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The New WETA: A Promising Start

The first days of the new classical WETA have sounded promising: The station started out with the inevitable trumpet fanfare (Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets, with Wynton Marsalis accompanying himself.) Within the first hour, the station showed that it may provide a welcome mix of music, including pieces much longer and less pops-oriented than the watered-down fare heard on the late WGMS. (Evening host Nicole Lacroix sent a strong signal from the start, daring to announce the names of the artists and orchestras playing the music--another sign that the relentless dumbing down of WGMS, which always seemed ashamed of the music it played, is a thing of the past.)

But mornings on WETA sound awfully like those on GMS--lots of overtures, short snippets, even waltzes (I've yet to meet anyone whose morning rhythm comports with a waltz.) WETA vice president Mary Stewart assures me that evenings on WETA will feature longer and more serious works. "We're not recreating WETA as it was and we're not adopting the WGMS sound," she says. "We're developing a sound that's appropriate for public radio listeners and includes many of the aspects of WGMS that made it the #1 classical station in the country. What that sound will be like is very much for us to discover and build."

Best sign so far: Full-length works, albeit relatively short ones, even in morning drive time--no more of WGMS's practice of ripping single movements out of larger works. The WETA programming will, Stewart says, "adapt to different parts of the day to match how people use radio." Translation: short, frilly, empty ear candy in drive time, music that fits neatly into the background during the workday, and more foreground music in the evening. No word yet on whether WETA will break with the mindless dictates of radio consultants and allow listeners to hear vocal music, chamber music or the classical music of the past 75 years or of today.

More good news: The WETA recording engineers who in the past worked with the National Symphony and the Barns at Wolf Trap are still on the station payroll and WETA is eager to resume its role as a producer of classical performance programming.

And down the road: WETA intends to use its HD channels--the second and third program streams made available with digital radio (which you can only hear if you buy a digital radio set)--to offer some of the more meaty music that WGMS put on its online services, Viva la Voce (choral and other vocal music) and Virtuoso (full-length pieces). But Stewart said that may take some time: "We have to look at trying to be in those emerging technologies, but still recognize that most of the people supporting us are listening to our analog product."

Speaking of new technologies, WETA's web site has been virtually unavailable since the format switch--so overwhelmed by listeners is the station's online stream that it has been very hard to pull up on the web even after WETA moved Monday to boost the number of people who could listen online at once from 300 to 4,000.

We'll see what direction WETA heads in, but for the moment, the honeymoon is underway. The station's blog filled quickly with kudos, songs of gratitude and hopes that a radio station that reflects the thriving arts and cultural focus of the Washington region was finally back on the air. (I put WETA back on my presets in the car, killing out the old WGMS, which has become the area's third classic rock-ish station.)

Two streams of complaint have filled the WETA blog: Some fans of the station's failed news-talk format--Stewart says the news-talk approach eventually regained the same size audience that the old classical WETA had, and memberships were "flat"-- lamented the loss of the NPR programming that is not carried on WAMU, the area's longtime public news and talk outlet.

The most frequently named losses were Weekend Edition Sunday (which airs when WAMU offers the last vestiges of its old bluegrass programming) and some of the black-oriented shows that NPR has been developing of late. The biggest outcry was for two longtime WETA staples that are being dropped from the schedule: Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion and the locally-produced Traditions, the Saturday night festival of acoustic music with Mary Cliff. WAMU immediately announced it will pick up Prairie Home starting this week. Cliff, however, seems to be without a home--a tragedy for the many local musical communities that depend on her show for information and the sounds of new artists. WAMU spokesman Kay Summers says Cliff's show "is a good fit with what we do on weekends," but there have been no discussions yet with the acoustic music deejay.

WETA general manager Dan DeVany stressed on the air that the station will now be all-classical, all the time, but there are few details available about how much of that programming will be locally produced. Stewart says the station will be looking at adding some of the excellent classical programming available from NPR, Public Radio International and other national sources. Ideally, Performance Today, Pipedreams, From the Top, St. Paul Sunday and some of the regular concert series produced by the nation's top orchestras will make up part of the WETA schedule.

Strangely, the only non-classical show the station will retain is the single worst hour of radio on WETA, a broadcast of the audio track from the public TV newsmagazine, The Newshour. TV on the radio is about as off-putting a programming choice as can be made; listening to correspondents comment on video that you can't see is an instant tune-out. The decision, Stewart said, is based on the fact that the Newshour is produced by WETA's TV side.

Many WGMS fans are calling for WETA to hire some of the commercial station's very good announcers, but WETA is already blessed with an experienced classical on-air staff--David Ginder, Marilyn Cooley and Nicole LaCroix all worked as classical jocks when WETA was a mostly-classical station. But Stewart said the station will need some additional voices on top of the part-timers who also stayed with WETA after its last format switch, and the GMS announcers will be considered for those slots.

By Marc Fisher |  January 24, 2007; 7:27 AM ET
Previous: New Home for Prairie Home | Next: Pursuit of Happyness: Movie as Object Lesson?

Comments

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Didn't you just love, at the moment of the switch, how they described themselves as "the NEW WETA," never mentioning that they had been a classical station before for countless years? It's like they were hoping we'd forget the recent "experiment." "We've always been a news-talk station! This is a CHANGE!"

Posted by: Zach | January 24, 2007 7:52 AM

"The most frequently named losses were Weekend Edition Sunday (which airs when WAMU offers the last vestiges of its old bluegrass programming)"

Marc, are you saying that Weekend Edition Sunday WILL BE coming to WAMU? That would be good news indeed. I'm hoping that WAMU takes this opportunity to improve itself, too.

Posted by: Rocco | January 24, 2007 8:21 AM

No, I'm not saying that--yet. I'm saying that WAMU now devotes Sunday mornings to bluegrass and other music programming, so Weekend Edition Sunday has no home in Washington at the moment. But WAMU is reconsidering its weekend schedule in light of the format switch at WETA, and you can expect additional changes in the coming days.

Posted by: Fisher | January 24, 2007 8:32 AM

I know, I can't believe they're still running the Newshour! That is about the least compelling radio *ever*! Can they do minute-by-minute ratings and see the drop-off? In most circumstances, I'd argue they're public radio and they shouldn't care about ratings, except cmon now - the audio-only version of the Newshour *deserves* terrible ratings. And they think they can run that and drop Mary Cliff?? Sheesh.

Posted by: h3 | January 24, 2007 8:44 AM

You think that WETA's broadcast of "Newshour" is the "single worst hour of radio on WETA" ??

You've got to be kidding ?

WETA's broadcast (either TV or radio) of Newshour is by far-and-away the best coverage of important news and discussion of that news that is available on TV or radio.

The loss of many other highly informative but "old WETA programs" caused me to change all my radio presets to WAMU. And I will also be casting my vote for the WETA change the old-fashioned way - by terminating my membership in WETA and contibuting to WAMU and Maryland public television.

