This past month or so has been really busy.
The future of my workplace has been in flux
My parents’ health, a concern
And in the midst of it all, I witnessed an amazing confluence of things digital (silicon) and living (carbon).
About halfway through the May pledge drive for my station, WDUQ, Pittsburgh (a very important pledge drive), my father suffered a heart attack at his home in Ann Arbor. His neighbors leaped in to help and got him to the hospital, for which I am immensely grateful. Good neighbors are a wonderful thing.
Tuesday, May 26, I had put in a very long day at work and headed home for a hoped for 4 hours of sleep. Instead, it was off to Ann Arbor.
My Dad was not in immediate danger and resting. Wednesday was a day of tests and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The news was that my father was going to need aortic valve replacement surgery and some heart bypass work. But as we were coming up on the Memorial Day weekend, probably not until the Tuesday of the next week.
A couple of years ago, as my visits to my parents increased, I had installed wireless DSL at the house. Last year, I upgraded from my old Palm Treo to an iPhone 3GS.
Oh – and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor has free Wifi.
All this plays into how I was able to be a part of the ongoing dynamic of a very important WDUQ pledge drive while 280 miles away tending to very important family business.
While I was with my father and often waiting, the outstanding staff and volunteers of WDUQ continued to do a great job in gaining listener support for this important one-week membership campaign.
Having wireless at my father’s house and the hospital and an iPhone in my pocket, I was able to listen in to the pledge drive from Ann Arbor when I had a moment. Remote computer viewing software allowed me to see the impressive progress toward (and past) on-air fundraising goals. But being 280 miles away, while I could observe and call and e-mail back to Pittsburgh, I couldn’t be in the drive.
If you ever listen to WDUQ pledge drives, you may notice that they are the one time you hear me, Scott Hanley, on the radio a lot. I used to be a journalist, a producer, am an occasionally a disc jockey. But my real job is mostly making sure that other broadcasters are given the resources, tools and time to do their work as journalists, producers and disc jockeys.
During a pledge drive, you might hear me make extemporaneous “pitches” about anything from the history of WDUQ and public radio, to my time as a member of the NPR board, the importance of independent journalism and more. Mostly, those little spoken “essays” happen as they happen. Occasionally, there are some that get recorded and played at times when I might not be there. But they are most often “in the moment,” suitable for a particular instant of the pledge drive or related to timely events of the day.
With me being in Ann Arbor, WDUQ staff could play my messages that were recorded earlier, but serendipitous statements couldn’t be. I wasn’t there.
There are things that only the General Manager can say – and the message changes over the drive.
And I was waiting. A lot.
Wednesday, my first full night in Ann Arbor, I pondered what to do from my father’s quiet livingroom. With the newish iPhone, I had become impressed with the voice memo application and the microphone implementation with it.
So, in that quiet livingroom, with a decent digital recorder (the iPhone) from my pocket, I gave it a try.
The quality is not as good as the ElectroVoice RE20’s we rely on at WDUQ, but the timeliness of the message seemed to outweigh the loss of fidelity.
I used my laptop to send the file back to WDUQ and hoped they could make it work. WDUQ operates a high level digital audio system (ENCO DAD) which Helen Wigger and Chuck Leavens helped make sure the new almost live “spot” could be played on the air.
It worked (you can hear it, here). I was able to spend a lot of time with my Dad and still be a part of my Pittsburgh “family” of listeners and WDUQ staff and volunteers. When I could, I recorded a few messages (one aired within minutes of my recording it). Done on an iPhone and over the Internet.
Based on the surgeon’s advice, I headed back to Pittsburgh late Thursday night for a super-quick visit to take care of a few things – and participate in the last hours of the pledge drive – before heading back to Michigan with reinforcements for the weekend.
With my Dad’s condition evolving, I was leery of sharing this story. But even when he was in the hospital, he got a kick out of how I was able to be with him and also take care of important things with WDUQ.
Saturday morning of that Memorial Day weekend (not the next Tuesday), I was back in Ann Arbor as my Dad went in for his open heart surgery earlier than expected. Now, eight weeks later, he is home and recovering remarkably well.
My WDUQ family is waiting and looking toward the future – but the most successful May on-air campaign, ever, certainly makes for a better prognosis, too.
So, like I’ve written before, people matter more than technology. But technology can help with people and things you care about. And friends, neighbors, family and outstanding colleagues are really important.