Friday, October 29, 2010

Media: Changes Twenty Years Ago

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Lest anyone think I haven't had some practice commenting on changes in radio and lamenting the future of the medium, try to think back twenty years and read my Highlight report from 29-October-1990, which came from a decidedly Seattle-centric perspective:
Today, for the first time, I saw a Judy Muller feature, on elder surfers, on ABC Television's World News tonight. Muller used to be a regular CBS radio commentator, and I enjoyed her features nearly as much as Charles Osgood's. When she left CBS last August, my radio listening enjoyment decreased considerably. In fact, in my opinion, radio in general has been getting worse all year. Stay tuned. [An Audi commercial played in the original audio version of this essay.]

I used to really enjoy listening to the radio, at virtually any time of the day or night. All my weekend nights would be spent listening intently to the highly professional Mystery Theater. However, as of January 1st, the Mystery Theater went off the air and its replacement six months later, the KIRO Mystery Playhouse, just doesn't stack up in suspense and quality endings.

At the end of the summer, more little changes occurred. Judy Muller left CBS radio, and several Seattle-area FM station changed their format, to less likable combinations of present-day music and classic rock'n'roll. Just when I had adjusted to these losses, more changes happened.

KOMO radio abandoned its weeknight program October 22nd in favor of Sally Jesse Raphael and Tom Snyder shows. I like being able to consistently hear Tom Snyder, but I will miss the excellent local news of KOMO's News at Ten.

This Monday, National Public Radio abandoned their evening Heat program with John Hockenberry. Though I wasn't a consistent listener, whenever I did tune in, I was always impressed by the quality of the satire on Heat.

The final straw is coming this Thursday, November 1st, when my favorite radio station, San Francisco's KCBS, will go to an all-news format. No longer will I be able to hear Art Finley's Nightbeat, in my opinion the most entertaining talk show on the air between 8 and 11 pm.

Change is inevitable, but I don't understand why all these reformattings and dropped programs are usually very negative and at best are quite mixed. At least Judy Muller will have an opportunity to be creative on ABC TV.
Twenty years later, it's interesting to see where some of these individuals have ended up. Judy Muller is still a television correspondent for ABC News. The KIRO Mystery Playhouse, produced by Jim French, has since become the syndicated Imagination Theater and still produces a one-hour show each week. KOMO radio dropped talk in favor of all-news, though its daytime format now includes talk shows from 9 to 3. John Hockenberry worked for NBC television for a time, but returned to public radio and now hosts the youth-focused morning show, The Takeaway. KCBS is still an all-news station, and now simulcasts on FM. Art Finley retired as a news anchor in 1995, and reportedly lives in British Columbia.

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