Posted by: Bruce Malfait | January 24, 2007 8:48 AM

I never did hear back from the managers of WETA-FM when I suggested they switch to an all-BLUES format.. . . Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, Bessie Smith and so on, 24/7 .... But I must admit it looks like they rejected this idea. Oh well.

I do agree with Marc that PBS' The Newshour should not be broadcast on radio. It is very hard to listen to the droning of the anchors and guests of that show without nodding off to sleep -- which poses dangers to the many folks who listen to radio in their cars.

Posted by: Steve Hoffman | January 24, 2007 9:10 AM

Ah, I am *so* glad to have a classical station in DC again. WAMU's talk programming is superior to the WETA's (former) line-up, so I always listened to WAMU anyway when I was in the mood for talk. I am glad that they are trying to be less lite than WGMS, which wasn't worth listening to. The best classical NPR station that I've ever encountered is WOSU FM in Columbus, OH (strange, but true). Sure, I can stream from my crappy computer speakers, but I wish that I could pick up their signal in the car. ;-)

Posted by: MG | January 24, 2007 9:14 AM

I was just thrilled that they were daring to air VOCAL music yesterday during drive time.

That said, this morning seemed really insipid.

Posted by: MB | January 24, 2007 9:19 AM

Let's start a "bring back Mary Cliff" movement, whether to WETA, WAMU or any other local station.

Posted by: Anne Asher | January 24, 2007 9:24 AM

I've always gotten the message from the WPost that it doesn't acknowledge that there is a BALTIMORE-Washington metropolitan area. Would be really nice if the Post featured some reporting on WBJC, at 91.5 FM, Maryland's great classical music station, which never abandoned its listeners. As I drive into D.C. or Tysons Corner, WBJC can still be heard.

Posted by: Alan O. | January 24, 2007 9:26 AM

Yesterday, WETA played a choral work and a modern American work. Sounds like a good start to me!

Posted by: college student | January 24, 2007 9:33 AM

Re: "Some fans of the station's failed news-talk format..."

WETA's news format hadn't failed--it had just started. For the first year WETA filled their schedule with programs from other networks. Their first locally produced show, "The Intersection" is brand new and was just developing an audience. It was far superior to the declining Diane Rehm show.

On the other hand, a classical format guarantees that WETA's audience will decline. There'll be a temporary boost as the WGMS crowd tunes in, but it'll be downhill after that.

On a related subject, there's nobody classier than Mary Cliff. She's a fine fit in the new format and WETA should keep her "Traditions" show on Saturday nights.

Posted by: Phil K | January 24, 2007 9:45 AM

TV on the radio happens all the time; WTOP runs the first few minutes of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric at 6:30 p.m., and used to run A60 Minutes.

When it comes to PBS, I like Lehrer on the radio, although the last few seconds with the photos of servicemen killed in Iraq leads to uncomfortable dead ear. Charlie Rose can be simulcast on the radio too. WHYY in Philadelphia does it.

Happy to hear that some plans are being made for HD2 and HD3 channels at WGMS and WETA. I just want World Have Your Say back. And News and Notes.

This all being said, I think you're going to wind up with Mary Cliff on WPFW.

Now, I wonder if Pacifica is making any effort at all to broadcast HD.

Posted by: Fishkebater | January 24, 2007 9:49 AM

"I've yet to meet anyone whose morning rhythm comports with a waltz."

How can a person's morning *not* comport with a waltz?? I think they're great.

Just last Friday I woke up to "March to the Gallows" on WGMS. (BTW, it wasn't the 1st time in the past few months I've awoken to this.) After the radio came on, my solice was that it wasn't a Monday morning, and that I had no major meeting looming on my agenda for the day, as I lay there waiting for the musical head to drop into the bucket.

Is this more in line with the morning rhythms of the people you know? ugh.

BTW, I think occassional ear candy (incl. "gallows") is acceptable to help draw an audience. I couldn't stand Bartok at these time (at least any of the Bartok I've heard to date.) 100% "serious" music just doesn't help before/after an intense work day.

Posted by: Nate | January 24, 2007 9:55 AM

My comments:

1) Audio of TV programs on the radio is awful. I was listening to WETA the night of the format change and heard the last part of "Newshour". What did I hear? A segment where they show the names and pictures of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, in silence. In silence! It's perfectly good television, but what the heck is that supposed to sound like ON THE RADIO? Since "Newshour" doesn't give a damn about the audio-only broadcast, there's no reason why any station should carry it. Not even WETA.

2) Mary Cliff's "Traditions": I don't care much for the singer-songwriter scene. I'd just as soon have more of the same classical music on Saturday nights (if I'm not listening to the excellent "Hot Jazz Saturday Night" on WAMU).

3) I was glad to hear Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" on WETA this morning. I really like those five minutes each morning.

Posted by: Doug | January 24, 2007 9:57 AM

The old-old WETA offered a great mix of classical with other programming.

Granted, in those days WGMS offered a full-time classical alternative, giving WETA greater programming latitude, but I'm not convinced that all-classical all the time is the way to go even now. A strong classical programming component should be part of a larger arts-oriented focus that also leaves room for public affairs programming that engages the audience in a way that full-time music programming cannot.

Preserving classical music in Washington shouldn't make it necessary to jettison every other worthwhile public radio program that can't find a home on WAMU.

This whole discussion will seem quaint, though, in less than 10 years, when both satellite radio and wireless online streaming will be universally available in cars (not to mention the iPods that we already hook up to our cars' speakers), and listeners' choices will greatly expand just as they have with cable TV.

And while I love classical music and believe it's important to keep it on the airwaves, it was also nice to hear a worldview from outside the US, particularly during the misadventure in Iraq. The BBC news programming will be missed.

Posted by: Meridian | January 24, 2007 9:59 AM

"I've yet to meet anyone whose morning rhythm comports with a waltz."

My wife and I enjoy listening to waltzes in the car while watching the traffic at busy intersections. Try it sometime - it's fun!

As for Mary Cliff, personally I don't see it as a loss. She is a radio personality that I absolutely can't listen to just by virtue of her voice and manner on the air. She could play my favorite music (which she certainly does not) and I still wouldn't listen.

Now if someone wanted to bring back a folk program with Lee Michael Dempsey, then I'd be excited.

Posted by: Mark | January 24, 2007 10:08 AM

It's always seemed to me that WGMS listeners were offended by the liberal bent of NPR programs like Fresh Air, and it seems to moving to a politically neutral and very inexpensive format like spinning classical CDs 24/7 will invite the WGMS audience, and allow WETA to thrive on a significantly reduced budget. With Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air still available on WAMU, I can't help but think Washington's radio dial is healthier now than it's been in the last 20 years.

Posted by: Richard Williams | January 24, 2007 10:09 AM

I don't know why you had to take pot shots at GMS. The "snippets" you deride are generally twice as long as the normal pop song; song titles and artists are properly announced; and the on-air staff resisted the stuffy tone that classical newbies would probably find off-putting.

Posted by: Paul | January 24, 2007 10:14 AM

I've been listening to WGMS since it was WQQW (over 50 years ago). What has happened to my old friends Renee and John? Their knowledge of classical content should be invaluable to those attempting to capture a larger classical audience. However, I'll admit that in the last few years WGMS, and especially "Voce", have left so much to be desired, I've been listening to foreign stations on my computer.

