The Evolution Of KPBS Radio
Thursday, May 19, 2011
KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo joins us to discuss the changes that are being made to the KPBS Radio schedule. Plus, former These Days hosts Gloria Penner and Tom Fudge talk about the history of the show.
KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo joins us to discuss the changes that are being made to the KPBS Radio schedule. Plus, former These Days hosts Gloria Penner and Tom Fudge talk about the history of the show.
Tom Karlo, KPBS General Manager
Gloria Penner, host of "Editors Roundtable" and "San Diego Week." Gloria hosted "These Days" from 1995-1999.
Tom Fudge, KPBS Reporter, and author of the "On-Ramp" blog on KPBS.org. Tom hosted "These Days" from 1999-2009.
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. KPBS radio has been beefing up its news presence in San Diego for a number of years. And last week, we announced we're going to a 24/7 all news format. That means changes to our schedule, including moving this show to noon and adding programs to both our afternoon and evening radio lineup. You can see the whole new schedule on our website at KPBS.org. It's a pleasure to welcome KPBS general manager, Tom Carlo. He's here to talk about all the changes. And good morning, Tom.
CARLO: Good morning Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: We want to invite everyone with questions and comments about the new schedule to give us a call. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. So why has KPBS decided to go to an all news format, Tom?
CARLO: Well, you know, Maureen be I've been general manager now for two and a half years, but I've been with the station all my career. And I was part of the management team that had us grow the radio news operation here in town, and I saw us ascend to being probably one of the best radio news stations in all of San Diego. And I also witnessed over the last decade or so what I think is a decline in quality journalism, local journalism and national and international journalism in our communities here. And I really felt that there was a void in the community for quality journalism and news analysis. And so two and a half years ago, I made it very clear when I became general manager that our vision for the future, our strategic plan would focus KPBS on being the premiere source of local news analysis that compliments the great work from PBS and NPR, and we would do this across all platforms. So this was a move we made two and a half years ago, and we began implementing steps on that way in May of 2009. We converted KPBS.org to all news. And the traffic has gone from 70,000 unique visitors a month to 400,000. We launched a news mobile site. We launched two years ago San Diego week on television, which was the first local news analysis on the week. So all of this stuff was done in each step. And for us, we felt that as news was becoming more and more important to the community, events like the Osama bin Laden death, the tsunami in Japan, the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, all of those indicated that our audience wanted more and more news. And that's why we made this change.
CAVANAUGH: What is the rationale behind moving this show, These Days, to noon, changing the name to midday edition.
CARLO: Well, for me, as I have been a big fan of listening to your show over the years, I felt that These Days has been really what I think is one of our signature programs here on radio. It has a great following at 9:00 o'clock. But it's been a two-hour show, and you know what? The 10:00 o'clock hour we have actually seen a decline in the audience. The audience tends to go away. And the other thing is is that we have been watching the habits of listeners here in San Diego, and the audience spikes at the noon hour. It goes up dramatically. And we have about almost -- it's 70,000 people will listen at the noon hour, but only 40,000 are listening at 10:00 o'clock in the morning. So what we felt is take our -- showcase our premiere show that you host, and put it in a place where more people are going to value local thoughtful news discussion that you bring to the table so much that was one of the reasons. The other thing was that in San Diego, we were doing -- we were noticing that people like shorter segments. So These Days in its form right now dealt with 30, 40-minute discussions on certain topic, and we felt we could move it into more of a 10 to 15, get the same amount of discussions of the different topics and move it along a little quicker, and also push people to the website, if they want to go more in depth. So for us, moving to the noon hour was a way of literally doubling the audience. Because at 9:00 o'clock in the morning, people tend to go to work, and their listening hadn't go down. So we wanted to put These Days in a position where it's going to reach the most people and have the biggest impact. The other thing about changing the name to KPBS midday edition is a strategy in place that, you know, we have grown our radio listenership in the morning on being KPBS morning edition. And so we thought KPBS midday edition would continue the theme. And then the other thing that we announced a week ago is that in September on export television at 6:30 at night, 5 nights a week, Monday through Friday, we are debuting a new local news analysis program on television. And that's gonna be called KPBS evening edition. So we're using the edition theme to let people know that we are here and we are going to do thoughtful news analysis of the important issues that are part of San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with KPBS general manager Tom Carlo. We're speaking about changes in the KPBS radio lineup, including changes to this show. It's moving to noon, and changing its name to midday edition. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727.
