Three very successful public radio organizations are celebrating many years of public media service this year. WGLT, Normal/Bloomington is the oldest-timer of the bunch, turning 50 this year. WUNC, Chapel Hill is marking 40 years and New Hampshire Public Radio has 35 candles on the cake.
Anniversaries like these are reminders of the legacy of public broadcasting and a caution to remain diligent in the fast moving media landscape. The three organizations have become “content factories,” serving their communities with on multiple platforms.
WGLT: BRINGING NEWS, JAZZ & IDEAS TO CENTRAL ILLINOIS
I’ve always had a special interest in WGLT because of family connection to Illinois State University. My grandfather was a math and astronomy professor at ISU for many years. I spent parts of several summers there when I was a kid enjoying Steak ‘n Shake, the Castle Theater (where my dad worked with his friend McLean Stevenson of M*A*S*H fame) and the rolling hills of Miller Park. Radio, back in those days meant WJBC or my favorite WLS from Chicago.
WGLT [link] signed on in 1966. For the first few years it was a student station. In the mid 1970s WGLT became part of National Public Radio, one of the first Illinois members of NPR. Like many public radio stations of that era, WGLT had a checkerboard schedule of local talk shows, blocks of jazz and classical, plus coverage of the ISU Redbird football, basketball and baseball games.
Then Bruce Bergethon entered the picture. He brought WGLT into modern times.
Bergethon became WGLT’s manager in 1990. During his 25 years leading WGLT (he retired in 2015) the station focused it’s programming on NPR News and Jazz music, upgraded the Bloomington signal to maximum power, added a signal to serve Peoria and resolved several major financial challenges. Way to go, Bruce.
WUNC CELEBRATES ITS 40th ANNIVERSARY ON SEPTEMBER 10th WITH A PARTY
|KEN MILLS PRI 1994|
I visited WUNC twice during the time I was Director of News at Public Radio International (PRI). Execs at PRI split up the chore of participating in regional station meetings. WUNC was part of North Carolina Public Radio and attending its meetings were not most folks first choice, so they sent me and I loved it, particularly Chapel Hill. My most vivid memory was when I was at the old office/studio location. My guide, Kevin Wolfe I believe, showed me WUNC’s back up power source: The world’s largest “D cell” battery.
Somehow after WWII UNC acquired the hugest battery I have ever seen. It took up an entire room and looked like a prop in a sci-fy flick. I recall saying to Wolfe At least it is portable!
WUNC celebrates its first 40 years with a festival on Saturday, September 10th from 2pm – 6pm at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in suburban Cary. The event will feature live music, food trucks and children’s activities. Chatham County Line and the Red Clay Ramblers are scheduled to perform. “WUNC Personalities” will also be there no doubt singing and dancing. More information is at [link].
NEW HAMPSHIRE PUBLIC RADIO HAS BECOME A REGIONAL NEWS SOURCE
In 1981, what became New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) started as one station: WEVO in Concord. At the time, they called it Granite State Public Radio. In 1983 they faced their first existential crisis at around the same time as the NPR crisis. Because NHPR was/is an unaffiliated community licensee, they turned to their members. More than 1,000 good folks stepped up and pledged enough support to keep WEVO on the air. Though NHPR’s finances are more stable now, that same spirit is still present.
Under the wise leadership of General Manager Mark Handley in 1991 they officially became New Hampshire Public Radio and built a statewide network of repeater stations and translators.
During Handley’s tenure NHPR invested in locally originated programming beginning with a daily talk/interview show hosted by Keene native and NPR newscaster, Laura Knoy. The show became The Exchange and it is now NHPR’s flagship program.
Read a fascinating complete history of NHPR at [link].