What follows is a letter sent from author, educator, and musician Gwen Fortune to a friend affiliated with a local NPR station, explaining the battle in Gainesville:
The former programming on WUFT was balanced, not all music, certainly not all “canned music.” Morning Edition until 9 AM, music until noon, that included the music and information program, Exploring Music at 11 AM, then Terri Gross until 1 PM, music until 3, then NPR’s All Things Considered and other programming into the evening, with music, again, late. Interspersed was “Old Time Radio.” On weekends, Car Talk, Garrison Keillor, the opera in season, jazz and folk music, including the Celtic show.
The balance of news, commentary, and music was a good one. I, personally, can see the change to another hour or two of commentary during the day and evening/night. Diane Rehm is on at 11 AM now, but constant talk, repeated news several times a day, and some kind of heavy rock type music that I heard and quickly moved from one evening.
There is pandering to the least common denominator, the most obvious and crass of tastes, along with “fluff” that I never listened to past 30 seconds. Frankly, I’ve only listened to the new format on occasion. I enjoy some of the news-commentary, but, as I am a social scientist, I have more and better sources of news and analysis than NPR, on a daily basis. LINK-TV has BBC, Al Jazeera, Mosaic, with much more, and in-depth, coverage than NPR — and it manages to have plays, world music, documentaries — better than PBS.
Gainesville, because it is a community with a large number of educated people, as well as the university, had managed to mount a good balance. To completely remove all the previous programming, to offer some of it on HD, firing the former music/programming director (I’m not sure of his title, but he was an excellent engineer). Thank goodness he has been able to find work, in Shreveport, LA, I heard.
My issue is, as is my temperament, the movement in the US to eliminate all “high quality culture.” To accept the commercial marketing model, totally, is a disservice to the nation — not only local people, who can find ways around the loss, as I have, to an extent. What was done here is injustice, the arbitrariness of the move, disrespect for the community of supporters for WUFT-FM for years. This is no way to “win friends and influence people,” especially people with principles, taste, learning, and sometimes deep pockets.
We will survive whatever happens; but a bitter taste and mistrust of the university will last. When thoughtful people learn that NPR is deserting its origins for what is “in,” the result will not bode well for a long time. A new fund drive is on. If they make their quota, our plea is dead, but the results and effects on the community is far from dormant. Most of all, dedicated listeners for miles around — until all the old ones die — will remember.
Of course, the younger generations will know nothing of this story and will accept what pabulum is given to them. Sieg Heil! We have our orders.
Be well, in spite of “Arizona Justice” (sic)