CARLO: Maureen, I also want to make another comment about moving the show to noon. Right now, These Days has been a very popular show. But we know it's gonna even reach more people. But when the show goes on the air at nine AM in the morning, you're really dealing with thoughtful discussion of yesterday's stories. By moving it to noon, now you can bring into play thoughtful discussion of developing news stories that moment. We can be -- our reports will have a chance to go out in the field, our entire news team, and bring a story that is developing at 9 or 930 or 10:00 o'clock in the morning. So we're gonna be more relevant and more current with the show being at noon.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's going to happen to the Editors' Roundtable which airs Fridays at nine AM?
CARLO: Well, we're just moving it along with These Days to noon. So with Fridays on the noon, we're going to have KPBS roundtable. We're calling it round table because we also want to have the opportunity to bring in other reporters that might be covering a story that an editor may not be. So we want to broaden the ability to be more current and more accurate and more informative of the issues. But Editors' Roundtable, the way it is, is going to be moving at the noon hour to Friday. And we're all excited. And this was all done with the intention of how can we reach more people and make a bigger impact in our community.
CAVANAUGH: And Gloria Penner who has been ill is going to come back and host the round table on a frequent basis.
CARLO: Yes, she is coming back. She has been on medical leave, and we mis her very much. And her plan right now is to host the show a week from tomorrow on May 27th. And we're very excited. And she is very excited about coming back and having a chance to take roundtable to another level.
CAVANAUGH: Let's take some calls, Tom, we're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Scott's calling us from Kensington, good morning, Scott, and welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Hey, how's it going?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great.
NEW SPEAKER: I was just calling.
RIH2: Totally appreciate you guys, like, actually extending the news hour. I've always kind of wanted that. I get work around six. And the classical music is awesome to fall asleep to, but I don't go to sleep at seven. I got a seven-year-old kid. And the BBC is -- you guys are where I go to get my news, nowhere else, besides the Union Tribune which isn't that great. And I just wanted to talk though, to Jim Lower on the news hour, I really appreciate how you guys are going about, like, actually exiting him from the program with his retirement. It's really awesome how you just changed the name and everything.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Scott, we don't have any control over the news hour. ?
CARLO: Is this is a decision Jim has made, his in his late '70s, he's decided to retire. [CHECK AUDIO] but the exciting thing that we're bringing also to the radio is we are going to air the PBS news hour on KPBS radio. It'll be on 9:00 o'clock, Monday through Friday, 9:00 PM. And so it works really well as a radio show. Aye actually heard it in that format. And we're excited that our radio audience is going to have a chance to really benefit from the wealth of excellent content that comes out of the PBS news hour.
CAVANAUGH: And I want to tell our listeners because there may be some people who listen regularly during the morning and afternoon KPBS don't even realize that we have been broad casting classical music at night.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And that's the change we're talking about when we're going to an all news format.
CARLO: Yes, that is the biggest change. And we know that we have had a very loyal classical music audience, starting at 7:00 PM. But for us to be the premiere source of news analysis across all of our platforms, and that is our primary mission, that is our primary goal here, moving to 247 of news and news of public affairs on radio fits into that mission. But the other thing is is that we also felt we weren't going to abandon the classical music audience. We've offered a -- we are now offering a live 24-hour a day classical music stream to KPBS.org. So you could stream classical music all day long, and the other thing is is there's a new technology called HD radio. They're actually digital radio that allows anybody to multicast, and on our KPBS HD2 channel is the 24-hour a day classical music. So as you are replacing radios in the future, I really advise people to ask and purchase an HD radio which will allow you to get KPBS one as our news service, KPBS two will be classical music, and actually we even have a third channel that's multicasted called [CHECK AUDIO] triple A music format.
CAVANAUGH: That's interesting.
CAVANAUGH: We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. My guest is KPBS general manager Tom Carlo. Daniel is calling us from Clairemont. Good morning, Daniel, and welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, Maureen, and good morning Tom.
CARLO: Good morning, Daniel.