Posted by: Richard T Mann | January 24, 2007 10:15 AM

I read these comments and the column that triggered them. Let us all remember that they constitute anecdotes when juxtaposed to the statistics reported earlier (WGMS was 10th in this very crowded market). I have to wonder if WETA, in any of its formats, achieved that level of listening. While I welcome the expanded selection, there were characteristics of the WGMS that were clearly desirable. Except, perhaps, playing Ride of the Walkyrie and any von Suppe in the morning (I have enough trouble not hitting the idiots on 270 without elevated levels of adrenalin attending those pieces!).
A station dependent upon subscription revenue would do well to heed the statistics.

Posted by: Mike H. | January 24, 2007 10:15 AM

I agree with a previous poster that "All classical, all the time" is just commercial radio mumbo-jumbo. It's insulting to us, the listeners, to hear someone in public broadcasting say something stupid like that. I'm smart enough to tune into a station to listen to a particular program that I want to hear. Saturday nights always presented a tough choice between "Traditions" and "Hot Jazz Saturday Night", but, man, it was nice to HAVE that choice.

Message to Radio People: "Normal people usually like more than one kind of music"

I hope WETA either cans or re-educates their new commercial program director and brings back the variety that made the old WETA (and NPR in general) great!


Posted by: Enkidu | January 24, 2007 10:32 AM

Richard Williams says, "It always seemed to me that WGMS listeners were offended by the liberal bent of NPR programs like Fresh Air."

What's your evidence for that? Is it your impression that classical music lovers are primarily conservative Republicans? That would come as news to an awful lot of people, including me, who are liberals and love Fresh Air.

Posted by: Meridian | January 24, 2007 10:42 AM

Worst hour on the radio? Hardly. I *prefer* listening to a TV talk-show on radio compared to a made-for-radio talk-show because the talk-shows made for radio use all sorts of strange sound effects and stilted speaking patterns that make it painful to listen to. I wish they could just stop trying to be funny and engaging and just be serious.

Posted by: AMG | January 24, 2007 10:53 AM

I read that some folks are planning a protest/appreciation gathering for Mary Cliff at the WETA office on Friday, her last day of work. Anyone know details?

Posted by: M | January 24, 2007 10:54 AM

Hi, I'm a liberal, I love classical music, Fresh Air, Garrison Kiellor and Robert Segal as much as anybody. If you'll notice in my post, I suggested that classical music is politically neutral.

Have a great day.

Posted by: Richard Williams | January 24, 2007 11:00 AM

Count me in as a member of the "Bring Back Mary Cliff on Any Station" movement, even though I can't take Friday off for a protest.

I totally agree with the notion that "normal people listen to more than one type of music." In the course of a typical week, I'll listen to medieval dances, a bit of Mozart, Led Zep, punk rock, Delta blues, modern Celtic artists, and local musicians.

Posted by: Greenbelt Gal | January 24, 2007 11:07 AM

The mix that WGMS was playing in the last few years was truly lamentable and provided a particularly accurate aural definition of the word: hackneyed.

Surely the business pressures that WGMS presumably faced and which limited the programming are not the same influences that WETA operates under. The former is an advertiser model, while the latter is substantially relies on voluntary contributors.

I personally have all but converted to XM radio only and find that the classical mix on XM Pops (Channel 113) is about as good as one can expect for a "pops" format. Yes, they play choral. And organ. Maybe some other ideas to consider, WETA?

Posted by: Tre Corde | January 24, 2007 11:08 AM

The reality is that they switched to classical because it is cheaper to do that than any other radio format. I gave money to WETA because I love the NPR programming, now I wish I could get it back. I like classical music, but certainly not all classical all the time AND there are so few ways that singer/songwriters are supported and it looks like they just lost another format.

Posted by: M.W. | January 24, 2007 11:12 AM

What's wrong with "The Ride of the Valkyries" at drive time? Shortly after I moved to the DC area 20-some years ago, WGMS's Dennis Owens played it while I was enduring another infuriating drive to work, grinding a grist of curses through my teeth as I sat in a mile-long stop-and-go conga line.

The music crashed to an end, and Owens cheerily observed, "There you have it - your driving philosophy set to music here on WGMS..."

I almost drove into a ditch, I laughed so hard.

Posted by: Bernie in Alexandria | January 24, 2007 11:16 AM

I'd love it if WETA could restore the two NPR newsmagazines (ME, ATC) to the mix. I know I can switch stations, but it gets tiresome to do so. By the time I get home in the evening I have to suffer through Markeptlace on WAMU before getting to ATC.

Posted by: Peter | January 24, 2007 11:17 AM

When oh when will NPR stations in DC present good music in the rock/pop/soul/folk vein that appears on NPR-affiliated stations virtually everywhere else: WXPN (Philly), KCRW (LA), The Current (Minneapolis/St Paul), KEXP (Seattle), etc.

It doesn't have to be 24/7; even the World Cafe would be a big improvement over the big 0 minutes anything close to this type of programming currently gets on the DC airwaves.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 11:30 AM

That seems to be an extremely rosy evaluation of the response to this change.
"The station's blog filled quickly with kudos, songs of gratitude and hopes that a radio station that reflects the thriving arts and cultural focus of the Washington region was finally back on the air:
What are you looking at???
The WETA web site is totally swamped - and still is - and I don't believe it is to congratulate about the change.
When I got thru last evening on their WETA blog - there were already 1000 responses in the previous 24 hours and there were almost none in agreement that this was handled well - this station is supported by the public and whether people like the new direction or not, the extreme switch was a shock.
WETA used to have much more Classical - but they also had much other quality programming not carried on WAMU especially including Mary Cliff's Traditions - and no one wants Traditions to bump off something like "Hot Jazz Saturday Night" on WAMU - we need both.
The personal media options are absolutely huge - the fact that WAMU and WETA do as well as they do is a sign that they are indispensable.
And they are in competition with XM - which I now have - AM radio - FM radio - FM HD - plus everyone's I-Pod since with all the other options there are still many types of music barely represented at all. Plus Cable channels, live music, theater, etc - and internet access to so much of these.
What I wonder is how accurately is any of these different options really being measured?

Posted by: Dean Kauffman | January 24, 2007 11:31 AM

XM is better, no doubt, but I did like to listen to GMS while driving, when longer works (my commute rarely lasts more than 35 minutes) would have been a waste. I also prefer GMS "personalities" to those on ETA, because ETA's tend to be way too stuffy & pretentious for my tastes. For now, I'll continue to alternate between WGBC & ETA while driving until one or the other develops something more interesting than the standard public radio sound.

Posted by: XMer | January 24, 2007 11:46 AM

The WETA air staff are very pleasant and adequate, but that's about it.

In the mornings, would you rather listen to David GInder (pleasant, polite, reserved) or James Bartel (exciting, fun and creative)?

