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Dogs and cats living together: Boston's two NPR news stations to cooperate on news podcast

Ghostbusters - Mass Hysteria

GBH and WBUR, which still likes its W, will team up to provide local news for an NPR podcast about, well, local news.

The Boston hosts of the podcast, WBUR’s Paris Alston and GBH’s Arun Rath will alternate weeks and be joined by a rotation of reporters from both stations.

In words that might once have been difficult to fathom when the two stations directly competed for slices of the Boston news market, WBUR CEO Margaret Low called the opportunity to work with GBH "a thrilling moment."

Right back atcha, GBH General News Manager Pam Johnston said: "We are excited about collaborating with WBUR."

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1. No one should ever call WGBH anything but WGBH.

2. If they agree Boston only needs one news NPR, can WGBH go back to playing classical and Jazz?

Voting closed 55

Combine the newsrooms and have a behemoth of a newsroom. Cut out the BBC and the fucking audio of the TV news hour and combine the Boston-based shows into a two-hour block (or two, one-hour blocks). Maybe during one of the rush hours play news on both, but different flavors of news (say, national and world on one, local and business on the other).

Otherwise we have the joke:

Bostonians have two public radio stations: the one they listen to, and the one they listen to when the first one is having a pledge drive.

Voting closed 62

You gotta keep that, it's basically the only way to easily get international news of anything occurring outside of Europe and maybe China these days.

Voting closed 53

to wake up to: it's just too shitty a way to start the day in 2020.

Instead I read the papers online after I've had my coffee: it's slightly less enervating. But I'm with you 100% on BBC World Service.

Were I still regularly taking in morning radio news, I'd lean toward BUR. I find the GBH morning anchor Joe Mathieu smarmy and unfunnily jokey, with way too much of a whiff of insipid network-TV morning infotainment like Today and Good Morning America, which I loathe. (My sister put me up for a couple of weeks during a home move, and she always had one of those on: a daily root-canal for breakfast.) I miss the more deadpan, serious Bob Seay in that role, glad he's still reporting.

I'll definitely give this podcast a shot. Looks like they don't support my preferred podcatcher Overcast yet, so I've downloaded the NPR One app, not ideal.

Voting closed 6

MC my opinion of you, already sky high, grows higher :)
I can't stand Joe Mathieu's voice. I feel like I'm listening Kent Brockmann, newscaster from The Simpsons every time I stumble across the channel. "Root-canal for breakfast" indeed!
I heard in passing that that he normally doesn't sound quite that...intentional off-air, but it's a "J-school voice" you use to sound impressive. Makes me gag.
To complete the old man rant: and now shortening it to "GBH"? How many millions of our donated dollars went to that genius idea, and its "updated" branding? I hope just one or two, based purely on the results; I know I'm wrong.

Voting closed 23

you have folks with a mellifluous modulation that sounds serious and credible. For me, that hinges on how likely it seems that they just happen to be blessed with a pleasing, sonorous voice in real life versus a cultivated affect. They just sound natural, even if it took them years of work to get there.

Dave Andelman is a stark example of the opposite pole. His smarmy, sing-song cadence, always the same BLEAR-bah-BLEAR-bah-BLEEEAR tune, just oozes phoniness. As I once put it, "If Shatner went to a cheap broadcasting school instead of training as a Shakespearean stage actor, Dave’s voice-over work might be the result." It's crystal-clear the dude doesn't believe a word of it, is just transactionally polishing the knobs of his sponsors. The smug disingenuousness of it, to say nothing of the bizarre orange makeup, is positively Trumpian.

I'm a former college radio DJ (at the time a lonely advocate for first-wave Brit and NYC punk rock) and do occasional professional voice-over work, narrating corporate website videos and such. The reason I get those tasks is that I sound like a normal schmo who somehow is relatively smooth and comfortable talking on tape, no slick vocal mannerisms. (Plus I'm cheap, already on the payroll, good enough.)

I find Mathieu's oily gloss and labored everyman humor at odds with what I want from a public-radio anchor. I prefer voices like Ira Glass, with his nasal, conversational tenor, a persona to fit the narrative: sincere, dead-smart, wryly funny, never remotely show-bizzy. Or Bob Seay, your level-headed, well-educated uncle who is a bit square and dry but also unfailingly trustworthy and gentlemanly, never makes an awkward, off-color joke.

In other words, I warm to voices that sound a little bit like me in my regular public-speaking roles: a nerd with something occasionally expert and useful to say, but still secretly surprised to find himself getting airtime, gamely laboring not to um and er.

Voting closed 22

It's on 99.5, WCRB, which WGBH owns. It's simulcast on 89.7's second digital channel ("WGBH-HD2"), and on a station in Rhode Island whose call letters and frequency escape me at the moment.

The "W" in "WGBH" is significant; it identifies the station as American. U.S. broadcast stations have call letters beginning with "K" or "W"; the FCC can also issue call signs beginning with "A" and "N", but its policy is only to use "K" and "W" for broadcast stations, using "K" west of the Mississippi River and "W" east of the Mississippi.

Why "K" and "W"? The answer goes back to World War I, when all civilian radio transmitters were ordered off the air. The only authorized stations belonged to the Army or the Navy.

The Army assigned its stations call signs beginning with "A"; the Navy assigned call signs beginning with "N".

These were not broadcasters, but two-way stations used to relay messages. There were no microphones; everything was sent in Morse code.

Now, the Morse code for "A" is "dit-dah". The Morse for "N" is "dah-dit".

At some point during the war the Army and Navy ran out of call signs to assign. They decided to create new call signs by adding an extra "dah" to "A" and "N", respectively.

