Sunday, January 16, 2005

What the time check is all about:

I've been in radio for 14 years -- the last 11 in public radio. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the signature sound of NPR's Morning Edition included 'time checks', at 19, 29, 39, and 49 minutes past each hour. It was always phrased as, for example, "Eleven minutes before the hour [my emphasis]", because it's a two-hour program, fed from the Eastern Time Zone to network stations from the US Virgin Islands to Guam, and so there's never any telling what hour it is.

All that changed earlier this month when NPR dropped the time checks from Morning Edition. It doesn't really matter in most places, including at my fair station, since a local program host jumps in and gives local time checks. But for many people, the change is an unsettling one in their morning routines -- and let's face it, while change is often a good thing, we're talking about change that's taking place at 5:19 am for some folks. Not that the time checks need to return, but I figure their existence ought to be commemorated in at least some small way. Hence, the name of this blog.

Incidentally, the Morning Edition folks did touch on the disappearance of the time checks on the Friday, January 14th show:

Steve Inskeep:And finally, one other goodbye. Some of you may have noticed that Renee and I no longer announce the time during MORNING EDITION. We used to say it was 19 minutes past the hour or 29 minutes past the hour, since it's heard in different time zones. We stopped doing this recently in order to give our member stations more flexibility in what they announce locally.

So thanks to this new-found flexibility, I'm suggesting our announcers start their local host breaks by reciting the opening lines to "Kubla Kahn" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or perhaps "Word Up", by Cameo.

It's eleven minutes before the hour.

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