WBUR lands a bigfoot

After the Boston Globe, there is no more important a news organization in Greater Boston than WBUR Radio (90.9 FM). But though its mix of NPR programs and its own shows, such as “On Point,” “Here and Now” and the late, lamented “Connection,” is consistently good, the station has had a greater presence nationally over the years than it’s had locally.

Yesterday the station went a long way toward bolstering its local image by hiring a genuine bigfoot — David Boeri, a veteran reporter with WCVB-TV (Channel 5). The move reunites Boeri with Paul La Camera, who, before becoming WBUR’s general manager in 2005, was president and general manager of Channel 5.

Earlier this year I wrote an article for CommonWealth Magazine about La Camera’s goal of building WBUR’s local presence.

How can ‘BUR grow while every other media institution is slashing? It’s the ownership model. WBUR is a public station whose license is held by Boston University. Contrary to what conservative public-broadcasting critics would have you believe, public radio stations receive very little money from the government; it could be eliminated entirely without doing much harm to the product.

Instead, the real key is that public radio is built on a foundation of listener contributions and corporate underwriting (i.e., advertising, although no one likes to call it that), with a nonprofit model that guarantees revenues will be plowed back into the news rather than used to enhance the bottom line for Wall Street’s benefit.

It’s a model that bears watching — and that might have some relevance to the newspaper business as it gropes its way toward an uncertain future.

10 thoughts on “WBUR lands a bigfoot

  1. Anonymous

    EB3 hereChannel Five’s legacy of quality locally produced programming makes La Camera is the man to to give strength and muscle to ‘BUR at this crossroads.

  2. Anonymous

    Bravo to BUR. Boeri is an exellent reporter and a really superb writer, given half a chance, and he’s been mostly wasted at CVB.

  3. Anonymous

    “It’s a model that bears watching — and that might have some relevance to the newspaper business as it gropes its way toward an uncertain future.”Well said. I totally agree with you on that point.

  4. man who's a wbur fan

    While I’m happy that this is happening, and I love WBUR in general (it’s always my first preset), I must confess to having a doubt.First I’ll state that I’ve met Mr. La Camera once for about 30 seconds. He strikes me as a nice guy, beyond that I don’t know him at all. So my lack of information could be the real problem here.Okay, my doubt is this: we have a former manager of WCVB who now runs WBUR, and that former manager is bringing in someone else from WCVB. I’m concerned because it could set a precedent of WBUR slowly becoming a “WCVB refugee camp”. It’s happened before, most notably with NHPR’s stretch of ending up with an awful lot of exiled WBUR staffers.It’s not inherently a bad idea…lots of those exiled WBUR folks were very good at public radio. But it does inherently strike me as a question of “favoritism”. Boeri might be really good, but is he the best? That’s not an idle question…the talent pool in Boston for public radio is arguably the best in the country; competition for any position should always be fierce and a difficult decision for the hiring manager.Of course, an inherent strength that Boeri may have is that he’s familiar with La Camera’s style. That shouldn’t be overlooked.Hmph. Am I making much ado about nothing?

  5. Anonymous

    When is someone going to do a “turnaround” story on WBUR? The station has never been better, inside and out. Jane and Paul could not have more different management styles either. As a former employee who worked during the Christo reign I’m tempted to resubmit my resume. La Camera has done everything that many of us would have recommended during the Christo era: refocus on local news, manage the budget responsibly, and manage people fairly and decently.

  6. Liam

    Dan: I would gently disagree with your initial statement. I believe WBZ 1030 is more important than WBUR, in many ways.Just my opinion.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Liam: WBZ is a civic treasure, and I would probably rank it #3, behind the Globe and WBUR.What WBZ can’t match is the NPR national newscasts, “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” heard on WBUR (and WGBH). I would also rank these ahead of the three national network newscasts as well as the wretched “NewsHour” on PBS.If we’re just comparing local news staffs, then I might concede the point.

  8. Anonymous

    “After the Boston Globe, there is no more important a news organization in Greater Boston than WBUR Radio (90.9 FM).”Someone is looking for the Globe Santa to come down the chimney. Give it a rest man.

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