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NPR's afternoon news show turns 30
By PAMELA DAVIS, St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001

While news coverage is almost obsolete on commercial radio stations, National Public Radio's All Things Considered is still on the air and still going strong.

While news coverage is almost obsolete on commercial radio stations, National Public Radio's All Things Considered is still on the air and still going strong.

The news program, which reaches its 30th anniversary on Thursday, is now heard on more than 530 stations by 10-million listeners across the country. Locally, about 105,000 people listen weekly on WUSF-FM 89.7 from 4 to 6 p.m.

All Things Considered is like a radio version of Time magazine. The show airs everything from news, business and science reports to arts features, political and social commentary and satire. It gives listeners stories and context not offered on many radio stations.

"Commercial radio just sort of gave up on news because they underestimated the awareness and intelligence level of the audience," says Noah Adams, one of three hosts of the show. "More and more stations are owned by fewer and fewer companies, and the grand old news stations aren't there anymore."

Adams, who has been with the show for 17 years, handles the hosting duties with Robert Siegel and Linda Wertheimer. The two-hour show is broadcast from Washington, D.C., with reports filed worldwide.

When All Things Considered started in 1971, it was 90 minutes long and heard on about 90 stations. The first show included on-site coverage of anti-war demonstrations in Washington.

Part of the evolution of All Things Considered is due to the increasing number of NPR member stations. More stations has meant more funds raised, including more corporate support. Now the show has the money to do things such as send a correspondent to a Russian language school before dispatching her to cover stories in Moscow.

Without commercials to contend with, time is also on the program's side.

"Not that every story needs more time but you can do stories at a longer length and get into a situation that's pretty captivating for an audience," Adams says. "You can also do that with interviews. I can't write and produce a radio story that is

more compelling than the best conversation where it's so intimate and real that people feel as if they're eavesdropping."

Adams, 59, estimates that he has done about 20,000 interviews during his time with All Things Considered.

"The thing that makes it worthwhile for me is to go some place and talk to people who don't know or care who I am. They are working at something that's important for their community," Adams says. "Maybe you can help them and maybe you can't but they don't really care because they are just going on with their work."

To mark the program's anniversary next week, Adams, Siegel and Wertheimer will each host a broadcast highlighting a controversial or groundbreaking issue from 30 years ago and how the issue has evolved or been reconciled.

WQYK'S WEAKEST LINK: Though their decision was not permanent, listeners of country station WQYK-FM 99.5 got the chance to play general manager last weekend during the station's "Weakest Link Weekend" promotion.

Based on NBC's new television game show, listeners were asked to vote for the weakest link among WQYK's on-air staff. With 3,800 votes cast by phone and online, afternoon personality Dave McKay got the boot. Hank Dale, midday man and host of the Classic Cafe, was a distant second.

"Now there's a morale-building station promotion," Radio Ink, an industry publication, commented on its Web site earlier this week.

"I don't care what people outside the market say," responded WQYK operations manager Eric Logan. "Listeners thought it was a fun and a different way to interact with the radio station."

As the weakest link, McKay wasn't allowed to co-host the Randy and Dave Show Monday from 3 to 7 p.m.


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