By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Live and local

Adam Reilly reports on Paul La Camera’s ongoing campaign to transform WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) into more of a local news force.

One of the initiatives Reilly mentions — a newsmagazine show to be called “Radio Boston,” hosted by former WCVB-TV (Channel 5) reporter David Boeri — won’t debut for another couple of months, but it already has an online presence. It’s supposed to be a “weekly show about the life of the city, its suburbs, and its people.” Well, that does cover just about everything.

The old argument against doing a show like “Radio Boston” was that there’s no such thing as appointment listening on the radio — if the program were scheduled for, say, Saturdays at 3 p.m., and you’re never in your car at that hour, then you’d never hear it. Far better to do local coverage in chunks and drop it into “Morning Edition.”

Now, though, WBUR can easily offer “Radio Boston” as a podcast so that you can listen to it whenever you like. Which I’m looking forward to doing.

By the way, I looked at La Camera’s efforts to take WBUR in a more local direction last year in CommonWealth Magazine.

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  1. Steve

    “Far better to do local coverage in chunks and drop it into “Morning Edition.””Don’t they already do this? (Albeit in a very limited way?) When I flip back and forth between WBUR and WGBH there seem to be times where the content is different (and not only during pledge drives).

  2. Tim Allik

    WBUR offers excellent local coverage during “Morning Edition,” and increasingly, during “All Things Considered.” They do local news well and they do a lot of it. I’m fairly certain that WBUR will be able to air excerpts from the new Boeri show during “Morning Edition.” I think WBUR’s local coverage has been terrific of late. The station has never sounded better in my opinion. It’s got good karma now and you can hear it. (Note: I produced WBUR’s Morning Edition for several years back in the 90’s.)

  3. Anonymous

    Maybe BUR can become Lydon’s new home?

  4. endangered coffee

    Anon 1:57 – If things are going well at BUR, why bother bringing back the headache that is the traveling Chris Lydon Road Show. Has he ever met a grandstanding manuever he hasn’t tired?

  5. Dan Kennedy

    I would love to see Lydon back on WBUR. But in the immortal words of Lou Gorman (or was it Dan Duquette?), where are they going to play him? ‘BUR can afford one expensive, two-hour talk/interview show; it can’t afford two.

  6. Anonymous

    Au contrare, Dan…WBUR could afford both The Connection and On Point; The Connection was axed because it was a sacrificial lamb for La Camera.I don’t begrudge him that, but don’t kid yourself; there were several much-higher-paid staffers that were kept around even as lower-paid staffers (that were considered more “expendable”) were dumped in the maelstrom.Also, WBUR so far has done nothing to embrace the potential of HD Radio (namely multicasting). For a real HD success story, check out WUSF in Tampa. An aggressive HD Radio multicast channel rollout could provide extra space for Lydon, and several other deserving programs as well.Also, while WBUR has done an excellent job turning itself around after the mess Christo created; I fear it is already lagging far behind the leaders of public radio. Check out what KUOW is doing in Seattle, or the new Vocalo project in Chicago. Closer to home, WGBH is poised to make a big jump forward with their new facility…and still has the successful Cape station network (WCAI, WNAN and WZAI) whereas WBUR has had to sell off WRNI to regain credibility and achieve better fiscal stability.Even more dark clouds are on the horizon with American Public Media’s bid to buy WGTS in Washington DC. They already have KPCC in Los Angeles; if the big content houses bypass local affiliates to run their own stations, it threatens to seriously undermine the positions major local players, like WBUR, have.WBUR is doing a great job…the question is, are they in such a hole that the job isn’t great enough?

  7. Dan Kennedy

    “The Connection” was canceled several months before La Camera was hired, FWIW.

  8. Anonymous

    Oyeah, that’s right…that was Peter Fielder’s decision, wasn’t it? I stand corrected.However, the analysis remains the same: WBUR’s finances were in shambles both in reality and perception. Everyone knew that the latter had to be corrected before people would feel comfortable enough giving money to WBUR again, in order to fix the former. Since pubradio relies so heavily on donations, perception is exceptionally important. It had to look like WBUR was serious about making changes to get itself back in the back and axing The Connection accomplished that.Again, I don’t begrudge Fielder (or anyone else at WBUR) for making that decision…even if I personally felt it was a pretty nasty thing to do. Business can be like that, sometimes.Speaking of which, I was very glad to hear that Dick Gordon landed on his feet at WUNC with “The Story”.

  9. dboeri

    David Boeri of WBUR and Radio Boston here with a tip of the hat and a response to Dan Kennedy.Yes, WBUR is developing the local show “Radio Boston” — which is just weeks away from going on the air, but is already up and running on the web. There are several reasons why, including this idea of “appointment listening” and the changing broadcast landscape. We’re keenly aware of the need to make our website a central part of our show. Look at it this way: we’re going to produce a one- hour weekly radio show, but on the web, Radio Boston will be available 168 hours a week and will offer even more – not only our podcast, but more content relating to each show, including my blog and comments from the rest of the Radio Boston staff, video, and forums for discussion about each week’s topic, as well as about upcoming shows.Radio Boston is an opportunity for WBUR to go local in a deeper way. We’re going to devote one hour a week to one topic, treating in depth what our local news can’t always do within the confines of Morning Edition and All Things Considered–and what other outlets aren’t doing. Our website will complement ‘BUR’s local news coverage with more content and the opportunity to interact with our audience.Yup, just as Dan writes, we’re going to be a weekly show “about the life of the city, its suburbs, and its people.” And if “that does cover just about everything,” as Dan notes, that’s our goal. We’d define everything as the mix of all manner of issues, controversy, failure, success, dysfunction, injustice, culture, history and discovery that share our local landscape.Check out our website for more about our mission and an idea of what’s to come. And listen for us on the air this September.

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