Employee Spotlight: Jim Karcher
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Master Control is the engine that keeps PBS39 running. We sat down with Jim Karcher, PBS39 Master Control Operator, to learn about this important part of public media.
Let’s start from the beginning: How and when did you come to PBS39?
I started working at PBS39 in early 2006. I wanted to work in public television, so I started volunteering at Princeton’s public access cable station, and working part-time at WYBE in Philadelphia before getting hired here.
What do you enjoy most about working at PBS39?
I enjoy working with the friendly people who work here. I also enjoy how we all work together as a team to get big things done.
Why do you think it is important to support the mission of public media?
Public media’s emphasis on preschool education, early literacy and STEM topics are important if we want to keep the country competitive in this global economy. It also helps kids achieve greater success in their lives.
What do the day-to-day aspects of your job entail?
I supervise and train the Master Control operators. When I am not training, I also operate. Operators program the automation for the next day’s broadcast, and keep an eye out for signs of trouble with the broadcast equipment. We also try to find and correct problems with the shows. On an average shift, an operator has to keep their eyes on about 12,000 details, any of which could cause a problem on the air. Experience tells us which ones to concentrate on the most.
Master Control is very important to the day-to-day operations of the station. Explain why.
Master Control keeps the station on the air. We keep the automation running smoothly, troubleshoot problems quickly and try to fix most problems before they hit the air.
Master Control Operators also work odd hours, working at the station well into the night. Explain why this is necessary.
It is important to have operators in the building as many hours as possible. Problems in the broadcast can happen quickly. It is only by having an operator present that we can get the broadcast back in line quickly. It is especially important to have an operator present during prime time, because that is when the most people are viewing us.
By the nature of your job, you get to watch quite a bit of PBS39 programming. Is there a show that has become your favorite over time? Why?
I have a passion for science and history, so I love our STEM and historical programs, like NOVA, Secrets of the Dead and the Ken Burns documentaries. I write novels for fun, mostly concentrating on science fiction and historical fiction.