As we settle into the new year here at JPR, we’ve made some significant program changes that we hope you’ve had an opportunity to sample. We’ve shifted several of the programs that have been on the JPR airwaves for years between our three networks and have added several new programs to our schedule that have been high on our listener request list, such as Radiolab, The Moth Radio Hour and the return of Science Friday.
Concurrent with these changes, we’ve also begun 24-hour per day operation of our Classics & News and Rhythm & News networks (our News & Information Service began operating 24 hours per day several years ago). While this change will cost us a bit more in programming and transmitter utility expense, we hope it provides additional service for JPR listeners who are night owls and early birds.
As we implement these changes and listeners become accustomed to our new program schedules, I thought I’d provide a brief overview of how we approach program changes here at JPR.
First and foremost, we select programs that are consistent with our mission — providing in-depth news grounded by strong journalistic standards, music that is not heard on commercial stations and entertainment programs that tell interesting, funny and sometimes poignant stories about what it means to be human. Once a program meets this mission test, we consider a multitude of factors, such as a program’s cost, how a program fits into the balance of news/talk versus music in our schedules, how a program melds with the programs around it providing a natural transition to the next program and whether a program provides a complementary choice between our three networks. The cold, hard truth is then faced — that whenever a new program is added it must replace one that someone in our audience enjoys. To evaluate which programs may have run their course, we use audience data we obtain from independent sources, listener feedback gathered throughout the year and during fund drives, and we research how programs have succeeded in other communities that have audience characteristics similar to those in the State of Jefferson.
At the end of the day, finalizing a program schedule is more art than science. While we never select programs based on our own individual preferences or tastes, ultimately choices do express the aesthetic judgment of our programming staff as we interpret the interests and sensibilities of our listeners. And, while emotions sometimes run hot if someone’s favorite program has been replaced, we also keep in perspective that nothing we do can’t be modified if we believe we’ve made a mistake.
We hope you’ll enjoy some of the new offerings on JPR. Frankly, we’re excited to shake things up a bit and believe several new programs we’ve added to our schedules will provide some of the most interesting and engaging “driveway moments” in the months and years ahead.
Paul Westhelle is Executive Director of Jefferson Public Radio.