advisors rely upon principles of responsible stewardship of resources, both technical and human, and partnership with our volunteers in order to consistently provide great content to our audience, while maintaining the highest possible quality standards for content that represents and aligns with our mission of building community through media.
At times, our most responsible stewardship of resources is the “pivot,” redirecting existing volunteer, intern and organizational resources into more practical or sustainable programs and systems, based on ever-changing needs and industry parameters. Here are some examples of recent department pivots in action.
The Pandemic and Production: We directed resources from regular live audio and event support, hands-on internship programs, and in-person new volunteer training, to offsite recording support for our DJs and producers, and in support of the media department. We began conducting lots and lots of training online. All DJs/show hosts and short feature content producers were given the option to handle their shows from home, and to be advised on how to do their regular KDHX volunteer production responsibilities from home. As Zoom became more universal, we began working with our talk programming/podcast hosts to record and produce their programs with guests online. Eventually we were able to bring calendar and short feature producers back to regular weekly production in house with staggered schedules and strict studio reservation policies. Our long-standing “Live at KDHX” series, in which we’ve invited musical artists to perform live on our airwaves in order to connect with new audiences, has endured despite the shutdown situations related to the pandemic. We have maintained this tradition and special feature of our resources by finding safe ways to produce our Listen Live & Local programming, which has continued monthly throughout these very strange past few years.
Infrastructure Investment: A current standard in the Radio industry for content delivery, our automation system allows content scheduling and detailed reporting. This is the system we use to broadcast short pre-recorded announcements and features, and with a recent upgrade, we have created new content delivery options for our producers. This represents an investment in stability and reliability for a critical system that has many benefits to our production team and volunteer producers. Among the most important of the new features is a health/safety conscious option to broadcast from any studio in the building, helping to avoid cross-over studio occupation between transitioning volunteer DJs and content producers.
Pivoting with Innovation: Somewhat incredible to me, a person who has been working with A/V production technology since well before Y2K, I am frankly blown away by the way that Zoom and other online video conferencing technology has revolutionized our industry. I find it particularly interesting in terms of increased access during an isolated time. While access to communication tools and tech are at an all time high, artists and musicians find themselves more hungry for audience connection opportunities, and are more accessible than ever. The difficulties presented by studio production technique and physical presence to conduct an interview, conversation, story or even a full-on performance are no longer prohibitive in ways they once were (very recently!). Our team has quickly identified the training opportunities and basic needs for our producers and guests to learn how to produce broadcast-ready content with these revolutionary tools. We look forward to the incredible opportunities that these trends offer us as story producers, content and context creators, and how it will certainly benefit our audience and our programming. Cool stuff!
KDHX leadership and the volunteer and audience partnerships that have been our lifeblood are in a great place to be able to maintain our programming, as well as increase stakeholder communication and engagement, and to achieve the many other goals set forth in our 2021-2024 Strategic Plan. The production department along with the other staff teams have the great responsibility for the very practical parts of that maintenance, but also, the tested systems and tools to support unflinching anti-racist capacity, desired growth of audience and community partnerships, and a more diverse volunteer base. I look forward to witnessing that growth, and working to facilitate KDHX realizing its full potential as an exemplary leader in practice in independent broadcasting.