WBUR’s midday news magazine “Here & Now” will expand to two hours and be broadcast around the country by National Public Radio beginning this summer, replacing stalwart “Talk of the Nation” in a first-of-its-kind partnership between NPR and a local public radio station, the broadcasters said Friday.
The new arrangement further elevates WBUR above its closest competitor, WGBH, and could allow “Here & Now” to more than double the number of stations on which it is heard. The program is broadcast on 182 stations through a distribution contract with Public Radio International that is expiring; “Talk of the Nation” airs on 407.
“It’s amazing,” said WBUR general manager Charlie Kravetz. “This is one of the most interesting developments in public radio in a decade. We’re honored to be part of it.”
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The elevation of “Here & Now” to a bigger stage is the result of long-running talks between NPR and its member stations about feeding its loyal audience more magazine-style programming like that on “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” staples of the morning and evening commutes.
Ultimately, NPR decided “Here & Now” was a better option than starting its own program from scratch.
On “Here & Now, “there are more pieces per hour than a typical call-in show, which might spend a half-hour on one topic,” said Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s chief content officer. “There will be a more produced feel, and it’ll be easier for people to dip in and out, which is what we’re seeing as we’ve done studies. So this will be more suited to that.”
In addition, the shorter, stand-alone segments produced for “Here & Now” will be more conducive to a burgeoning mobile marketplace, Kravetz and Wilson said.
“Talk of the Nation,” which features live call-ins from listeners, was a success for more than two decades and “is going out, in many ways, at the top of its game,” Wilson said.
But Jim Russell, a public radio consultant and former NPR producer, called the show tired.
“When it began, it was fresh and novel — a high-end call-in show,” Russell said. “But listeners don’t like the call-in format as much, and there’s a reason they don’t like it: Think of your typical, overeducated, slightly arrogant public radio listener. They think very much of themselves but not very much of the other people calling in.”
The switch from “Talk of the Nation” is slated for early July.
“Talk of the Nation” host Neal Conan will “step away from the rigors of daily journalism,” NPR said in a statement.
“Here & Now” host Robin Young will be joined by Jeremy Hobson, a former producer at WBUR and currently the host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report.” To help fill an extra hour, “Here & Now” will increase its staff from 11 to 17 and feature stories produced by public radio stations from around the country, Kravetz said.
The show’s extended length will push “Fresh Air,” an hourlong public radio program that WBUR broadcasts at 1 p.m., to 2 p.m. “Here & Now” debuted in 1997.