In the daytime, would you rather listen to Marilyn Cooley (a typical NPR voice if ever I heard one) or the wonderful, unique Diana Hollander?

And how can evenings ever be the same without Renee Chaney?

Well? Well, that's why we need to keep all options open.

Posted by: Steve Myers | January 24, 2007 11:58 AM

I love the "new" (old) WETA. It resembles somewhat the broadcasting of the late 1980s, when in the AM we had Bill Ceri and NPR newscasts on the hour and half hour in the morning. I think back then they carried ATC in the evenings. My only request is they phase back in some of the instructive music progarms they used to carry, like Performance Today, Schikele Mix, The Vocal Scene instead of just nonstop CD-playing. But I would give them time to evolve.

I support Marc's comments (and those of others) about WGMS. In the last couple of years the music was redundant (I love Beethoven's 5th but don't need to hear it twice or thrice a week). And the advertisements were just unbearable. I spot them their announcers, especially James Bartel, but WETA has a crew of very experienced, knowledgeable on-air hosts like Nicole LaCroix, who manages to slip in wry little comments and interesting tib-bits about the history of musical selections.

I liked Mary Cliff's show and hope it can migrate to another station. I also hope Rebecca Roberts' program can be reborn elsewhere. Maybe it can replace the Newshour timeslot! I agree with those who find that audio track tiresome; it is a great TV show that just doesn't work on the radio.

Posted by: Phil | January 24, 2007 12:02 PM

I have been reading posts from our area and from Chicago on their radio's recent changes and for the life of me still cannot get over the fact that intelligent, articulate people are so clueless when it comes to the science of human behavior that is radio listening.

All this variety you speak of wanting and needing and the of deriding 24 hour classical is based on YOUR assumption that everyone likes what you and your dozens of friends like. I have worked in broadcasting for decades - it isn't so.

On a typical public station, when your "variety" kicks in, you lose somewhere between 60-75% of your current audience.

There is no business - commercial or non-commercial - that would consider losing that huge of a chunk of their audience as good practice. But because public broadcasters are supposed to adhere to some higher calling, they endure it. It's almost like "oh, you've had your fill of classical music today, it's time to do something else". How reckless and arrogant. Same goes with news.

Get some perspective, folks. Educate the print media while you're at it. I suppose there is always the interested outsider trying to tell you how to do your job, but, can't we try and raise the level of discussion? NOT EVERYONE LIKES WHAT YOU LIKE.

Posted by: Jim in Arlington | January 24, 2007 12:09 PM

Classical music is about the best way to get me to fall asleep while driving. So much for getting my news in the morning. I don't care for WAMU's irritating local programming. Yay for Kojo Namdi; I'm never going to listen to your show, but thanks for naming it after yourself. The same goes for Diane Ream, who sounds as if she might not live through the rest of the show. I suppose I'll just go back to listening to my Ipod, which will play whatever music I want, not what the DJ wants.

Posted by: Bob | January 24, 2007 12:26 PM

"NOT EVERYONE LIKES WHAT YOU LIKE."

That's self-evident, isn't it, Jim? The point(s) of public radio is to give people what they can't find on commercial airspace, and to balance those offerings so there is at least something for the countless different tastes out there.

I don't believe that the mission of a public station should be to air ONLY classical music, just because there's no toher outlet for it. Because there's also no other outlet for good programming related to other arts.

I am a loyal WAMU listener, but even I don't think their programming is as eclectic as it could be. To echo what others have said, we need programming like World Cafe, Afropop Worldwide, Traditions, as well as serious talk shows on topics that are a bit more uplifting than politics. (Though Diane and Kojo do offer ranges of topics, to their credit)

In a 7-day week, I think WAMU could still offer us a bit more. And I'm not sure that we need such significant blocks of time given over to bluegrass or old time radio. If Sunday days are to be given over to music, why not add Traditions, Mountain Stage, and some of the other shows to that mix. Give us Bob Edwards on Saturdays when there's an orientation to broader talk and idea formatting; but give us something that engages us. (That sports show, sure ain't it.)

Posted by: Rocco | January 24, 2007 12:26 PM

Why is there such hate for Diane Rehm? She's been on the air (in her own show) for over 25 years and she's still as vibrant as ever. Sure, she has voice problems, but they don't get in the way of her very effective communication.

And Kojo's show deserves to be named after him. He's got a personality that reflects his curiosity, integrity, and love of life. Don't listen if you don't want to, but give the guy credit for having an informative, lively show. Doubly so on Fridays, when Jonetta is on (and so, sometimes, is Marc.)

Posted by: Steve | January 24, 2007 12:32 PM

Marc, you did not mention another complaint "thread" present on the WETA comment blog: the high-handed and peremptory manner in which a station based on listener contributions makes decisions. WETA failed to disclose their true economic reasons for making changes either at the time WETA dropped classical programming or now. Instead, they have hidden behind the usual kind of corporate-speak (namely, outright lying )to put a smiley face on things. Thus, why should I send my money voluntarily to people I cannot trust? I felt badly when they abandoned me and other classical fans two years ago because we were an obsolete demographic -- though I'm still here. I feel badly now for those who contributed money as I used to do but now the rug has been pulled out from under them and they want their money back. Until WETA board and management changes occur - I mean different people - no more money from me and others, I wager.

What is there to disclose? Well, one of the comments in this thread has it just right: "seems to moving to a politically neutral and very inexpensive format like spinning classical CDs 24/7 will invite the WGMS audience, and allow WETA to thrive on a significantly reduced budget."

If that's the case, then cut the crap about caring about classical music already and get on with it.

I was born at night, but not last night. In case there are still people out there in Washington DC who don't get it yet, art, public affairs, substance or content of any kind does not matter to corporate management. They care only about the bottom line. On the Hill, that usually means jurisdiction and power in addtion to money.

Once you accept these premises, what you see out there makes a lot more sense. Dollars and cents.

Posted by: William Frank | January 24, 2007 12:50 PM

I will miss hearing the show "Marketplace" at 6:30 pm on WETA. Does anyone know if it appears on other local stations?

Posted by: Mary | January 24, 2007 1:05 PM

Please don't fix what isn't broken. WGMS was perfect the way it was. I miss the personalities and especially the morning show. If I have to be in the car for over an hour and a half one way - every day - give me something good to listen to. Bring WGMS back the way it was!

Posted by: M. Bocchetto | January 24, 2007 1:11 PM

Marketplace is on WAMU at 6 pm every weeknight.

Posted by: nashpaul | January 24, 2007 1:14 PM

I for one am grateful that WETA has accepted the challenge of providing classical 24/7 - and I listen virtually 24/7; leaving the radio on all night, listening in the car and at work.

When WETA went to all talk they created a horrible hodge-podge of "please everyone" talk radio that didn't work. Now that they've switched, I plan to never touch my dial and will restart my financial contributions.

Posted by: Al from G'Town | January 24, 2007 1:25 PM

I was a very regular WGMS listener. I listened for a couple of hours each day, to and from work. I enjoyed both the music AND the announcers.

