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Friday, May 20, 2011

Paradise Isn't Lost.... It's a Small Town 25 Miles South of Where I Am, Duh.

Hello Troops,
Landon Hemsley is a student at USU in Logan and a former Odyssey Flight Director at the Space Center. I asked him to write a post about his new job with the campus radio station and how it relates to the work he did at the Space Education Center. Landon graciously obliged and sent the following.

Thank you Landon for writing the following post and thank you for the many years you spent with us defending Earth's liberty and championing Justice for All!

Mr. Williamson
As I type this letter to the Space Center faithful, I look around the small radio control room in which I am sitting, and realize that it's an awful lot like a really sophisticated control room at the Space Center. But there are some differences.... I shall elaborate.
There's no video cameras. It doesn't matter if anyone sees me like it does at the Space Center. Rather than cameras, windows grace all four walls, allowing me a view to both the small parking lot outside the studio and the staff meeting room next door - that same staff meeting room that just a few short years ago was a fully loaded studio with about 8 microphones. Oh, the memories.

The board that I run has eight different audio inputs. Three are satellite feeds from the NPR national networks. One is a wild card. Sometimes its a phone line, other times, we can rout microphones from different areas of the building through a single input. Another three are for computer audio card feeds. The machines here have several cards. In fact, all the computers and sound equipment are stored in a single massive mainframe in the "transmitter room." From there the computers and audio boards throughout the station draw their computing power, with remote access computers in three different studios. It's basically the ultimate sound machine on steroids - quite the step-up from the small audio mixer boards well-used and abused at the CMSEC.

To my left is the AP newswire computer. The Associated Press sends its stories through the wire and they show up here, ready for us to either investigate further or to read on the air, I guess that would be our communications computer. Now we just need an officer to man his station, stare at the screen endlessly, and raise his hand and notify the news director when anything changes. Any takers? Oh, yeah. In not so many words, that's my job. ha!

Massive speakers and a clock are mounted near the ceiling of the studio, as well as the famous "on air" light-up sign. The walls are caked with styrofoam matting - it mutes the sounds that may come through the walls from outside, making the studio a much more "sound-neutral" environment. Obviously these things lack at the Space Center, as evidenced by the styrofoam barrier that occupies the door frame to the school library in the Odyssey's control room.

One thing that's the same, yet different, is the fact that classical music is always playing around here - at least 12 hours a day. What kind of classical music? Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. No Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack around here... unless of course NPR does a review on the latest sequel in that series... which it just did. And man, that felt good to hear that coming through the speakers.

But I would say that the most stark difference between this environment of eternal audio transmission is what I call "The Reality Pivot."

Students and patrons come to Pleasant Grove to lose themselves in a make-believe world - to fly throughout the galaxy, fighting swash-buckling space pirates and protecting the mighty United Federation of Planets. Where I am, that make-believe Paradise is completely lost in the sharpness of the mirror of reality that screams that Paradise is a small town at the south end of Cache Valley and that's all it will ever be.

I cover the news across the state of Utah. Some days its slow, but most of the days I need to gear up for work like I'd gear up for an athletic event. Gotta put my game face on and get ready to dominate the competition. Perhaps that's why I enjoy my job so much. I like to compete.

My day consists of several phone calls to government and professional leaders who all deserve to have their story heard, but not all of whom WANT their story heard. And often, the more tragic the story, the more I'm thrust to put it on the air. For example - the flooding this year has occupied and will continue to occupy much of my work time.

There's been an outbreak of equine herpes in Utah and several western states that is threatening the lives of many, many horses, even if it is not dangerous to people. Since our service area is largely rural, it's an important story.

I got off the phone not too long ago with an officer in Brigham City discussing a semi-truck that lost its brakes on the highway from Logan to Brigham and took out three cars at an intersection because it couldn't stop. Three cars were totaled and the driver of the semi had to be extricated from the cab with heavy equipment.

Compare that sharp clash with reality to the Voyager standing down his majesty, the Grand "Poo-Pah." Fantasy versus tragedy. It's a terrific contrast.

I do not mean to say that I am unhappy in my work. Quite the opposite in fact. When there was a significant chance that dams would break in Southern Utah last December, when rivers were jumping their banks after days of heavy, heavy rain, I got ahold of several people on scene and kept people up to date, minute by minute as we watched to see if an aquatic apocalypse was about to bear down on St. George. Thankfully, nothing happened, but I was left with a profound sense of satisfaction that I helped keep a large segment of Utah's population up to date on a precarious situation IN REAL TIME. As Mr. Williamson is, I am certain, waiting for me to say, it was Awesome!

Some of the greatest skills I possess in my job were acquired at the Space Center. Ambition. A vocal presence. Professionalism. Courtesy. Persistence. Knowing how to say what you need to say in a creative way that will make people think. These were all skills that were hatched at the CMSEC in PG.

I don't plan to work in news forever - sports entertainment is much more my cup of tea and I plan on working in the sports media for a very long time in one capacity or another. When I do, I am certain I will get to utilize much more of the skills I acquired both at school and at the Space Center, but for now, I report the news, make my phone calls, and wonder when Paradise will once again quit being that stupid town at the south end of the valley and resume its rightful place on the bridge of the USS Voyager, flying amid the stars.

Troops, treasure the years you spend at the Center. I am happy where I am now, but as I look back on my years at the Space Center, I have realized again and again that they are fleeting, and you'll miss it when you leave.

Much Love
Landon Hemsley
Utah Public Radio
A former CMSEC staff member.

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