Paper Radio

Washington Post turns off the radio 

The “shotgun marriage of two distinct journalistic culturesdissolved, to the relief of both parties, as Washington Post Radio came to a mumbling halt. This didn’t disturb the neighbors. No one was listening.

To the suits in the Post’s suites, the venture looked like a continuation of their Web presence by other means, but Washingtonpost.com is still a text-with-pictures medium, like the paper, and radio is not.

Bonneville must have thought there would be all kinds of juicy insights and inside information – frankly, gossip and speculation – not understanding that actual working reporters do not indulge in this type of thing, at least not within earshot of others. The result was a flat “talking newspaper” which left neither partner satisfied. The bad radio voices and conversational skills of some reporters didn’t help, nor did the bad FM reception in most of the DC area.

It is a no-fault divorce but it was the listening audience, promised “more to the story,” that felt cheated, and left first. Partners Bonneville Broadcasting and the Washington Post were always empty-nesters. There are many post-mortems – especially Post-mortems (sorry) – so one more shouldn’t hurt.

Here’s what the Post didn’t know about Bonneville: it doesn’t cook its own productions, and always orders out. It is helpless in the actual aural kitchen of documentary-news radio, where remote live broadcasts, location-recorded ambient sound, and judicious mixing and editing provide nourishment for the ear and mind.

Public radio can overdo the ambient sound, and all-news mills like WTOP go heavy on live remotes and annoying interval beeps and station ID jingles, but neither ignores the fact that radio is sound. WaPo radio did.

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