I listened to WETA yesterday. Sadly, I don't think I will do much more listening. WETA will benefit GREATLY by hiring the announcers from WGMS. To put it gently, they are not afraid to be entertaining, whereas typical classical announcers/DJ's are, frankly, too pompous and take themselves too seriously.

Even classical music is meant to entertain.

Posted by: AM, Vienna, VA | January 24, 2007 1:48 PM

Thanks! I'm glad that some maturity and quality have returned to my ears on the radio. WETA, you are next to the WBJC on my car radio dials and I'm happy.
Radio has gone bad in all formats over the years. Too commercial and too silly!!! Too much automation!!!
Stations like WHUR, WMZQ, WBIG, and other radio formats around town offered so much years ago.Now, those big outlets are caught up in the silly stuff... that insult audiences of all kinds and cultures. Everybody isn't the MTV, youthfully blind listener looking for effects and gimics and shock jocks.
So, congrats to you WETA for having some guts and giving good solid radio a chance. Even someplace covering the arts of classical, jazz and sanity.
Now lets do something about the lack of good local talk and public affairs... and maybe, on that day, I will listen more to learn something more intellegent!

Posted by: A Local Broadcaster -40 years | January 24, 2007 2:14 PM

Thanks! I'm glad that some maturity and quality have returned to my ears on the radio. WETA, you are next to the WBJC on my car radio dials and I'm happy.
Radio has gone bad in all formats over the years. Too commercial and too silly!!! Too much automation!!!
Stations like WHUR, WMZQ, WBIG, and other radio formats around town offered so much years ago.Now, those big outlets are caught up in the silly stuff... that insult audiences of all kinds and cultures. Everybody isn't the MTV, youthfully blind listener looking for effects and gimics and shock jocks.
So, congrats to you WETA for having some guts and giving good solid radio a chance. Even someplace covering the arts of classical, jazz and sanity.
Now lets do something about the lack of good local talk and public affairs... and maybe, on that day, I will listen more to learn something more intellegent!

Posted by: A Local Broadcaster -40 years | January 24, 2007 2:15 PM

WBJC-FM (91.5) is an outstanding classical station (all locally produced) with an intelligent, personable staff of announcers. Their morning drive program in particular is as fascinating and diverse a mix as you could hope for; it's as close to a podcast as a classical broadcast program can be. Much of the DC area can get their signal. If you can tune them in, there's no point in listening to WETA-FM.

WAMU-FM has messed with (or tried to cancel) Sunday morning's "Stained Glass Bluegrass" a couple of times in the past 20 years. They've gotten their hand slapped by their dues-paying members every time, and it will happen again if they attempt it now. It's a unique and much-needed program, in spite of (or maybe especially because of) Red Shipley's recent stroke.

Mary Cliff's four-hour local-music calendar and self-love fest (aka "Traditions") hasn't been worth listening to for more than a decade. If someone wants to re-create her original program, Lee Michael Dempsey would be an excellent choice.

Posted by: Frank | January 24, 2007 2:23 PM

Cliff is like the old baseball voice who has been left behind. If yr east of DC, Delmarva NPR has 'Just Folks'...
Newshour on radio is great. If yr worried about unseen graphics, yr not watching the road enough...
Moder classical music will indeed get more play, I really hope!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 2:26 PM

It's amazing to read some of the comments here--and Marc's piece that set off the commenting. Where did Marc get the idea that WGMS didn't name "the artists and orchestras playing the music"? What nonsense! Did he ever listen to WGMS in the first place? I've listened to WGMS at least some of almost every day for about the last 50 years; hardly ever was a performance anonymous. Where did some commenters get the idea that the WGMS announcers were too dry? For at least the last few years, WGMS played hardly any piece without presenting information on the circumstances of its creation, not to mention the jokes and banter. More and more often in the last few years, WGMS presented long stretches of music (sometimes over an hour, sometimes in "long sets" of 10-20 minutes) with no commercials at all--something else that a lot of so-called listeners apparently didn't notice. For all its supposed faults, WGMS was the highest-rated classical-music station in the country; gee, *someone* must have liked it.

I'm absolutely delighted that WETA has switched back to good music. Long live all-classical all-day! You want popular, rock, and other junk? Try some of the other hundreds of stations.

Posted by: jaded | January 24, 2007 2:28 PM

Now, I wonder if Pacifica is making any effort at all to broadcast HD. Posted by: Fishkebater | January 24, 2007 09:49 AM

Now, there is a station taking up good airspace. The jazz and funk is great, but reality is lacking in the threadbare protest whining...

Concur, Keiler's Writers Alminac is way better than Prarie Home, the most over-rated show in radio history.

Traffic reports have no place on any NPR station.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 2:33 PM

I have been pleasantly surprised by the renewed classical WETA and their musical selections. Wonderful mix. I will contribute extra if they DO NOT bring back Prairie Home Companion or Fresh Air.

Posted by: gitarre | January 24, 2007 2:54 PM

We in the Hagerstown area are delighted to once again hear our classical music on the powerful WETH (soon WGMS) - 89.1. A sincere thank you to the WETA decision makers for making the change & restoring the classical sound to the Cumberland Valley.

Posted by: Terry | January 24, 2007 3:01 PM

To the list of NPR programs fallen from WETA's schedule let me add Morning Edition Saturday with Scott Simon. He's a national treasure. Let's hope WAMU extends their M-F carriage of this series to SaSu.

As for the air staffs, I fully appreciate how many here have enjoyed the less formal approach of WGMS's announcers vs. the more typical public radio approach of WETA's. Listen at night to Nicole Lacroix and Deb Lamberton, however, and you may change your mind. As for WGMS's staff, I did not appreciate Diana Hollander's cooing and Renee Cheney's purring. The latter, in fact, often seemed on autopilot; several times I heard her introduce a piece by the wrong title, play it, then obliviously repeat the wrong title afterward. As for James Bartel, I found him misassigned. He's an "MOR" (Middle of the Road) announcer. The music was of little interest to him, an interlude that gave time to queue up his next sound effect, a technique with which he seemed obsessed (that, and reading polls). Strangest was that "happy birthday" feature he aired at 0735 using theme music from what must have been a tragic historical movie in which thousands died, followed by 5 long minutes of commercials before revealing the birthday honoree, almost never a musician. I'm fine with WETA's staff the way it is, thank you.

Posted by: John in Alexandria | January 24, 2007 3:02 PM

Well it didn't take long...

I just heard Nicole LaCroix announce Respighi's Pines of Rome.

Posted by: Mark | January 24, 2007 3:07 PM

Correction to my previous message: WAMU does indeed air Scott Simon's Weekend Edition on Saturday.

To the list of WGMS announcers I forgot to include the chuckling John Chester.

Posted by: John in Alexandria | January 24, 2007 3:17 PM

I hope they will find an hour or two for John Riggins' commentaries on the Redskins. Riggins, he's a classic.

Posted by: KK | January 24, 2007 3:20 PM

I cannot believe we are going to lose Weekend Edition Sunday. (I also loved the Tavis Smiley show.) Why do WAMU and WETSA think it has to be 100% one thing on Sunday? Would it ruin the whole day if they set aside 2 hours for Liane Hansen???

