Some thoughts brought on by Cate Plys's recent article ["WBEZ's Big Gamble," September 15]:
It's ironic that station manager Torey Malatia is concerned about WBEZ becoming an antenna for programming produced elsewhere, because that is precisely the direction in which he has taken the station. There's been a steady erosion of local presence on WBEZ, and it has probably hurt the station financially.
It's no secret that the bulk of money pledged to WBEZ is to support programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Car Talk, and Whaddya Know--programs that the station buys, not creates. But to be a success, a public radio station needs to have fealty to more than a couple of nationally produced programs that come in over the transom. There's no reason listeners couldn't also have a passion for shows that are produced here in Chicago. And to the extent that that's not happening, there's something radically wrong.
A couple of suggestions:
(1) Take some of WBEZ's current talent (Gary Covino, John Dempsey, etc) and give them more time on the air.
(2) Bring back eclectic music host Stuart Rosenberg. Ostensibly Stuart was fired to make way for a "streamlined jazz identity" for the station. If the station can accommodate the wonderful program "Thistle & Shamrock," certainly it can accommodate Stuart's equally dynamic program.
(3) Get Ken Davis back on the air. The former program director of the station, if not well liked by certain powerful board members, was highly regarded by listeners as a host of public affairs programs. Since being ushered from the station three years ago he's tried several times to get a program at WBEZ , but to no avail.
I'm thrilled that brilliant Ira Glass is finally about to launch the national program that he envisioned over three years ago. But that's not enough to give WBEZ spirit. If they bolster local programming, maybe the financial support they're so desperate to garner will be forthcoming.
Former staffer, WBEZ