The revamped schedule for Colorado Public Radio's news channel that debuts today, January 14, adds seventeen fresh shows, including such high-profile entries as The Daily, the popular New York Times podcast, without removing any programs the service had previously been airing at 90.1 FM and online.
How does that math work? Stewart Vanderwilt, who took over as CPR's president and CEO in July following the retirement of Max Wycisk, the statewide network's longtime overseer, jokes that "we're just going to play everything faster, and that way we can fit it all in. We're going to bend the space-time continuum."
More seriously, Vanderwilt says, "We eliminated repeats. For example, Here and Now is a two-hour program that we were airing for three hours by recycling a previous hour. We had a lot of recycling throughout the day and on the weekends, and by reducing that recycling, we didn't actually eliminate a single show."
This approach will certainly lessen the number of complaints stations typically receive when changes are made, but it won't eliminate them completely. After all, there are plenty of schedule alterations in prominent time periods. Vanderwilt is particularly bullish on the shift of Colorado Matters, CPR News's most ambitious local production, to 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays, which he refers to as "prime time." The result, in his view, "is going to be more impact for the program, and also the issues and the discussions that happen on that show. It's a real investment and vote of confidence for what we're doing there."
To accomplish this, however, CPR will stop airing a repeated hour of Morning Edition, one of National Public Radio's signature offerings, during the same slot. And an even bigger switch involves another NPR fave, Fresh Air, a captivating interview hour hosted by radio institution Terry Gross. In the past, Fresh Air was heard from 2 to 3 p.m., and again from 8 to 9 p.m. — but now it will only be on at night.
Vanderwilt understands that this decision will trigger some gripes. He stresses that "we don't make these changes lightly. If you're an evening listener to Fresh Air, nothing changes, but if you listened in the afternoon, something has. We recognize that's disruptive, but not as disruptive as if we'd completely eliminated programs."
Going forward, Fresh Air's afternoon space will be occupied Monday through Thursday by The Takeaway, an NPR news roundup popular with podcast fans. That will be followed Monday through Friday by The Daily, hosted by Times reporter Michael Barbaro, and Marketplace, which focuses on business and economic news, in lieu of All Things Considered, whose start has been pushed back from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To Vanderwilt, the new offerings encompass what's best about the ongoing audio revolution unleashed by changes in technology.
"I wouldn't say we set out to identify podcast derivatives to add to the schedule," he says. "But there's so much innovation in storytelling that's been unleashed because of high-quality podcasts. It's hard to develop a new show and break into a radio schedule. But with podcasts, you can develop an audience whether or not radio is there. And since Colorado Public Radio is the primary access point for people in Colorado to all that public radio has to offer, we wanted to look at how we could provide listeners with a contemporary experience — shows that may become enduring programs. We wanted things that sounded like the future."
Rather than conducting focus groups and the like to determine what shows to pick, CPR used a more informal method, Vanderwilt reveals: "We asked the advisory board and staff, 'What are the shows you're listening to that aren't on Colorado Public Radio?' And there was a long, long list of things — a lot of content out there. Then we ran those lists through the filter of, if it's a daily program, does it help us be a source of news throughout the day, which is a primary goal, and is it a program in which we can potentially be an editorial partner and elevate news from Colorado to the national platform? And with shows like The Takeaway and 1A [which looks at the news through a First Amendment prism], there was absolutely that opportunity."
On the weekends, meanwhile, "we had things fall into three main categories," he continues. "We added shows that represent how things work, like How I Built This, Planet Money and Hidden Brain. Then we looked at shows that offered in-depth perspectives: Reveal, On the Media. And finally, we wanted shows that combined storytelling and fun, such as Snap Judgment, The Moth and Live Wire. We wanted the weekends to feel like you're sitting down with your three favorite magazines."
This material doesn't come for free. Vanderwilt estimates that the seventeen new shows will add approximately $50,000 in program costs through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30, and more the following year. A specific fundraising push to cover these expenses isn't planned. The idea instead is that "a more robust service will ultimately lead to more robust support," he says. "So we're funding this through our current budget with the expectation that audiences will support it."
