Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
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Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?

katlaughing 03 Dec 99 - 05:10 PM
thosp 03 Dec 99 - 05:20 PM
Áine 03 Dec 99 - 05:25 PM
Banjer 03 Dec 99 - 07:09 PM
kendall 03 Dec 99 - 10:13 PM
katlaughing 04 Dec 99 - 01:08 AM
catspaw49 04 Dec 99 - 01:23 AM 04 Dec 99 - 07:30 AM
katlaughing 04 Dec 99 - 09:28 AM
bob schwarer 04 Dec 99 - 01:37 PM
WyoWoman 04 Dec 99 - 01:39 PM
katlaughing 04 Dec 99 - 02:52 PM
04 Dec 99 - 03:06 PM
Jack (Who is called Jack) 04 Dec 99 - 11:23 PM
Banjer 05 Dec 99 - 04:13 AM
katlaughing 05 Dec 99 - 10:01 AM
northfolk/al cholger 05 Dec 99 - 06:58 PM
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Subject: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 05:10 PM

I have made references to no longer being a monetary supporter of Wyoming's one and only National Public Radio station since they made some, what I consider to be, horrible programming changes three years ago: classical moved from early afternoon to primetime television viewing hours 7-11pm; Met Opera dropped, mostly because Met opera wouldn't let them play it when they wanted to; and, IMHO, a move to a playlist which is nearly indistinguishable from any other commercial station on the dial. One trait I've noticed, in particular, is a penchant for playing what I consider to be good *oldies* NOT by original artists, but by some wannabe that sounds terrible.

The only redeeming music factor, IMO, is the weekends when they play a mix of acoustic with Celtic, folk, etc. BUT, even then, I find a preponderance of whiney, sing-through-their-nose crossbreds of country/western/traditional/contemporary. We usually wind up turning it off.

I sent a fairly long email to the programming director and a cc to the gen. mgr. I referred them to the Mudcat for ideas on programming and recommended more of several of our Mudders who have CD's out. What follows is an excerpt from the GM's reply to me:

Regarding your taste in music and preferences - I'm sure you know how much that varies amongst any group of people. Don's (the programming director) show has a loyal and significant following of people around the state who in fact do not find the selections to be like any other radio station, commercial or non-commercial. I think the fact is that depending on one's preferences, greater or lesser distinctions are made by any listener. Your taste runs more to folk and what I think of as "Americana." That's what we feature on Saturday and Sunday's in a fairly significant amount of time - roughly eight hours. Don's show has a contemporary music focus, although there is some overlap or relationship to the weekend's programming. We have considerably more support for our weekday programming than the weekends, but are committed to doing both.

Rog has a theory that since NPR is advertising that anything you hear on there can be bought at their website, they have differing lists which stations can purchase to play from; he thinks our station bought the "C" or "D" list and that's why they play so much crap.

How is it where you live? Have you noticed any similiar trends; any explanations?



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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: thosp
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 05:20 PM

actually here in new york it's (imo)gotten better since the city sold it to a group that included some of the people that worked there and philanthropic sponsors -- but previous to that it had gone through programing changes that made me stop listening--
peace (Y) thosp

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: Áine
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 05:25 PM

Count yourself *very lucky* katwoman! Our local PBS radio station no longer plays music OF ANY KIND! About 18 months ago, they went to an all talk all the time format, after years of providing what was considered around here to be an excellent variety of very good music.

I no longer support them with money contributions for two reasons: (1) because of the advent of corporate advertising hidden behind the 'supported by' announcements before/after the programs, and (2) the absence of any local shows (talk or otherwise), with the exception of one talk show. And that's in a market of about 2,000,000 listeners -- that's right, 2M! I no longer consider this 'public' station to be 'public' anymore. It is a national radio outlet without (hardly) any local input whatsoever.

Them's my two bits on the subject, and boy, do I feel better now. I've been wanting to tell somebody how I feel about that for a long time now (my hubby's tired of hearing about it!).

