The Georgia Association of Broadcasters notes that another Emergency Alert System test will be taking place on August 7th. Another communications law-related site notes that the test will be unique. Unlike prior tests this will be restricted to radio and television broadcasters and will be confined to testing the ability to pass the message down the chain from the Primary Entry Point stations. The closest entry point stations to me would be AM broadcast band stations WTAM and KDKA.

Now, we need to remember that Ashtabula County is served by six separate radio stations that have no main studio locally and are otherwise completely satellite fed. Another five radio stations are “voice-tracked” where there is a studio but content is either satellite-fed or produced under automation that is prepared quite a bit in advance. Another two stations are about half voice-tracked and half satellite-fed.

In short, if something goes wrong with the test at any of those stations on Wednesday the likelihood of local staff being there to respond to the situation is minimal to none.

Now, I ended up writing on Monday about funding needs in SeekingSupport but was somewhat vague as to what is going on. In part that’s been due to the complexity of the problem at hand. I haven’t been satisfied with any of the preliminary solutions I’ve come up with. At this point I should lay out what I have.

Alongside the broadcast radio problem above, I should also note that we have no local television station and that our local daily newspaper has been steadily shrinking to almost nothing. For a population of just under one hundred thousand we are bordering on lacking any sort of true local media beyond the weekly newspapers published by Gazette Newspapers. Mind you, I was a frequent writer for one of those news weeklies back in the day and have consistent newsprint byline credits covering 1998-2000 with some random reappearances in 2005. I did hard news covering local government affairs, local elections, and local tax referenda. I did not do much in the way of covering stories such as the local Aldi closing for renovations for over a month.

The modular concept I have works on a building blocks model. Unconventional tools from the archive such as the papertex package from CTAN would be helpful to make this happen as well as more conventional tools like Audacity. The converging strands of the plan include:

  • Regular in-person news show in front of a studio audience at a regular show location
  • Eventually build to recording that news show for podcast release and/or live streaming
  • Eventually build a print supplement to the live show for purchase afterwards in case not everybody can be there for the show

I have leads on where to start holding a very small version of the in-person news show. That’s not a problem. I can possibly get away with having a non-alcoholic snack bar avaialable too. For US readers grasping for what the paradigm might be it might be best to think of it like a live recording at the Grand Old Opry or of A Prairie Home Companion. That I have a speakeasy type of setting potentially available to start with would work for setting the mood, I think, in the initial days.

Is it a big engineering task requiring great feats in computer work? Notwithstanding the potential for botching things in LaTeX2e in terms of laying out a “newspaper” of some sort the engineering work is not that tremendous. Right now the trade-offs are acceptable to use LaTeX2e and papertex in lieu of Adobe InDesign. Scribus was considered for the task but the need to be able to receive material that can be slotted into place quickly for rebuilds along a consistent template make the LaTeX option more time efficient based upon available resources.

As for the news-gathering work, I have been doing that off and on since 1998. That part is not an issue.

Printing would be the big cost drive to start. Right now Great Lakes Printing has the market cornered on printing press capability in the county and just happens to produce its own community-based weekly newspapers. The local daily newspaper doesn’t even have its own local printing press and has to have its daily editions trucked in from a few counties away where it runs as a separate job on another newspaper’s printing press. Design would have to start small and grow as time goes by. Developing my own printing plant would be nice but would take capital I frankly do not have. An example of a second-hand press that would be potentially usable would be a Xerox Espresso Book Machine but that has limitations. There are some other vendors I know I would be consulting for suggestions and advice if I am ever lucky enough to get to that operational stage.

As for the recording and releasing of podcasts, I refer back to the remnants archived to Archive.org.

I am not totally happy with where planning sits but, then again, I am not happy with the state of media affairs in town either. In the broader tech world it is trendy to say that you “cut the cord” relative to your TV watching. Here in Ashtabula it is really easy to cut the cord. All too often there isn’t anything attached to it! Building up locally produced media for a local people is something that pressure groups like REC Networks exist to do. Unfortunately the landscape in Ashtabula County is such that their methods are not usable.

When it comes to SeekingSupport I really do not like asking. I have pushed and I have cajoled trying to seek out an improved situation. It looks like if I want things to get better I am simply going to have to ask for help to start taking action myself. Nobody else is going to take the initiative here on the homefront.