Posted by: Jo | January 24, 2007 3:28 PM

Nicole is the cooing voice, she is awful. Ginder too.
But nobody is as nausiating as Amy Goodman at war n peace....

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 3:30 PM

From Mary Cliff's bio on the WETA-FM web site: "In 1972 she was hired to host Classical Weekend at WETA, where she's been ever since."

Mary is also a chamber music recording engineer.

No one else on WETA-FM has the breadth of musical knowledge and history of involvement with Washington DC music of all kinds.

It is not just "Traditions" that will be lost. "Out and About" will be left with many blind spots. We will have to look elsewhere for information about music events in the Washington area.

Posted by: Mike | January 24, 2007 3:30 PM

I would like very much to second the suggestion to bring the WGMS personalities over to WETA.
And if there is one definite improvement, it is the strong signal. I live near Germantown and hated to have to bounce between 103.9 and 104.1 just driving from home to Shady Grove Metro!

Note to Bernie: I would like to avoid the ditch, thank you very much. You reflection of DO about driving attitude is on-point. But who needs to encourage that?

Posted by: Mike H. | January 24, 2007 3:31 PM

I haven't seen anyone yet note an obvious point: Prairie Home Companion is an incredibly expensive program, and not airing it will save tons of money. (The Syracuse NPR station didn't carry it for that reason when I lived there.) Since the only thing during the two hours really worth hearing is the news from Lake Wobegon, I'm not saddened by the loss (or move to another station). Since they replaced the Coffee Club Orchestra and that great New York Cole Porter ambience with country, the music and the monochromatic skits have been boring in the extreme. Keillor is a national treasure, a great speaker and a greater writer, but the show was always an hour and a half too long.

I too want much more adventurous classical music. Let's hear some Pfitzner, Zemlinsky, Creston, Schmitt, and other 20th Century tonalists. How about some really modern stuff later at night (9-11 PM)?

Posted by: Gene Barnes | January 24, 2007 3:41 PM

Nicole LaCroix is growing on me. I'm also relieved to hear that she's a former classical DJ. I don't understand the cooing comments above.

Anyhow does anybody think the sound is better on WETA? It sounds fuller to me.

Posted by: Bill S | January 24, 2007 3:44 PM

I like music in the folk traditions, which is the only reason I like Traditions. Mary Cliff spends at least 1/3 of her air time talking, and talking over music by listing local music events that would be better served by a website.

And the dead air! She's frequently unprepared, flipping through pieces of paper or CD covers, looking for information about the music she's just played.

I like the music, and I appreciate her sincerity and support for the folk music scene. The real problem is that she's just an incompetent broadcaster, who serves her intended audience poorly.

Count another switcher to XM--Channel 15, The Village, offers me more in a week than Mary Cliff gives me in a month.

And I agree--bring back Lee Michael Dempsey--as supportive of the local music scene as Cliff ever was, but with a better ear and broadcast skills.

Posted by: Doug | January 24, 2007 3:48 PM

To Bill S:

Nicole Lacroix used to do WETA in the AM morning drive. Sometimes if I had the clock radio on her, I'd go back to sleep again, her voice is so luscious. I'd pay money just to have her read a grocery bill to me.

Posted by: Geen | January 24, 2007 4:00 PM

Those of you who disparage WETA on-air personalities and lament the absence of WGMS personalities are peeing in your own coffee. Nicole LaCroix and Judy Gruber of WETA are both alumnae of WGMS.

And Renee Chaney? She started her DC broadcasting career at WETA, playing classical music, and spent several eyars as WDVM chanel 9 staff announcer.

Those of you who have been around long enough to remember listening to WGMS in the mid to late 80s may recall a personality anmed Steve Ember. Ember was an alumnus of WETA.

FYI, Marylin Cooley and David Ginder both have academic and professional background in music. And when WETA went to news-talk a couple years ago, they lost the services of opera performer and voice teacher David Faircloth, who played a great mix of orchestral and vocal pieces during the night shift.

I'll take David Ginder's supposed lack of personality any day over having to endure ads for American Service Center and the latest Parvizian Going Out of Business Sale rotating every 5 minutes on WGMS drive time.

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 24, 2007 4:06 PM

Great to hear classical back on WETA. Just wish that WAMU wouldn't push Hot Jazz Saturday Night back an hour to make room for Prarie Home Companion. WMRA, Harrisonburg, VA, has a great locally produced acoustic music show, "Acoustic Cafe", on Saturday afternoons and Sunday Evenings.

Posted by: Howard R. | January 24, 2007 4:29 PM

WETA acted without a vote of its listeners who pay. They acted like a commercial station with all the arrogance that public radio and television have accrued to themselves over the years.

There is only one great Classical station in the United States -WFMT in Chicago. I pay for their stream.

I hope listeners of WETA demand a say in the programming of the station.

Posted by: Ivan SIndell | January 24, 2007 4:44 PM

Extremely happy WETA has gone back to classical 24/7. Wish the News Hour at 7pm would be eliminated. Also wish WAMU would carry Morning Edition on Sunday. Don't need bluegrass music all day Sunday. In fact, we don't need it at all. Thank goodness the wasteful duplication of NPR shows at the same time on both stations has finally ended. If you want the BBC, get XM or Sirius satellite radio, they broadcast the World Service 24/7.

Posted by: John C. | January 24, 2007 5:00 PM

Those interested in contributing to the conversation on WETA's blog should know that some (articulate, non-obscene, non-partisan) comments there are being supressed, presumably because they describe all too vividly some ugly details of Mary Cliff's firing.

Maybe there's a good side to this, if it helps Mary preserve her bridges, but it also adds to the coup-d'etat aura that surrounds the changeover as a whole.

Posted by: Brady E. | January 24, 2007 5:24 PM

Brady E., got any links or details about the Mary Cliff situation that you can share?

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 24, 2007 6:11 PM

An "online sponsor" of "Classical WETA 90.9 FM" is the DC Society of Anesthesiologists.

Just sayin" . . .

Posted by: Mike | January 24, 2007 6:31 PM

I actually like the simulcast of the Newshour. Lets face it, most of that show is talking heads. It really does translate well to radio (except for the listing of fallen soldiers).

That being said, WETA did a tremendous disservice to its members and listeners by making such an abrupt change with no input. Maybe the decision would have been the same; maybe not. But our voices would have been heard, and perhaps some of our suggestions (keeping WESUN, PHC, Traditions) would have been adopted.

I honestly think that the way the change was made is worse than the fact that changes were made.

Posted by: Larry | January 24, 2007 6:42 PM

I see that the World Folk Music Association has a page up that claims there will be one more Traditions show on Saturday night. I haven't seen that anywhere else. Can anybody confirm?
http://www.wfma.net/dcradio.htm

Posted by: DaleP | January 24, 2007 6:42 PM

I actually like the simulcast of the Newshour. Lets face it, most of that show is talking heads. It really does translate well to radio (except for the listing of fallen soldiers).