-- Áine

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: Banjer
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 07:09 PM

WMNF 88.5, Tampa, Florida has gone so far down the tubes that I ended my financial support a couple of years ago. They program their time slots by how much money they receive. The folks who love folk, bluegrass and other types of music are not usually the most affluent in their community. As more money was collected during the fund drives from the rap, reggae and metallica type groups, (probably the result of some good drug deals) all the good shows were eventually squeezed completely out or limited to ridiculously short time slots. The bluegrass show which we would listen to at the shop every afternoon from 4 pm on and on the way home up til 7 pm was cut to 2 hours on Sat AM, beginning at 6 AM, and Tom Henderson's 'This is Bluegrass' to a two and a half hour time slot on Monday nights. It is no longer a true 'community' station unless of course you live in that part of the community where most of the drug monies cna be found. Thankfully I don't, and I have to provide my own brand of music when I want it.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: kendall
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 10:13 PM

its so nice to not be alone. Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to the local (public station)

I have a complaint and a suggestion. First, I have been an avid fan of WMPG for quite a while now, but, I'm finding it harder and harder to do because of the lack of what I call Folk Music. I hear a lot of "teenage philosophers wailing out their diary entries, and other stuff I can hear on any number of other stations. What really tore the rag off the bush was hearing a bluegrass song done with DRUMS!!
I never hear any local performers, and the stuff I recorded and sent to you is not strictly Folk, it's a lot closer than some of the stuff you play. Her answer Dear Kendall, It was great meeting you during the begathon this year (I did not meet her, and I didn't contribute either) I've always enjoyed listening to you on Blizzard Bobs program, (Bob does bluegrass, and does not play my stuff).... I am aware of Utah Phillips program and I havn'r schedules it here because we have local DJ's interested in producing programs

My job as program director is filled with conflicts due to so many tastes. I take your comment seriously because of your expertise in music. I apprecoate your taking the time...etc. You are welcome to call me. Jessica Lockart program director

Well, cant speak for you guys, but I'm not ready for fossilhood yet. kendall

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 01:08 AM

Well, as long as we're sharing letters, here is what I originally sent to him:

Good announcer and excellent music mix this Sunday late morning on the acoustic show! Too bad the rest of the week can't be like that. During the week we have a hard time distinguishing the music on WPR from that of all the other top hit pablum on the commercial stations. Some suggestions: Rick Fielding's new cd, This One's The Dreamer; more of any Art Thieme; any of Folk Legacy's Golden Ring albums, esp. their Golden Ring reunion; Guy Wolff's new cd; Frank Hamilton's new cd; Dave Carter & Tracy Grammar's cd, When I Go; Erin McKeown; Geoff Bartley's One Kind Word; Culum Sands' cd All My Winding Journeys. Please take a minute to visit the Mudcat Cafe for Folk and Blues at . Take a look at some of the discussion topics and join in. Thieme, the Patons of Folk Legacy, Fielding, Hamilton and many others are regular members who post there on an almost daily basis. It is well worth the time to look it over. It also houses the Digital Tradition folksong database with over 8,000 song lyrics and counting; there are online articles about important historical figures in blues and many other links to other great sites. Folk music needs the support and exposure of alternative radio stations such as WPR. The pop stuff you guys play can be heard any hour and day of the week on several different commercial stations. Please consider focussing more on folk, both traditional and contemporary, as well as other acoustic, independent artists. If you need links for any of the above artists, please email me. Also, to serve the Native American population of Wyoming, you will find an excellent mix of trad and contemporary music at, which carries such programs as Native Voices and others. It would be really nice to hear some of these artists on the radio here in Wyoming, esp. the unofficial Indian anthem, NDN Cars (pronounced Indian) by Keith Secola, which you can heard at . Another excellent Indian artist is Keith Bear at Over the past threes years it has sounded, to me and many of my friends, as though WPR has joined in the "dumbing down" of Wyoming. It would be nice to see it return to the erudite leadership of culture it used to be with a better selection of music, including thr return of Saturday opera. Thanks for listening. Katey LaFrance

Based on his reply to me, I am going to send him anew one that absically say, "My mistake, sorry, in thinking that NPR stations were not supposed to cater to the masses, instead providing an alternative. Gee, guess they might as well call it commercial radio, after all."

