During July News Hiatus, KUCB Will Overhaul Automation System And Train New Reporter

Jul 1, 2019

Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

The KUCB newsroom is taking a hiatus this month.

Staring next July 8, there will be no local newscasts for four weeks.

KUCB's Laura Kraegel sat down with General Manager Lauren Adams to discuss why the radio station is taking a news break — and what listeners should expect.


LAUREN ADAMS: We've got a lot going on this summer here in Unalaska at KUCB. One of the first things I'd like to mention is we have staffing changes coming. We had Zoë Sobel move a couple weeks ago and replaced her. We're excited to introduce a reporter coming to us from California, who'll be starting on July 15. We'll be introducing her around the town and hopefully getting her on the air starting in August.

KUCB: If that staffing change is just the first thing, what else does KUCB have going on right now?

ADAMS: So here's what’s going on in July technologically. A year ago, I applied for a grant to the Rasmuson Foundation to replace our automation system. At a radio station, a lot these days is controlled by computers. Our music is all in a computer database, and our schedules are also within a computer hard drive. So we did get the [$22,500] grant. We decided to actually change brands of our automation system, which [will be] the first time since KUCB has been on the air that we've switched automation systems. We've been using the same one since we signed on in 2008.

KUCB: That's a pretty big change, and it'll take some time, right? Especially as we're going to be training our new reporter at the same time. Hence the news hiatus.

ADAMS: Yes, we're going to take a news hiatus staring in the second week of July and we'll be back on the air in August. During this time, all of our staff is going to have to get trained in how to use the new equipment. We're going to have to integrate the schedules. We're going to have to rebuild all of that information, so that's going to take a significant amount of time in July. We're also hoping to do a couple other office changes — moving people around, fixing things up, doing our every-decade cleanup of the office, where we get rid of equipment that's been sitting around and not being used for 10 years. Just kind of cleaning up the office and getting ready for a new team and a new era for KUCB.

KUCB: Tell me more about the automation system. Why are we upgrading after all these years?

ADAMS: Recently, we joined a consortium of other radio stations in the state of Alaska, which gets us more engineering support. A lot of their engineering support can be provided remotely, but those engineers work with a different automation system brand. This one that we're using is a little bit less easy to access remotely. It isn't set up as well for that. So when we go off the air, I'm pretty good at troubleshooting. But it would be a great to help to have additional engineering support. So I'm really excited to be changing to the same system that they use so it's a little bit better integrated for us. It's going to take about a week to install the computers and integrate them with our other studio equipment.

KUCB: What should listeners expect during that week? Because I do want us to be clear that even though we're taking a break from daily local newscasts, that does not mean that all of KUCB is going off the air.

ADAMS: Yes. During the week of July 8-12, we're going to have engineers in town. They're probably going to gut the studio that we're in now — the live on-air radio studio —and replace all the computers. So people can expect service interruptions that week and also just programming changes. We'll probably have some times that are run off an iPod instead of the computers, so they won't hear what they expect to hear. Then there'll probably be — unfortunately, as we switch our whole music library over and all of our programming over, there may be some mistakes, operator error, as we learn the new systems. I wish I could say that wouldn't happen, but it's going to be all brand-new and something we've never done before. So you can expect a little bit of wacky radio on the week of July 8-12. We will be on the air to the best of our ability. There may be some outages. But it's not going to be what people expect to hear.

KUCB: We're thinking everything should be back to square one by that first full week in August, when we'll return to our regular schedule for local newscasts. But in the meantime, we will be broadcasting City Council meetings live, and we've made arrangements if there is any big, breaking news. Is there anything else Unalaskans should know, Lauren? When things come together in August, will they notice anything different at KUCB or will this be more of a seamless transition?

ADAMS: It should be a seamless transition. I would like to have our office a little more welcoming and accessible. A bit more efficient use of space. I would like to be able to rely a bit more on our computers and automation to take some workload off staff — in case we are facing staff reductions in the future. But for the most part, I think our services are working really well as is, and I don't want to see huge changes just because of our automation system change. I just want to do it well and do it right — and come back in August with our strong services people expect.