That being said, WETA did a tremendous disservice to its members and listeners by making such an abrupt change with no input. Maybe the decision would have been the same; maybe not. But our voices would have been heard, and perhaps some of our suggestions (keeping WESUN, PHC, Traditions) would have been adopted.

I honestly think that the way the change was made is worse than the fact that changes were made.

Posted by: Larry | January 24, 2007 6:43 PM

DaleP: I understand from Mary Cliff that she will be recording a last "Traditions" program before she leaves WETA-FM on Friday. It will be broadcast this Saturday.

Posted by: Mike Licht | January 24, 2007 8:09 PM

Another channel of elevator music..Great, take off an alternative source of informative talk radio. Marc Fisher: get some CDs!! WETA: good luck fighting IPODS, Sirus, XM etc. I say good riddance when WETA gets ratings lower than George Bush.

Posted by: Ed A | January 24, 2007 9:48 PM

The WETA switch is a travesty -- totally abandoning their audience with no consultation.

How do we change the board of directors and bring back our programming.

On a related note, WAMU would be well advised to add Weekend Edition Sunday.

Posted by: Seth Morrison | January 24, 2007 9:52 PM

In response to Mister Methane: I've heard from someone I trust that just *last week* Mary Cliff was assured that she would have her WETA job doing "Traditions" until she retired.

I imagine there are two sides to this, but it sure looks fishy to me, especially since WETA wouldn't even post a blog message that mentioned it (as opposed to, say, posting the blog along with an explanation).

Posted by: Brady E. | January 24, 2007 10:11 PM

I can't say adding vocal pieces would be an improvement but then I don't care for vocal music in any genre. So I guess I'll just pop in the CD when the vocals come on. No worries...at least there is still classical music on the DC airwaves...that is a good thing.

Posted by: Maryb | January 25, 2007 12:58 AM

I totally agree with Steve Myers post about on air staff.
The WETA air staff are very pleasant and adequate, but that's about it.

In the mornings, would you rather listen to David GInder (pleasant, polite, reserved) or James Bartel (exciting, fun and creative)?

In the daytime, would you rather listen to Marilyn Cooley (a typical NPR voice if ever I heard one) or the wonderful, unique Diana Hollander?

And how can evenings ever be the same without Renee Chaney?

Well? Well, that's why we need to keep all options open.

Posted by: Mike in Takoma Park | January 25, 2007 2:24 AM

WETA's change to classical music will, I predict, begin (or perhaps continue) the station's slide into oblivion. I suspect the station has made the change because of a declining audience. Some time ago, WETA began to abandon the original public broadcasting audience, people like me who disliked commercials and believed in noncommercial broadcasting on the theory that advertisements prevented airing of controversial, anti-establishment programs. In a sense, by returning to classical music, WETA is returning to its roots. But times have changed, and in making this change WETA abandons an extremely relevant programming mix, with NPR, PRI, BBC, etc. I for one no longer have a need to listen to WETA. From now on, I will tune in to WAMU or C-SPAN.

Posted by: Richard | January 25, 2007 9:25 AM

"...WGMS that made it the #1 classical station in the country." That's because it was an excellent classical station, which I've listened to since I was a kid in Bethesda. I found the announcers and musical selections hugely enjoyable, and I'm heartbroken to lose it. If there is any chance that Diana Hollander is hired at WETA, I might listen.

Posted by: ssimmons | January 25, 2007 11:58 AM

Marc, Have to disagree with you on WETA carrying The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Ninety percent of the hour is talking heads anyway, and many of the video reports at the top of the show are essentially a radio script read over agency pictures. (Often, it's the lack of a chyron that is more confusing than the lack of the pictures.)

What irks me more than anything else is that the TV and radio versions of the show are about 8 seconds out of sync. It makes it a bit harder to move between TV and radio as I'm getting dinner ready.

Posted by: AC | January 25, 2007 12:23 PM

Bring back Scott Simon; "World Have Your Say" and "Car Talk!" I drive all day for work and these were great diverstions. Nice to have a classical station on the dial....but, gee, wasn't that sudden?
Why in the world would a nonprofit station get into business negotiations with a huge corporate station in order to be the only classical on the dial?
And those folks complaining about the 2 minutes of silence during the Lehrer Nightly News Hour ---Hello? We don't all get home in time to watch the news in front of our televisions at dinnertime! Two minutes is great to consider the imagined faces of young people who have died.
And why does this area need another easy listening rock station??
No way I'm volunteering for the telethon (begathon) this year!

Posted by: bre | January 25, 2007 1:02 PM

Bring back Scott Simon; "World Have Your Say" and "Car Talk!" I drive all day for work and these were great diverstions. Nice to have a classical station on the dial....but, gee, wasn't that sudden?
Why in the world would a nonprofit station get into business negotiations with a huge corporate station in order to be the only classical on the dial?
And those folks complaining about the 2 minutes of silence during the Lehrer Nightly News Hour ---Hello? We don't all get home in time to watch the news in front of our televisions at dinnertime! Two minutes is great to consider the imagined faces of young people who have died. And why does this area need another easy listening rock station??
No way I'm volunteering for the telethon (begathon) this year!

Posted by: bre | January 25, 2007 1:03 PM

Well, having spent the last few weeks concerned about the demise of classical music on the radio in DC, I must say I've found myself in a really good mood this week while lsitening to WETA in the car at any time of day. Whatever they played at 3:30 this afternoon was awesome (missed the title/performacers, which were announced...), and definitely not the fare that WGMS was featuring in recent times.

But I do have small beef about the programming changes- it appears that WAMU, in making so many quick changes to accomodate ex-WETA listeners, has dropped the commedy program "Whad'Ya Know?" from their Saturday schedule. Bummer.....

Posted by: Lou in Oak Hill | January 25, 2007 6:24 PM

Lou, WAMU dropped "Whad'Ya Know?" weeks ago, when it switched "This American Life" to the noon slot.

Re: WETA announcers: my favorite of the former classical-music DJs (if that term can be used) was Gail Wein, who had a show on Saturdays. She wasn't slick like LeCroix or Cooley; she brought enthusiasm and personality to the music and the station. Wonder if the change back to classical will bring her, and other former WETA announcers, back to 90.9?

Posted by: DMS | January 25, 2007 8:11 PM

"WAMU dropped "Whad'Ya Know?" weeks ago, when it switched "This American Life" to the noon slot."

Guess I should listen more often..... well, my wife loves This American Life, so she'll be happy.

Posted by: Lou from Oak Hill | January 26, 2007 8:13 AM

The abrupt format changes at WETA and WETH illustrate the serious service shortcomings of Pennsylvania Public Radio.
What? What has WETA to do with Pennsylvania Public Radio?
Unfortunately, WETH was the only full service public radio station available in southern Franklin County Pennsylvania. Now that we've lost NPR and BBC maybe Pennsylvania Public Radio will step in with adequate service.
I doubt it. I started out as a believer and supporter of Public Radio. Remember WBAI New York.
I suppose that the only alternative is subscribing to satelite radio.
I will miss NPR and BBC. The next time WETA sends me one of its frequent fund appeals I will respond with an envelope full of receipts for XM or SIRUS. It's unfortunate.