NEW SPEAKER: As much as I will miss the show because I'm usually out of the house by 9, between 9 and 10, you know what? I see what you're doing, Tom, and I'm gonna support it because if more people can listen to it, I'll catch it some way. I would like to know if the hard -- or the HD radio is available for the vehicle. And then the other thing too is I would like to see if it happens to be that the 9:00 o'clock hour is something that is missing in the future that you consider putting Tom Fudge back on or asking him. And thank you for the update about Gloria. I missed her a lot and I didn't know what was going on with her, and I'll definitely be in prayer for her.
CAVANAUGH: Daniel, thank you.
CARLO: Thank you very much for your comments. And let's see, Gloria, we miss her immensely, Tom is doing extremely -- Tom Fudge is doing extremely well with us. He is an assignment reporter for us. He'll fill in every once in a while on either midday edition --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Has a very popular blog on our website.
CARLO: Yes, off-ramp, which is developing into an excellent, excellent blog here on KPBS. So Tom is very, very valuable to us. The nine AM hour is gonna be filled with here and now, which is currently a program that is a news magazine program that we have on at 11 AM, so we're gonna be moving here and now to nine AM. So that show will still live, and it's an excellent show, I think to come right out of morning edition at the 9:00 AM hour.
CAVANAUGH: And what's at 10:00?
CARLO: At ten will be to the world have you say. That is a new program, world have you say. It's a BBC call in program, and it's an interview program, it's gonna be taking live questions from around the world. And we have heard a schnook preview of it. Our program director thinks it's gonna be an excellent program. That'll be on at ten AM. And then at 11 AM, we're bringing in a program called to the point. And it is posted by warn ulno, and it'll be a national interview program with public programs and what I'm told is it has a west coast feel. I have no idea what it really means, but what I'm hoping it really means is there'll be a lot of west coast stories developing in the show. So we're exited about that. That'll be on at the 11 AM hour, followed by KPBS midday edition hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh. And I want to also, you know, go back, 'cause I've been reading all the comments that have been coming in from people. And I would say the majority of the people, definitely the majority are in favor of this move. But These Days is now moving to KPBS midday edition. Maureen, you're still gonna be in the driver's seat. You have your complete team in place. We are just going to make it a spectacular one hour. And we're very, very excited about it.
CAVANAUGH: That's exactly what we're hoping to do. Well, we have to take a short break. When we return, Tom Carlo will stay with us to take more of your phone calls at 1-888-895-5727. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we're talking about how These Days is changing from These Days to midday edition, and it's changing its time from a start at nine to a start at noon. And that's just one of the changes in the exhibit lineup that wee talking about with KPBS general manager, Tom Carlo. And we've invited your phone calls. Let's go to the phones right now. Drew is calling from Golden Hill. Good morning, drew, welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. You know, I just wanted to -- first I'd like to say I really appreciate everything that you do with the station. I think over all it's phenomenal. And I've looked through the schedule, and I think that a lot of the changes you've made, I completely understand. I love more news. I think the expansion over all is great. There's one thing that sorely riles me. And that's this. Moving These Days to a new time is a great idea. I see why you did it. But limiting it to one hour as opposed to two I think is a giant mistake because we're losing in the course of a week five hours of local news. And one of the things that I've known about KPBS is it is a source and a go- to place for local news. And you do such a good job at it. And the idea that you would say I want to cover the same number of topics but in a shorter, you know, more compressed way I think just goes against what is one of the greatest things about your station in that you will take the time, you have marketed yourself over the years in your campaign.
CAVANAUGH: Drew --
NEW SPEAKER: Take time to get in depth.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ream get a response.
CARLO: Drew, I think your comments are well stated. And all of that went into our decision making process. Again, one of the decisions was the 10:00 o'clock hour of These Days the audience just declined. So that in itself for us was not good for us to be producing a program, if a lot less people than we think are not listening. So the other thing is, we have found with research, and this is why shows like here and how have done so well. All things considered, and morning edition, is most people in San Diego are listening to us while they're in their car. And when you're in a car, the average commute is 15 to 20 minutes. So pulling the stories down gives people ability to hear complete stories that we normally might have taken a half-hour in. Of the other thing is is that we also now have expanded to digital media like KPBS.org and our mobile news site. And that gives people a chance, if you really want to dive even further into an issue is we give people an opportunity on our digital and other news platforms to do more dissecting. So I understand your point, but for us, we feel that we are judgeut going to make more impact at one hour. And it'll be a better paced program, and that was our decision making.
