It’s been three years since National Public Radio attempted to drop-kick Bob Edwards, Morning Edition‘s original voice, up to their atticus emeritus. Not as retiring as he always sounded, Bob launched a new career on XM Satellite Radio. Two years later, reruns of his XM show started appearing on local PRI affiliates, too, which are also, mainly, NPR stations. I remember thinking at the time of the original booting (and blogging, I believe) NPR is committing commercial radio behavior. On-air jobs have never been a place to grow old gracefully. Not in this country, anyway.

But, then, why should we expect a broadcasting .org to behave differently from a broadcasting .com? Or any other kind of business? Airline pilots are hooked from the cockpit at sixty. Graying TV anchors get focus-grouped out, frequently. As long as demographics end at 49 and skinpuffing cream sells like ice cream, experience and authority won’t mean squat.

Not that Bob Edwards is so charismatic. He was also the original male voice of All Things Considered, across the mike from Susan Stamburg, who was definitely the yang of the duo. Both went in time, Susan, strangely, taking her sidelining in stride. But Bob built up layers of oral authority over time, like a redwood–a ring a year–just a regular, smart, guy who wore well. His ejection aroused dignified outrage at the time. But we all lived, as the NPR people knew we would.

More puzzling was who replaced Bob. Remember their names? Neither do I. They were good NPR rank and filers, just younger. It must have seemed like a sea change to the too-close-to-it NPR managers, though. Put yourself in their places: You inherited this franchise and you’re looking for something to do that’ll show you’re not just a caretaker, that you’re, dammit, creative. You tweak where you can and tell yourself you’re making a difference. But every morning the damn show sounds like…Bob Edwards. No matter what you do.

Well, you got your Big Change now. Whew. Show still sounds a lot like, uh, NPR.

This fall, which means pretty soon, NPR will roll out a new 24-hour service, aimed, they say, at people 25-44. Going to be available via every conceivable old- and new-media audio channel (except satellite, at this writing). There’s be a two-hour morning service, featuring an ex-MTV-MSNBC starlet (f) and a four-year NPR veteran (m). Both are safely within the lower brackets of the demographic. And they sound like it, which is the whole point. Now, if they can just learn to talk young in an NPR studio. You can go listen to their practice shows and read their blog here (more video than audio on this blog). NPR calls the show the “Bryant Park Project.” Listen as an organization youngs itself up. I guess, with the media world disintegrating all around you, you have to do something.

Link: The real Bryant Park (You can try to figure out the significance of their code name) |


COMMENTS / 2 COMMENTS

On a similar note, did you see the article in the Stranger from a week or two back about Ken Vincent leaving KUOW? It was pretty interesting, and similarly about non-comm acting awfully comm…

By the way — dig the new design!

Matt Keeley added these pithy words on Sep 05 07 at 7:33 am

This may shock you, Matt, but I’m not a regular Stranger reader. Yep, another typical radio story. Good to see the natives are restless. And…I know how it feels to be a Program Director — stuck in your office, hands off the mike switch, nothing to do but listen obsessively all the time, cringing at those damn “announcers” getting to have all the fun. Gotta rein all that “personality” stuff in. (SOUND: rattle of steel ball bearings in shaking hands) Thanks for the link and comment. Dave

DaveNewton added these pithy words on Sep 05 07 at 7:51 am

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