Thursday, September 20, 2007

R.I.P. Washington Post Radio (We hardly knew ye’)

Today the brief experiment known as Washington Post Radio (WTWP AM1500) came to an unceremonious end when The Washington Post severed its relationship with station owner Bonneville communications and the call letters were changed to WWWT (3WT as they like to call it).

The original intent was to have a commercial version of NPR ( NPR on caffeine, someone at the station once called it) using the talent and resources of the Washington Post.

Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that they lacked the resources and reporters to do the kind of long-form reporting for which NPR is celebrated. Hosts would instead have the reporters on who had written whichever story they were discussing at the time and inevitably they would regurgitate (often read outright) the newspaper story itself, leading to the most leaden and stultifying radio imaginable.

Not that I wasn’t a fan and, as a life-long subscriber to the Washington Post, I really wanted it to work. Nonetheless, talented writers did not always make for scintillating radio personalities, Tony Kornheiser being the one exception and the sole bright spot for the radio station.

What Washington Post radio did evolve into during its brief 6 months of life was a station on which reasoned, moderate, and intelligent conversation took place about the issues of the day, entertainment, and technology, often with engaging good humor). What it is being replaced with is the rabid mad-dog right-wing ideologs of the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, with a liberal bone thrown in in the persons of Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes.

What it becomes is a station of all-White talkers, largely from the right. In other words, just another version of everyone else’s talk radio. Where is the diversity? At least Tony Kornheiser’s show and the version replacing him with David Burd while he’s off on his Monday Night Football sabbatical, feature casts of regulars including Black males (Joe Barber, Kevin Stanfield, along with regular contributors David Aldridge and Eugene Robinson, to name a few). These shows will remain on 3WT though there has been no apparent effort for ethnic diversity throughout the rest of the day, and that is a true shame. Like I once noted, the 3WT moniker might as well stand for White talkers cubed.


SexyHUJournalist said...

As someone who used to work at said paper, I know that part of the problem was a scuffle b/t the Baltimore-Washington newspaper guild and the Post.

The Post didn't want to cough up any more money (or only laughable amounts) for reporters to add another responsibility on top of the litany they already have.

So the radio part was rather half-assed.

Also, it's difficult to expect all print folks to know what makes for good radio and the Post didn't really take that into consideration, either. They expected everyone to be Kornheiser.

BUT everyone isn't-- in part because Kornheiser is a columnist and get away with saying almost anything, while reporters who work for the Post have to uphold a standard of objectivity.

That said, it seemed rather presumptuous on the Post's part to think they could just jump in and immediately trounce NPR.

I mean, I wouldn't expect radio folks to walk into a newsroom and do a bang-up job putting out a newspaper.

NPR folks have been perfecting the craft for a long, long time.

Dr. F. said...

Thanks, SHUJ. I had forgotten about that newspaper guild wrinkle. Thank God for NPR and long may it thrive. Dr. F.

deeceevoice said...

WPR won't be missed.

I tried to listen, but it made my head hurt. It was shallow. Frenetic. Disjointed. Weird. NPR on crack -- all the things you REALLY don't want on a Monday morning (or any other, for that matter).

I've been thinking of actually subscribing to the Post out of condolence for WPR's passing. And guilt. I feel like a moocher reading it online for free. But you're right about another thing, oh Irascible One. WPR was creepily, annoyingly, unforgivably whitebread -- especially in a town like D.C. (Maybe that's part of why the programming didn't hang together; it had no rhythm. None.)

And I'm glad it's dead.

Long live NPR!