Debut of The Anti-Morning Edition Sounds Like It's Still A Work In Progress
I didn't think I needed another public-radio news show to listen to when I woke up. And after hearing the debut of "The Takeaway" this morning, I'm pretty sure I still don't.
But that doesn't mean I won't listen again.
In case you didn't get to hear it -- and that would be in most of the country -- "The Takeaway" is meant to serve as a counterweight to "Morning Edition," ostensibly aimed at a younger demographic. It's a news show for folks who ordinarily listen to news on the radio. Or so the show's creators want you to believe.
WNYC in New York is producing the program in conjunction with Public Radio International. The BBC, The New York Times and WGBH in Boston will also be contributing to "The Takeaway."
"There are many people who are curious and intelligent and looking for a news show, but many of them are turned off by the style of public radio," WNYC president and CEO Laura Walker told The Wall Street Journal.
What Walker doesn't say is exactly what void "Morning Edition" has left those curious and intelligent types in. Are they turned off by in-depth reporting from around the world? Cogent, informed interviews? The heart-rending tales heard every Friday from Story Corps?
Can see how all of that would be a real turn-off.
"The Takeaway" offers up journalistic bona fides with broadcasting vets John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji (above), and attempts a more-conversational style to reflect on the news of the day rather than rely on reports in the field.
All well and good, except when the conversation goes on for a bit too long, as it did with oil expert Lisa Margonelli. And the interview with Zimbabwe's U.N. ambassador was a waste of time even before it started. No one associated with "The Takeaway" should have presumed this clown was going do anything less than lip-sync Robert Mugabe's warped perspective. And he didn't disappoint.
While we're at it, WNYC could also do away with the electronica it beds underneath the local news update at the bottom of the hour. Anyone who tries too hard to be hip just isn't.
Still, "The Takeaway" deserves a chance to succeed, even if it means you must chase after the second live hour of "Morning Edition" on the AM dial from 6-7, when "The Takeaway" is on WNYC-FM (the uninterrupted "Morning Edition feed is heard on FM from 7-9).
For one, Hockenberry has built up a strong reservoir of goodwill from public radio listeners over the years, none of which he squandered during his TV stints. He's capable of righting this ship if it's ever in danger of listing.
Second, given the organizations behind "The Takeaway," there is ample talent behind the scenes to put a little more polish on the finished product. At times what went on the air felt a little raw. One of the show's conceits is it'll let listeners email and comment on what stories they want to hear next or have talked about in greater depth.
Maybe they should hold off on that for now. News on the fly doesn't work when you're still learning how to walk. For now, "The Takeaway" can aspire to be bold, but take baby steps. Slow but steady now means you won't crash and burn later.