MC: Let's take another call. Arlean is calling us from Mission Hills. Good morning, arlean, welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. I wanted to ask how you arrived at this decision. I have seen increasingly that the public is being removed from public radio because there are fewer opportunities to call in. It sounds like with only one hour there will be even fewer. Yes. And I wondered if you had focus groups, if this is input from your producers' club. I feel that public radio is becoming more and more as my son put it membership sponsored supported radio. And if you're not a member of the club, you're not heard very often.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's get a response from Tom, and thank you for the call, arlean.
CARLO: First of all, we have a variety of ways that we have received information from -- demographic information from the community, arbitron from radio, comments that people have. So it's not all driven by the Producers' Club, ands it's not all driven by members. Everyone has a voice in what we do. And for us, the decision is is what do we think is going to have the biggest impact and reach the most people. The other thing is is that I think we have expanded the ability for people to be public, and that is with the tremendous growth of our website. We have received so many more comments that would never get on the air with a phone call. For example, I was just looking at the comment line on these programming changes. We're over 80 people that have commented on KPBS.org. And they do this every single day. So, you know, These Days we might be eliminating 3 or 4 phone calls in a one hour section on the second hour. But at the same time, 400,000 people are spending their time every month on KPBS.org. And many of them are commenting, and we're growing the blogs with Tom Fudge's blog [CHECK AUDIO]. These are tremendous opportunities for us to of the people and the community like yourself comment. So I think we've expanded that opportunity to stay as public as possible.
CAVANAUGH: We have another caller on the line. Let's see if we can squeeze in Roberto calling from Clairemont. Good morning, robettero, welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. And thank you very much for taking my call. I commend Tom, I remember Tom from shooting a special on Robles way back when.
CARLO: That goes back a lot of years.
NEW SPEAKER: And we've been tracking your meteric recognize --
CARLO: Let me just guess, this Roberto Salinas?
NEW SPEAKER: Yes, it is.
CARLO: Good to hear your voice.
NEW SPEAKER: Nice to hear you.
NEW SPEAKER: One of the things that I think is really important that you've done, and I truly commend you, my hat's off, that it hasn't been since the old KXDO days or KNX days that we have had a viable used information station like you've been building. I think that is so important. And for those of us that are baby boomers and the 48s, I just want to tell you that we're news junkies, and we appreciate, at least I do, and the friends that I hang out with, my own age group, just thank you very, very much. A big hug to you Tom.
CARLO: Thank you very much.
CAVANAUGH: And also, I think Roberto also wanted to mention what was the plan in Imperial Valley. And it's the same programming.
CARLO: It's the same in Imperial Valley. We still are reaching the community in Imperial Valley on KQVO, 97.7, and we're gonna continue to do that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what are all these people who are commenting on our KPBS.org about the schedule changes? What are they saying?
CARLO: Well, I think everyone is speaking from their heart. And I know the classical music audience has been very passionate, and that's why we have tried very hard to keep a web stream available and to educate people on HD radio. But, you know, all said and done, I think it's about the majority is very in favor of that move.
CAVANAUGH: I really appreciate your coming on and talking to us about this.
CARLO: My pleasure Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you very much.
CARLO: You're welcome.
CAVANAUGH: Now, before we close our discussion about the changes at KPBS, we thought we'd take a few minutes to absolute These Days. The show has occupied the 9 to 11 time slot for 20 years and has many loyal fans. We got in touch with two of the show's former hosts, Gloria Penner and Tom Fudge for a bit of a walk down memory lane.