Posted by: Frank from Chambersburg PA | January 26, 2007 10:12 AM

I'd like to put in my oar on the subject of WGMS announcers moving to WETA and say NO upfront. The women were all unbearable. John Chester was okay, I guess. The only GMS announcer I miss is Dennis Owens, and he retired some time ago.

David Ginder and Marilyn Cooley are splendid: sensible, on-point comments kept to a minimum. It's great to have them back on the air in classical music, a field they both know very well.

Nicole Lacroix could be replaced any time as far as I'm concerned. When she tries to be enthusiastic, she simpers. Her comments tend to be unfocused and are not always accurate. The first night, for example, she said that today (1/26) would be the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the overture to "Candide," first performed by the NY Philharmonic under Bernstein. Wrong. The premiere of that overture came in December 1956, played by a pit orchestra conducted by Samuel Krachmalnick, as part of the first performance of the show.

(I haven't heard Deb Lamberton.)

I'm delighted to learn from Marc's column that WETA may pick up Performance Today, St. Paul Sunday, At the Top, and some of the available full-length orchestra concerts.

But I disagree with his put down of short pieces during rush hour. Few people have the time then to listen to complete symphonies, concertos, or other long works. And it's better to have complete short works than something dismembered from a longer work as GMS did. Actually, quite a few works from the pre-Romantic era are shorter than 15 minutes, which seems to me to be about the maximum length a piece should run during rush hour.

And may I ask why traffic reports don't belong on public radio? Many public radio listeners and classical music lovers have to drive to work and need that information as much as anyone.

Yes, you can play CDs if you want music, but it's a nuisance and you have to have a very large collection if you aren't to get into numbing repetition very quickly. And there's no way to be surprised and even delighted by a work the announcer brings back or introduces you to something you've never heard.

And I guess I should remind those who complain that WETA didn't consult listeners before the switch that the station did consult, or at least listen to, music lovers before going to all news-talk - - and it did no good.

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Posted by: jnnmissy | January 26, 2007 7:24 PM

What WGMS station were you listening to when you said they did not announce the artists etc? Every work I heard did indeed list the works plus the artist.

Also, one night last week I was listening to WETA hoping to hear the classical format as advertised. What did I hear?
Some guy singing the form of music which had no substance whatsoever to it, in fact this was exactly what you'd hear on Sunday afternoons at the opera. What would have been enjoyable would be the instrumental versions and not something that made me sit and wonder what the heck the station was trying to do. That night at least, was a bitter disappointment.

E.T.
Gordonsville, VA

Posted by: Edwin Talley | January 27, 2007 7:18 PM

To my previous post, I would like to also add this with respect to WGMS. I wonder how many other stations would have personnel who would answer an e-mail directed to them? And on the air, no less!
Renee Chaney and James Bartel did this, and to me that was very gracious and unselfish of them. Also, that station had as one of its features a listing of each announcer by which you could indeed contact them. I have searched the arrangement for WETA and unless I am missing something, which is possible, I do not see a capability to contact an individual announcer via the e-mail route.
Perhaps that is how they want it. In other words, IMO the layout for WGMS was
well planned with much ease in contacting the individual to whom you wanted to
say, "job well done."

There is another station in my area, WVTF from Ronaoke, VA which plays absolutely
beautiful classical music. However, it is only from 9 a.m. until 4. p.m.

Everyone has their own opinion. However at this time, I can say give WETA a chance,
even though from what a lot of us are used to, it will be hard pressed to be on the same playing field with WGMS. What many of us would like to see would be to incorporate as many of the former announcers to this new station as possible.
On the other hand, they may in fact say thanks, but no thanks.

E.T.
Gordonsville, VA

Posted by: Edwin Talley | January 27, 2007 7:47 PM

Maybe there's something brewing?
I've just come back from the WETA web site,see 2005 Responses to 'Welcome to Classical WETA 90.9 FM'.
The comments are quite strong. It may be that mostly those who didn't appreciate the format change have bothered to write. Who knows? But several (former) listeners have asked for their pledges back.(Pretty strong comments, yes?)
On the unscientific basis of the web site comments, I wouldn't be surprised if there were to be several management resignations in the near future at WETA. And they wouldn't be missed. / Frank from Chambersburg.

Posted by: frank from chambersburg | January 28, 2007 8:09 PM

Here's a reality check. There are many more people who are happy that there is a quality classical radio station in the DC area than a mostly duplicated talk/news station is gone. For every person who wants their pledge back are two that are now contributing to WETA.

Posted by: PaulS | January 30, 2007 2:21 PM

To WETA Management,

Please do not try to remake the classical side of WETA 90.9. The WETA announcers have always done a wonderful job and have their own fans and supporters among public radio subscribers.

It is not the fault of WETA listeners that Bonneville dumped WGMS and its staff in favor of larger profits and fatter pockets for itself.

If former WGMS listeners want to become WETA public radio supporters and listeners then let them show a little humility and graciousness with regard to their requests to discard WETA staff and Traditions (I hope you understand) in favor of their former WGMS announcers and their "way" of doing things.

It reminds me of guests dropping by for a stay and telling the host that he must discard his dinnerware and glasses in favor of new ones that suit the guest's taste. The guest should be gracious and learn the ways of his new home.

As to the callous remarks of former WGMS listeners denigrating the music that Mary Cliff plays on Traditions, I can only say that those persons display little education and that their musical tastes are severely limited indicating a shallow appreciation of the diversity of art. I venture to say that most WETA listeners have a broader perspective and understand that classical music is not the only music with merit.

I strongly advise that you retain Traditions with Mary Cliff in the WETA lineup where she and her music most surely belong.

Sincerely,
Suzanne

Posted by: Anonymous | January 30, 2007 3:42 PM

Count me a PA listener who was extremely disappointed at the switch. Classical music is great, but broadcasting nothing but classical on public radio feeds the sensibilities of those who are content to withdraw into a privileged cocoon and ignore the world and its issues, and leaves those of us who would like to stay engaged with one less source of unbiased news coverage and in-depth commentary (and we all know how rare those are anyway). Of course programming at a DC drive-time station shouldn't be driven by those who don't live in the DC metro area, but honestly, this format switch makes you all look even more like the insulated, cocktail party, it's all just a big game and did you see what she's wearing stereotypes that those of us who are socially and politically active outside of the Beltway think you are anyway. Bring back the news... I don't care if you don't want to hear it. People not wanting to be truthfully informed is how we've gotten to this low point in our history; if you're not interested in the news, listen to your CD or digital collection and try not to hurt the rest of us with your apathy.

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Posted by: qudhciaw ibntgqxw | February 4, 2007 3:57 AM

Win a few, lose a few. I renewed my lapsed membership in WETA the day they switched back to classical. But I do miss Renee. Is she doing anything interesting now?

Posted by: Peg | February 12, 2007 7:11 PM

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