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Media look forward to '98

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

Springfield's media outlets are looking ahead to the future.

For the employees of KYTV Channel 3, the biggest change in 1997 was the move into a new building. But the equipment they use for news gathering has stayed the same for the last couple of years, according to Marci Burdick, KY-3 news director.

That's going to change in the next five years or so, due to the impending conversion to digital technology. According to Burdick, the government mandate to change from analog to digital was handed down a year ago.

"The up side of a digital picture is that it delivers a movie-quality picture with CD-quality sound," she said. A digital picture has five or six times as many scan lines as an analog image, allowing for a better image.

But there are other issues at stake; a lot of the equipment that's needed for going digital hasn't been made yet. "I don't think there's a digital TV in Springfield," Burdick said. Also, a digital TV can cost thousands of dollars.

For now, Channel 3 is in a wait-and-see position; they don't want to buy new equipment if it can't be converted to digital.

On the radio scene, in 1997 Sunburst Media, based in Dallas, put stations KGBX, KXUS, KGMY AM and FM, and KTOZ the former Tower Theatre.

Now, according to Mitch Baker, operations manager for KGBX and KGMY FM, they all have to learn to get along together. "Having all these stations under one roof is a learning process," he said. "We were competitors, and now we're like brothers and sisters."

There's one possible radio trend Baker hopes he won't see. "Clinton and Gore are trying to get a law passed requiring the radio industry to run political ads for free, but they're not asking the same thing of the television stations or newspapers."

At the News-Leader, the biggest changes took place over the last two years. "We put in place our electronic pagination process, where our stories and ads are done on computers, and then married together," said Lynn Esser, News-Leader information systems director.

As director, Esser oversees a staff of 10 and is responsible for every computer in the building.

"Our goal for the future isn't new technology, but year 2000 issues. We'll have to make sure that nothing stops on Jan. 1, 2000," Esser said.

They'll be checking the date function on all the computers and other machines like the check encoder, credit card machines, fax and answering machines.

If a machine will stop Jan. 1, 2000, Esser does a risk assessment. She asks herself, "Should I replace this piece of equipment now or in 1999?"

She believes the assessment is very important. "If people don't plan, it could really hurt their business come Jan. 1, 2000."

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