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PRPD/LNI Talk Show Meet Convening
June 9, 10 – Denver, CO 

June 30, 2008

More than a dozen talk show producers, hosts and station PDs met recently to help PRPD and the Local News Initiative identify and develop “next steps” for our joint Talk Show “Best Practices” Project. The title for the meeting was taken from one of the key listener findings of the 2006 PRPD/LNI Sense of Place: The Value and Values of Localism research project.

Meeting Goals
The four main goals of the meeting were to:

  1. Refine and advance the “best practices” identified in the PRPD/LNI Talk Show “Best Practices” Matrix.
  2. Begin developing a common language that can be used to discuss the broad range of programs currently called "local talk."  Even this relatively small group of stations represent an enormous range of presentation; from what we called an “Uber-Produced” program (entirely pre-edited and pre-produced) to “Radio Verite” – all live with very few filters in place including little or no pre-screening of callers on whom these programs rely heavily.
  3. Determine if there is a need and constituency for new training programs and/or conferences targeted to public radio’s talk programmers.
  4. Develop specific ideas for the type of training/conferences that might be desired

Who was There
Stations participating in the discussion included Colorado Public Radio, KNPR, KQED, Oregon Public Broadcasting, KUOW, KXJZ, North Country Public Radio, Vermont Public Radio, WCPN, Wisconsin Public Radio, WNPR, WNYC and WUNC. 

The meeting was planned and facilitated by PRPD President Arthur Cohen, as well as KUOW Program Director Jeff Hansen and LNI Project Manager Marcia Alvar who developed the Talk Show Matrix.

Getting Ready for the Discussion
To prepare for the meeting, attendees were asked to;

  • Review and critique the Matrix
  • Prepare a self-assessment of their programs
  • Provide brief audio excerpts from their programs to illustrate both successes and shortcomings.

These materials provided the focus for the meeting agenda.

We want to thank the participants for the hard work they did to prepare for the discussion, and their willingness to share both their aspirations and assessments of their programs.

A list of attendee goals points to a number of actions that PRPD and LNI can take to help strengthen public radio talk programs.

  • Issue a broader “call” to stations throughout public radio for examples of current talk show practices and tools that may serve as models for others.
  • Explore the creation of regional training sessions. These would be hosted by a station doing a talk show. Observation of the planning, production and critique of the show would be incorporated into the training agenda.
  • Develop training that helps people become trainers themselves – a “Train the Trainers” approach that can strengthen full station staffs rather than just the one person who can attend a workshop.
  • Use the web to provide ongoing listening sessions and critiques as well as topic-focused webinars.
  • Refine the Matrix and reversion into other forms such as handbooks that could be focused in a variety of ways:
    • A handbook for those stations thinking of starting a talk show. This would include more detail about points outlined in the Checklist for Starting a Talk Show.
    • A handbook for those already doing a show that provides “how to” information and guidelines. An early draft for this handbook recaps what we know about our listeners and outlines the key tasks of producers, hosts, Program Directors and News Directors; all play critical roles in the success of these programs. 
  • Issue a broader “call” to stations throughout public radio for examples of training activities they feel could strengthen the listener service of public radio talk programs. 

What Comes Next
PRPD and LNI have already begun work to develop as many of these worthy projects as possible. We also plan to reach out to other potential partners who want to support and participate in this important work.