"A" with an extra "dah" is "dit-dah-dah" , which is "W".

"N" with an extra "dah" is "dah-dit-dah", which is "K".

After the war, when civilian licenses began to be issued, the Department of Commerce -- there was no FCC until 1934 -- continued to use these four letters for call signs; authorities in other countries used "D" (Germany), "I" (Italy), "F" (France), "R" (Russia), "G", "M", "V", "Z" (all British Empire), etc.

The first American broadcasting stations appeared in 1920, sporting "K" and "W" call signs, and so it has continued ever since.

So by dropping its W, WGBH drops its American identity and a century of tradition.

Voting closed 9

I think I am on point here when I say this is a bit of fresh air, all things considered. Wait wait, dont tell me, some think it saucy for the here and now but with this American life of ours some may make a snap judgment that it is only a game.


Voting closed 95

then went, "Awww, crap." Only a Game was kind of corny, but I was sorry to see it end for budget cuts after such a long, intently sincere, widely generous run. As a former high school sportsball player in a nowhere little Masshole town, I loved the modest stories about otherwise unsung young athletes and their wee local triumphs. RIP.

Voting closed 32

Says you!

Voting closed 34

That mid day show on GBH, where they rewarm CNN and Shirley Leung, will take a bullet from this.

Execrable Echo Chamber.

Voting closed 18

BPR is excellent.

Voting closed 16

WBPR is a station in Worcester, owned by UMass Boston, which simulcasts WUMB (Boston's *fourth* public radio station, after WGBH, WBUR, and WCRB).

Voting closed 7

Angie's List. General Motors Corporation. Lumber Liquidators. Cargill. Citibank. Constant Contact. Constellation Energy Group. Bank of America. Subaru and listeners like you.

Voting closed 30

trivial non-issue like this?

I find it useful to take in news from across the spectrum, even right-wing propaganda outlets like Fox News. It helps me understand how Trumpies can reconcile considering themselves decent, moral human beings with supporting President I Take No Responsibility and Will In Fact Deliberately Downplay the Crisis, Kill a Quarter of a Million Americans, and Crater the Economy If It Might Marginally Help My Re-Election Prospects.

Voting closed 31

And I contribute, Lighten Up Francis.

Voting closed 29

sponsors. Are you subtly lamenting the fact that in the face of GOP-driven budget cuts, never mind their past attempts to kill it entirely, public radio has to go begging to corporations for funding?

Guess I missed your ironic intent there. My bad.

Voting closed 26

It was just my annoyance with Public radio being ad free ....after you listen to the ads.

Voting closed 28

antennae there is set a little high these days.

Voting closed 17

You forgot the Koch Bros.

It's centrist corporate radio brought to you with some additional donations from listeners.

Voting closed 22

I let my WBUR membership end in 2014, as a result of receiving nine e-mails in the span of two days, asking for money.

Six years later, WBUR is still sending (postal) mailings, asking for money...

I am in agreement with an earlier poster. If Boston can only support one NPR news station, let that be WBUR and have WGBH play jazz (no need for classical - see WCRB).

Voting closed 28

so why not, really?

Voting closed 17

enough to justify separate stations, except maybe on news coverage, so this move makes sense to me. Not hard to imagine eventual broader consolidation, though. How many other American cities have two public radio outlets?

Broadcast radio is now less important than many other media sources to the youngs. Gotta move with the times, do more podcasts, YouTube-style and other social-media content, whatever channels your eventual primary donor class prefers to frequent.

Could be worse. Imagine the challenges that public arts institutions like the Boston Ballet are facing. The Ballet depends heavily on the donations of wealthy, elderly donors and faces a season where its essential cash cow The Nutcracker likely won't be able to sell live-performance tickets. Meanwhile, it is struggling to attract younger donors to sustain the institution going forward, though its artistic director has tried by steering the company more toward the kind of modern dance that is more appealing to them. It is dead lucky that it held its big annual fund-raising Ball a few weeks earlier than usual this year, barely edging the lockdown. 2021 looks a lot grimmer for it.

You may not care about the ballet, but fine arts of all stripes will be another serious long-term casualty of pandemic mismanagement. What a tragic, miserable failure of leadership there. All it needed was a modicum of empathy and competence, instead of knowing about the gravity of the threat and opting to do nothing.

Voting closed 26

...is that the two stations play many of the same programs, sometimes at the same time. This is a waste of broadcast spectrum.

In commercial radio we have something called market exclusivity. If I sign a contract to carry the Red Sox, Rush Limbaugh, or CBS News, it usually includes a clause guaranteeing that no other station in my market will have the program. I get to be THE station in my area for the program, which I can use to distinguish my station from my competitors.

NPR has no notion of market exclusivity; they will happily sell All Things Considered to a dozen stations in Boston if they want it, and there's nothing WGBH or WBUR can do to stop them.

NPR, originally formed to support its subscribing stations, has become something of a Frankenstein monster; it's now all about promoting NPR content, and the stations be damned. You identify as "Boston's Local NPR" at your peril, because NPR will happily find ways to bypass you, reach your listeners directly, and make them their listeners, leaving you flapping in the breeze.

Voting closed 24

At least two people commented that WGBH should go back to playing classical music.

WGBH does play classical music - on 99.5 FM, which they own. They have good programming and selection there, and it's a good signal, too.

Voting closed 30

Not what I would describe as "good" here in Roslindale. We've never been able to get adequate reception unfortunately.

Voting closed 5

You can also listen to it over the internet on free streaming services like TuneIn or directly from the station's website:

Voting closed 5