Special thanks to Marcia Alvar of the NPR Local News Initiative and Jeff Hansen of KUOW and the PRPD Board for developing the material in this Handbook. Arthur Cohen also assisted in the effort.


Producing a local news/talk program at the consistently high level of quality our listeners expect requires nothing less than a full station commitment, comprehensive advance planning, effective daily teamwork and relentless, ongoing attention to program quality. This handbook has been prepared to help stations meet this challenge.

This handbook focuses on the fundamental radio basics of doing Talk Shows for public radio listeners. Terrestrial radio remains the foundation of our listening and our support. There are few stations that can succeed in new platforms if the foundation is unsteady.

The advice and “best practices” offered in this handbook are built on audience research, most notably the findings of PRPD’s 2001 Core Values of Local News/Information/Talk Programs and 2006 Sense of Place research done by PRPD and the NPR Local News Initiative. We’ve also included lots of road-tested tools, tips and advice developed by your colleagues.

We’re always looking for more so if you have something you’d like to share, please send it along! What isn’t here – yet anyway – are definitive “best practices” for use of new media. Many programs are experimenting with online and social networking tools (blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc) in an effort to extend and enhance the content they offer. But the jury is still out on the actual value these efforts add for listeners. As we learn more about what works and what doesn’t, we’ll share them in this handbook. So keep us posted – we’re all in this together!

The handbook is organized in five sections:

I. The Listener Service Foundation

What we know about public radio listeners; who they are, what draws them to us and what they expect when they tune in.

II. Building a Strong Infrastructure
A checklist for planning your program’s mission, format, staffing, funding and sustainability.

III. Editorial Planning
Proven practices, tips and tools for selecting and shaping your show’s content.

IV. On the Air

Hosting and interviewing, caller screening, handling and the craft and formatic details and promotion and marketing that go into making great shows.

V. Examples and Tools

Throughout the handbook, you’ll find links to examples and tools developed by your station colleagues. In this section you’ll find them sorted by topic as they as they appear in the Table of Contents

We’re always looking for more so don’t be shy about sending us the tools you’ve developed. You can email them to info@prpd.org.

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