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 01:23 AM

Why not add them along with the gutterspout to the LIGHT and "send and release them on their way" too? Honest Kat, that was the funniest line I've ever heard from you!!!! Didn't you just say something today about better writing when angry? Just GREAT!

I can't pick up any of the three local(?) NPR's, but one is sorta' tolerable receptionwise...but not really worth listening to. 15 years ago in Nashville, we spent a lot of evenings sitting around the was like a 30's thing. Now, every time I catch something on NPR, its not something that I can't get elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 07:30 AM

Having read this thread, I feel lucky indeed. I've been an avid (rabid) Public Radio (not always NPR) listener since the late 70's, including WHYY (Philidelphia) and WNYC, WFDU, WFUV (in the NY metro area).

My current home in the Catskills though, offers me the most interesting station, WJFF from Jeffersonville, NY. It has only one paid staffer (the general manager) and though they have the standard stock of syndicated NPR programming (NPR news, Talk of the Nation, that classical prog), most of the programming is home grown by local volunteers.

Just regular folks come in with their own special loves (blues, jazz, folk, eclectic, bluegrass, etc) and bring their own expertise to their programs.

They are very interested in producing shows the community is interested in listening to AND supporting with pledges during the drive weeks.

Check out the website at and the site of Folk Plus, the folk show on Saturdays


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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 09:28 AM

That is great John. Thanks for letting us know. I wish all PR stations were like that.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: bob schwarer
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 01:37 PM

Banjer, I agree with you regarding WMNF. They almost tripped over themselves getting rid of the old country music program when Roy Bodden went back to the Cayman Islands. Their "Folk and Acoustic" program may be acoustic, but it sure as hell ain't folk. And you know what theu did to bluegrass.

Bob S.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: WyoWoman
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 01:39 PM

Uh, Kat, I had just been talking to our state editor about doing a story on this. I've sent him an email adding your name to the list of discontents. You can either talk on the record or for background, off record. But I would appreciate you discussing this with our reporter, if you wouldn't mind.

And for the rest of you, don't just complain to your public radio stations, get in touch with your local newspapers as well. You might not reach sympathetic ears, but then again, you might. If they feel that there's a groundswell of public opinion about something (and you can make a case for this, is my guess), then they should cover it because it involves tax money. Just make sure you don't come across as one crank who doesn't like Ani DiFranco or something.

WE pay for public radio and we have a right to expect that it do something besides just become a different venue for the same ol' stuff. (Although I do disagree with some of what Kat said, because I listen to the same station. I like the Don Woods show because he does play artists that the commercial radio stations won't. Sometimes they start playing the artists (e.g. Ani) that he does, but months or even years later. I've bought several CDs based on music I've heard on his program and I look forward to it a great deal. Just wish it came at a time when I could hear it, rather than in the middle of the a.m. when everyone's at work...)

I would just like to hear "All Things Acoustic" every day, and "Thistle and the Shamrock" at least a few times a week at a time of day when I'm around to listen to it.

One of the really weird things they do is rate programs according to when people call in during the fund drive. So if you call in in the middle of "All Things Considered" they give that program more "credit" than "Thistle and the Shamrock," which is pretty dumb because not everyone has a phone in her or his car to call in the second they hear the program they like on public radio.


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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 02:52 PM

Sure, WW, I'd be happy to talk. I wrote them a letter three years ago and had several conversations with the GM, then, and I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

I can't stand Don Woods' show most of the time. Yes, he does get some good stuff on there, BUT the majority of it is crap, IMO. He reminds me a little bit of Robert J. Lurtsema of WGBH. Got a little too pompous with an elarged head, if ya know what I mean. Coming from me, I probably didn't do any of the artists I mentioned any good, unless the weekend folks get a chance to look it over.

