The Well-Tempered Ear

Should WPR Move “Writer’s Almanac” to Afternoon?

August 22, 2009

KeillorBy Jacob Stockinger

Words and music, and the music of words.

I’m a big fan of Wisconsin Public Radio. I love listening to it. I wake up to it and drive to it. I read to it and do chores to it.

So I speak as a friend when I ask: What on earth is WPR thinking? What is it about to do?

The plan is, starting Monday, Aug. 31, to move Garrison Keillor’s 5-minute “The Writer’s Almanac” from its longtime weekday home at 8:51 a.m. (at the end of “Morning Edition” ) to a 1 p.m. slot on the FM network (tune to WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area) and replace it in the morning with “Marketplace’s Morning Report.”

To my mind, the last time such an unfortunate schedule gaff was made was when they moved Terry Gross’ thoroughly engrossing hour-long interview program “Fresh Air” from mid-afternoon (3 p.m.) to 6 p.m.

That’s exactly dinnertime, when most of us are doing other things and can’t catch one of the most literate and informative programs on the airwaves, especially in this era of junky, bullying and stupid talk radio and cable TV.

Now, I’m sure many people want to know about the economy these days, even though Wall Street has barely opened by 8:51 a.m.

But poetry seems like such a great transition from “Morning Edition” to “Morning Classics.” After all, poetry highlights the music of words. The writer Lawrence Durrell (“The Alexandria Quartet”) once described poetry as words in search of music and the famed American poet Wallace Stevens said of his own poetry that if it came to a choice between the meaning and the music, the reader should choose the music.

Besides, there does seem to be a way to have it both ways.

How about airing “The Writer’s Almanac” (a much better way to greet a new morning than a new afternoon) at 8:51 (and again at 1 p.m., if they really want) and putting “Marketplace’s Morning Report” at, say, at 8:55 or 9:04, either right before or right after the 9 a.m. news headlines?

That would postpone classical music for just a couple minutes (out of the six hours of music that follow before “All Things Considered” starts) and you wouldn’t miss anything because they could adjust the schedule of music to be aired. (By the way,  the full daily version “Marketplace” regularly airs Monday to Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is well worth listening to. So my protest has nothing to do with the quality of “Market Place.”)

In any case, music has more to do with poetry than with markets or money.

Besides, The Ear says WPR should remain an alternative to mainstream radio and TV, and not chase after the same audience demographics.

But what do you say?

Tell WPR what you think by going to and leaving a comment.

And don’t forget to leave a comment here about what you think, pro or con.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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