The new shows will be given what Vanderwilt characterizes as "substantial time to develop and become an essential part of people's listening experience," with potential schedule tweaks once or twice a year. In the meantime, he notes, "we're very excited about this — and the reaction to our announcement has been overwhelmingly positive."
Here's a look at the new schedule, followed by CPR's descriptions of all seventeen new shows.
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1A: With a name inspired by the First Amendment, 1A explores important issues of our time and what connects us across the fissures that divide the country. Hosted by Joshua Johnson, the show takes a deep and unflinching look at America.
Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-Noon
The Takeaway: Hosted by Tanzina Vega and Amy Walter, The Takeaway is a fresh take to the daily news. National and international news and cultural stories are presented through a conversational and personality-driven format.
Monday-Thursday: 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Friday: 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
The Daily: Hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism, The Daily brings listeners the biggest stories of our time, told by the best journalists in the world.
Monday-Friday: 3 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Marketplace: Award-winning Marketplace is public radio's daily reflection on business and economics news "for the rest of us." Hosted by Kai Ryssdal, the program examines economic news through stories, conversations and newsworthy numbers.
Monday-Friday: 3:30 p.m.-4 p.m.
Planet Money: The award-winning podcast Planet Money helps make sense of the complicated forces that move our economy through creative and entertaining dialogue and narrative.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Repeats Thursday: 9 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
How I Built This: In How I Built This, host Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies and weaves a narrative about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists.
Saturday: 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Repeats Thursday: 9:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Snap Judgment: Created and hosted by Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment delivers a raw, intimate and musical brand of narrative, daring audiences to see the world through the eyes of another. It's storytelling, with a beat.
Saturday: 1 p.m-2 p.m. Repeats Sunday 8 p.m.-9 p.m.
Hidden Brain: A blend of science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the patterns that drive human behavior. Hosted by Shankar Vedantam, the program helps curious people understand the world, current events and themselves.
Saturday: 4 p.m.-5 p.m. Repeats Wednesday, 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
Reveal: Reveal is the Peabody Award-winning investigative journalism program for public radio from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Saturday: 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Repeats Tuesday: 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
The Moth: Presented by PRX, The Moth Radio Hour features true stories told live on stage without scripts, notes, props or accompaniment. Each episode mixes humorous, heartbreaking and poignant tales that captivate and delight audiences.
Saturday: 7 p.m.-8 p.m. Repeats Friday: 10 p.m.-11 p.m.
Live Wire: Hosted by Luke Burbank, Live Wire is a one-hour variety show taped in front of a live audience. It's music from up-and-coming bands, original comedy, performance and scintillating interviews with people who think cool thoughts.
Saturday: 8 p.m.-9 p.m.
On Being: Hosted by Krista Tippett, On Being takes up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers. Each week is a new discovery with insight into the question: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?
Sunday: 12 p.m.-1 p.m.
It's Been a Minute With Sam Sanders is an irreverent, casual space to process the pace of current events. It's a wrap of the week paired with deep-dive interviews with musicians, actors and newsmakers. "The world is complicated; let's talk it out."
Sunday: 1 p.m.-2 p.m.
Freakonomics explores the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature. Host Stephen J. Dubner interviews social scientists, entrepreneurs and other top thinkers to discover the hidden side of everything.
Sunday: 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
On the Media: Peabody Award-winning On the Media is a weekly investigation into how the media shapes our worldview. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield tackle sticky issues to reveal the deeper truths behind the daily onslaught of information.
Sunday: 3 p.m.-4 p.m.
Latino USA: For 25 years, Latino USA has provided a platform for Latino voices and perspectives in the radio news landscape. Hosted by Maria Hinojosa, the award-winning program specializes in news, culture and storytelling.
Sunday: 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Repeats Monday 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
Selected Shorts: Selected Shorts: Let Us Tell You a Story presents some best-loved selections of classic and contemporary short fiction read by acclaimed actors and recorded live at Peer Norton Symphony Space in New York City.
Sunday: 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sound Opinions: The world's only rock-and-roll talk show. Hosted by longtime rock critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, listeners can hear new music, record reviews and exclusive interviews and performances.