|By Allan I. Ross|
WKAR launches bold new daily radio show focusing on local contentWhen 90.5 WKAR-FM debuted in October 1948, it was Lansing’s first FM radio station. For most of its 64 years, it has been content to broadcast public radio fare like “All Things Considered” and classical music while the rest of the dial slowly filled up with whipper-snapper commercial stations.
On Monday, however, the station will enter a new realm when it launches an unconventional new show that is startling only in its conventionality: a daily radio news magazine dedicated to local content.
“There’s very little we’ve taken off the table as far as content goes,” says Mark Bashore, producer and host of “Current State,” which premieres at 9 a.m. Monday. “Politics is going to be a part of it, but we’re consciously trying to give it a magazine-type format, so we’ll be able to delve into any number of topics.”
This format is a growing trend, with public radio stations in Texas and Pittsburgh recently starting similar shows. Last September, 91.7 WUOM-FM, Ann Arbor´s public radio station, launched “Stateside with Cythnia Canty,” a Michigan-centric talk show. “Current State” is also attracting new talent to the area: Bashore says that the station has snagged Joe Linstroth, an award-nominated contributor for WBEZ in Chicago.
“Current State” is WKAR’s solution to the challenge the producers set for themselves: to expand the station’s footprint and devote more time to local content.
“Our news department has covered spot news and long-form feature stories, but this explodes the whole concept with a local and mid-Michigan focus,” Bashore says. “This is a great opportunity to become more engaged with local audiences and run our fingers into the Lansing area.”
Some segments will be tpaed, but the bulk of the programming will be done live — and, Bashore says, with good reason.
“Live radio has a bite that you can’t get otherwise,” he says. “Having the governor or (Lansing Mayor) Virg (Bernero) in the studio has an impact that gets lost when it gets prerecorded. It’s not the same.”
The first episode will be dedicated to the State of the State address, which will be held that night. Bashore says that regular segments will include sports, business and local entertainment, with a weekly live music piece that will be able to utilize the baby grand piano that will soon be installed in the studio’s rehabbed space.
“This is something a whole lot looser than what other people have gotten accustomed to on public radio,” Bashore says. “It’s serious when it needs to be serious, but we’re going to have fun as often as we can.”