PENNER: From 1960 to 1991, KPBS then known as KEBS, was basically a music station with classical music, country music, and jazz. And the person that pulled it all together was Dan Erwin. And Dan Erwin was a music aficionado, and he worked at KPBS for a total of 16 years. Then in 1991 he helped establish These Days. And the reason that These Days was established was because, no, we were not a news information station, we were not a talk station. But people really demanded talk. And they demanded talk about one subject. And that was the first gulf war. So These Days was established as a two-hour talk show, it is purpose of which was basic toll to hear from the community. And it wasn't until 1991 that we fully enveloped the community as part of the voices that were heard on KPBS. I took over the first hour of These Days in 1995. And I kept that for four years until 1999. And Dan stayed with the second hour. The subjects were so similar to the subjects that we are now discussing. For example, the arguments for and against medical marijuana. And that was before California passed the initiative. And right now, of course, San Diego is wrestling with locating medical marijuana dispensaries. So that's still with us. I would say one of the highlights of my recollections of the late 1990s was an interview I did with mad Lynn Albright. You have to remember where we were. The guests would joke that we were in lavish quarters. It was a closet. And it was hard to find. It was in an old speech arts building way deep in the campus of San Diego state university. There was no parking lot nearby. You had to park far away and then trudge up a hill, find a bunch of trailers, go through the trailers and get into something that just looked like a hallway with lockers. But deep in that hallway was a closet. And that closet was made into a studio. It was funky. It was dirty. It was unpleasant. And when you think about that, just think about taking guests and people like Madeline Albright, who had just been nominated to be the first ever woman secretary of state. She came without an entourage. We couldn't fit an entourage in there. We had no green room. There was no place for people to sit to wait for other people. They had to sort of wait outside on campus. And the wonderful part about all this is that, yes, the guests would joke about the lavish quarters, but they would participate. And then in 1999, change was in the air, as it is now. The program director at the time said change is good. So I left the show, Dan left the show, and Tom Fudge came in and began his almost ten years with These Days.
FUDGE: These Days went through some changes in 1999 when I took over as host. So during the first hour, I was talking about subjects probably similar to the subjects that Gloria Penner talked about. In a sense, it was still the same show, it was just one host instead of two. When I started out, there was just one topic per hour. We would take the 9:00 o'clock hour, and we would choose to speak about, let's say, the energy crisis. We'd get a couple of guests on, and we'd start talking about them, and then we would open up the phones. Then the latter part of the hour was always a lot of interaction with the audience, and the same thing happened during the 10:00 o'clock hour. So it was very much focused on interaction with the audience. Eventually, we ended up with two subjects per hour. And so one of those subjects could be something very short and to the point, maybe ten minutes long, maybe 15 minutes long. But then the second subject would always have that focus on interaction with the audience. Let's of call in. [CHECK AUDIO] and that was something that we really felt that we brought to KPBS that you didn't have anywhere else. I have a lot of wonderful memories of hosting the show. People very often asked me who is the best person you ever interviewed, which is an impossible question to answer. I'm never able to come up with an answer for that. I remember having an investigative reporter, Marcus stern, on the program, Marcus stern was the guy who broke the big story about duke Cunningham and his corruption. Marcus stern came on the show in 2005, 2006, and I remember during that show, we got a call from a listener. And this person was anonymous, but he said I want to say to Marcus stern, look into this business, look into this business. And that was the tip that got Marcus Stern on to Brent Wilks who was another co-supporter in the corruption involving duke Cunningham. So that was a very distinct moment. I remember when we had the UN weapons inspector on our program prior to the invasion of Iraq, when he was on our show saying there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There are no weapons there. They're not gonna find any. And he was right. The other show that I think about when I think about memorable program system when we hosted the blind boys of Alabama. Occasionally we would have musicians come in to do a little bit of music for us. And I was a huge fan of the blind boys, and I still am to this day, and I always think back on that program just prior to Christmas of 2007 as one of the most exciting things I ever did. It wasn't a great conversation. But the music was so terrific.
CAVANAUGH: We just heard from Tom Fudge, and before that, Gloria Penner, two of the form upper hosts of These Days. I came on board as host in January 2009. It's been a wonderful experience meeting authors, politicians, philosophers, comedians, and listening to great musicians performing great music live on the radio. You really the best part has been the response from our listeners and the interest that you've expressed in the people and the stories we've broad cast during the past two years. As These Days transitions, becomes KPBS midday edition, we hope to continue engaging and informing you for many years to come. Just ahead on this hour, we'll round out [CHECK AUDIO] for a new adventure. KPBS midday edition.