I love public radio. It’s one of the staples of my media consumption. Even call it the protein on my plate.
And when I moved to Detroit a couple of years ago I was delighted to find a robust local program line-up on WDET (101.9 FM), Detroit’s National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate.
I am not only a consumer of news, I’m also somewhat of a connoisseur as I‘ve worked in the media business most of my career – and I am a woman of a certain age. So I have a wide perspective.
In the 90’s (oooh, that sounds so last century) I lived and worked in Chicago and was a news anchor for the major NPR affiliate there, WBEZ (91.5 FM).
If I don’t say so myself, our team at the time made that station hum and we had a great time doing it.
A hallmark of the group was its gender and diversity make-up.
There was Cheryl Corley, the news director, and Allison Keyes, a then-young and eager reporter – both African American, who are now NPR correspondents. The awesome Arab American Shirley Jahad, who always astounded me with her ability to synthesize complex issues and spit them out so we could all understand (she too continues in the public radio orbit at KPCC, 89.3FM in Southern California).
Also on the air at that time were daily host Mara Tapp, arts reporter Victoria Lautman and local Morning Edition host, Heidi Goldfein.
There were also very skilled newsmen as well as part of this awesome mix. This conscious effort to embrace diversity was a culture that was obviously engendered within the station.
Which brings me to the team of WDET, especially now since they are in the midst of one of their big fund drives. I will wake every morning to their pledge requests and listen to them while I’m driving.
I have done my part to pledge my $10 per month support since I’ve been in Detroit and I intend to do it again. But when I receive the phone call for my yearly commitment this time, I will make sure that the phone bank person on the other end registers not only my credit card info, but this very important question:
Where are the women in the key on-air news slots on WDET?
Let’s recap (this info directly from WDET’s website – so that we have all the correct details). Newsman Pat Batcheller kicks off the local program day as WDET host of Morning Edition. Craig Fahle, a linchpin in the daily programming and, I see, taking an increasingly larger high profile role, is the host of the daily talk show that carries his name. Quinn Klinefelter, Noah Ovshinsky and Rob St. Mary are reporting and Travis Wright holds down the on-air host role during the afternoon programming of All Things Considered.
All of these men do a fine job and I enjoy listening to them.
But I would also appreciate hearing skilled and talented on-air women.
It would appear the ‘women’s corner’ of WDET is occupied by the lone (or would that be lonely) Martina Guzman, a feature reporter.
J. Carlisle Larsen, with real on-air potential, is given a minute or two to talk about trending topics on Twitter. She covers Twitter.
Erica Murphy is on the weekend fringe doing news cut-ins.
Other than that and a couple women producers who do some reporting from time-to-time, it’s very much, I dare say, a boys’ club.
As I mentioned, creating diversity in a workspace is about creating a culture that supports it. I know nothing about the team culture at WDET but I would guess there’s room for some tweaking on this front.
And when I pledge this time I intend to issue the invitation to the WDET decision-makers to start looking toward the female reportorial talent within greater Detroit.