An expanded version of WBUR’s midday news magazine “Here & Now” debuted Monday on more than 300 National Public Radio stations across the country, launching the first-ever partnership between NPR and one of its member stations on a daily news program.
“Here & Now,” broadcast on WBUR’s airwaves since 1997, has doubled its length to two hours and now includes reports from NPR journalists, along with content from 15 other NPR stations that form the show’s contributor network.
NPR estimates the program will reach 3.1 million listeners per week, more than double the number who tuned in when “Here & Now” was syndicated by Public Radio International.
Robin Young, the show’s host for 13 years, co-anchors the revamped program with Jeremy Hobson, a former producer at WBUR and most recently the host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report.”
The addition of “Here & Now” to NPR’s national lineup, in place of the long-running call-in show “Talk of the Nation,” represents a significant milestone for WBUR.
“This is such an exciting moment that I can’t even believe it,” WBUR general manager Charlie Kravetz said in his office, minutes before “Here & Now” went live for the first time in its new form. “The idea that NPR would team up with a member station to do one of its core news programs is such a change.”
The new “Here & Now” opened with a report on the Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters over the weekend. In an early test of the show’s contributor network, Young introduced reporter Laurel Morales of KJZZ in Tempe, who was live in Peeples Valley, Ariz. After a brief silence, Morales came through loud and clear.
In the control room, “Here & Now” managing editor Chris Ballman, who coordinates the contributor network, let out an audible “whew!”
The rest of the show went smoothly, an auspicious start that NPR hopes will lead to “Here & Now” becoming a fixture on member stations’ schedules. For now, the program reaches slightly fewer listeners than the 3.5 million “Talk of the Nation” did. Meanwhile, “The Takeaway,” a midday show produced by WNYC in New York and distributed by PRI, has increased its listenership in the last two months.
But Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s chief content officer, said he does not view “Here & Now” and “The Takeaway” as competitors, noting that some stations have chosen to air both shows, at different times.
“We exceeded our initial goal, and I’m confident that we will see listenership increase over what was in that time slot before,” Wilson said.