I, too, would LOVE to hear more of All Things Acoustic and T&S. One of the good things they did add is American Roots on Sundays. Would also like to hear classical during the day, again, while working and National Native News, but then, that's why THEY will lose out to the Internet, because I can get both so well on my PC.

Don Woods had a really decent show three years ago; then they sold off their record collection, made a big deal out of it actually, and went to the play what's on the website for Public Radio and lost any support I gave them, which was a small contribution each month; the kind they say adds up and really counts. Oh well.

Ask them for a playlist from 3 or 4 years ago and see the difference or even just a general format schedule.

Off my soapbox, now.


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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 03:06 PM

I've written letters, too, to no avail. WETA cut the time and moved Mary Cliff's folk music program many years ago. WAMU dropped a good program with interviews of local folk singers, and their songs (replaced by a talk show), and have shifted Dick Spottswood's oldtime music program (early phono records related to folk, country and bluegrass) from Sunday morning to compete with Mary Cliff's late Saturday night.

However, to my way of thinking things aren't as bad as when Susan Stamberg was interviewing people about their trival pursuits on All Things Considered.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: Jack (Who is called Jack)
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 11:23 PM

I'm lucky. I get 2 public radio stations that broadcast a pretty fair variety. One starts with Morning Edition, followed by a local talk program, then Diane Reim (sic), and Talk of the Nation. Then All things considered, Marketplace, Fresh Air, and my personal favorite the CBC's As It Happens. Then its jazz the rest of the time. The weekends have a lot of the standard Public Syndicated showes (Car Talk, Whadd'ya Know, Riverwalk), and a local 3 hr blues show). The second station plays the standard PR news programs and the rest of the time its classical on the weekdays, On the weekends its a mix of classical during the day and folk at night ('cept for Garrison o' course). Add that to the three thriving local college stations with their usual cosmopolitan montage and I really don't lack for choice. Just lucky I guess.

One thing I will say about the second Public Station. Its affiliated with a college, and about 20 years ago it was a real college station that was just plugged in to the NPR catalog. Then it made a decision to transform itself into a genuine 'professional' public radio station. It hired full time professional DJ's (sure some started out as students. But its definitely more mainstream than it was. They got a honking big 50KW stick, 2 substations, and they're definitely not on the shoestring budgent any more. But they're not as accessible as they once were.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: Banjer
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 04:13 AM

Writing and calling the station (WMNF 88.5 Tampa FL) got no good results, just a lot of double talk from the program managers and other staff who in fact made me feel like I was less than a nobody. The concensus of their replies was 'If you've got the money, put up or shut up'. I did happen to catch wind of the fact that they were trying to get money from the State of Florida which they felt was due them. I started a letter writing campaign to various state offices explaining that the station was focusing more on profit than being a PUBLIC Radio Sation and that any monies should be denied them until they changed their way of thinking. I don't know if they ever got the funding or not because I got so disgusted with the station that I totally tuned them out of my life.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: katlaughing
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 10:01 AM

I should point out a possible error on my part, which I should have known better about. Don Woods is NOT in charge of programming. Probably, he is just following orders. I'd forgotten about Programming Managers and such. Judging from the kind of letters I've received from the GM, I am not sure how much freedom any of the DJ's have.

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Subject: RE: Has YOUR NPR programming gone downhill?
From: northfolk/al cholger
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 06:58 PM

More Things Considered, I aired this complaint in a previous post, but it fits so well in this discussion...

I am working on a public awareness campaign around the complex issues of HealthCare in the US. Part of that campaign involved a nationwide radio broadcast that included some of the most active and involved advocates, on this issue.

WDET, the NPR affiliate in Detroit, would not even discuss participation in this FREE broadcast, which would have run in the same time slot as the rerun of CLICK and CLACK, the car guys. ( big fundraisers, but really an hour of canned laughing) I am still pissed. I'll never fall for the "alternative" identity of NPR again. The Ivory tower, ain't so Ivory, and it ain't so tall. Let them be what they have chosen to become, alternatives for the corporadoes that want to feel good about contributing....

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