Weekend All Things Considered
If you at all follow the business of public radio the way I do (just kidding no one does that), you might have heard that Weekend All Things Considered is moving from NPR West in Culver City.
I don’t think I can really say how much WATC (pronounced WATT-see within NPR) has meant to my very young career without explaining why I love public radio over, say commercial radio. Public radio always seemed to me like a celebration of the unusual. The best stories that I’ve ever listened to or that I’ve ever produced had consistent surprises in them; a bunch of little things that would provide insight and/or revelations. WATC exemplified that to me.
In that interview linked above, you’ll hear Steve Lickteig, my old boss and the recently-dubbed former Executive Producer of WATC, talking about the working environment that he tried to establish during his four year tenure as the head of the show. To paraphrase: Steve was all about making WATC a producer driven show, meaning that the people behind the scenes had as much if not more pull on what went on the air as the host did.
Steve told me about this value in the show when I was first interviewing to be the penultimate intern for WATC. When he gave me a chance to ask him a question, I wanted to know what made his leadership distinct from others, he said that his show was focussed on letting his producers get creative and come up with great ideas. When I asked him what his eventual goal was for me should I get this internship, he said he wanted to forget that I was the intern and wanted to consider me a full (albeit underpaid) producer.
True to his word Steve, along with host Arun, editor Muthoni and producers Becky H., Becky S, Tom, Phil, Priska and Danny, all helped me on my way to be considered a fully-fledged member of the team. They let me make my mistakes, the encouraged me to ask questions, they helped me form my best ideas for air. While other interns at NPR were lucky to get one or two stories on the air at the end of their learning experiences, I had over a dozen.
The one that stands out to me as a true testament of Steve trusting his workers was after the earthquake in Nepal earlier this year. Breaking news always means throwing out the lead and putting the most pertinent story at the top of the hour an this time, it was about the earthquake. Of all the people who had proven themselves to be great reporters, Steve asked me to book a reporter in Nepal, produce the conversation and edit it for air. So there I am as a freakin’ INTERN and my piece is getting trusted to lead the show at the top of the hour. I still feel weird saying I got to do that.
It’s a testament to the way WATC was run. Since it was such an open and friendly working environment it also meant that people weren’t afraid to take chances with their work. Sometimes it didn’t work out, but a lot of the time it did. It made for great radio. It made the show (dare I say it?) special.
I’m sure Steve never intended to work on WATC for the rest of his life. I’m just grateful that he gave me the opportunity to learn in this environment. I really don’t know where my career is going after the show moves and my temp-duties are over. I just know that WATC in Culver City gave me almost everything I could ask for in my fledgling career: an idea friendly environment, a healthy modicum of professional radio to call my own and enough creative freedom to take risks every so often. And for that, I’m grateful.
Michel Martin and Kenya Young will be the new host and Executive Producer of WATC, respectively, once it moves back to D.C. I don’t know them personally, but from their body of work, I’m sure they’ll be producing great content over the course of their tenure. Even though I’m sad to see the show leave Culver City, I don’t think that they’ll be forgetting what made it great.