Colorado Public Radio's approach to news not always timely

Yesterday afternoon, several hours after posting a blog about Colorado Public Radio's morning newscast, which included a packaged report that was little more than an uncredited synopsis of a Denver Post article, I hopped in my primo Geo Prizm in time to hear a KOA post-mortem about the Colorado Rockies' 9-8 opening-day loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks -- pretty much what I expected when I predicted that the Rocks would only manage 72 wins this season. About ten minutes later, I surfed over to KCFR/1340 AM, a duplicate signal for CPR's news arm, whose 5 p.m. newscast included a story about the Rockies -- but the item made it sound as if the game against the Diamondbacks was still ongoing rather than updating listeners on its outcome.

Something like this wouldn't happen at most news outlets, but it's par for the course at CPR, which is less interested in breaking news than in presenting it tastefully. CPR president Max Wycisk explained the approach in the following excerpt from "Going Public," a 2002 Westword feature article:

Public radio was once an amateurish medium -- and its rough edges were a large part of its charm. But CPR has set new standards for professionalism. Although some technical gaffes -- like separate programs airing simultaneously, making both unlistenable -- have occurred since the two-channel system was introduced, for the most part CPR has smoothed out its sound to a remarkable degree.

How? By pre-recording virtually everything other than (you guessed it) fund drives. Even hourly updates on the news channel made by CPR announcers are read into a computer (not tape; that's too primitive) minutes before they're aired. And the musical introductions made by [announcer Monika] Vischer and her cohorts at CPR's classical division are frequently voiced days or even weeks ahead of time. Afterward, these snippets are sent along high-speed data lines to, of all places, a broadcast center in Boise, Idaho, that subsequently transmits them via satellite to their intended destinations.

Wycisk believes that cutting everything in advance -- a method used by most NPR shows and a growing number of commercial stations -- better serves listeners. "Over the years, I've learned that one of the things people value about public radio is that the programming is distilled," he says in a voice that's soft, slick and well rehearsed. "If you get a chance to edit it, you increase your ability to make sure that what you're saying is absolutely clear."

Of course, a clearer way to report about the Rockies' game would be to accurately note that it was over, and that the team had already lost. No denying, though, that the out-of-date information sounded mighty smooth...


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