Look out WNYC, there’s a new public radio station in play for top positions on the iTunes podcast chart. WBUR’s new show "Modern Love," a collaboration with The New York Times, hit #1 on the day of its debut last week, momentarily dethroning the mighty "Serial." On this week’s episode of "The Pub," we talk about how they did it with WBUR Managing Producer of Program Development Jessica Alpert and Daniel Jones, longtime editor of the NYT’s “Modern Love” column, on which the show is based.
Also on the show, host Adam Ragusea reads through some of Bill Siemering’s 1971 "All Things Considered..." launch memo to stations, a remarkable historical document that we recently digitized. "ATC" today bears only so much resemblance to Siemering’s idealistic vision.
PBS’s “Mercy Street” has two daunting jobs to do at once: A) replace “Downton Abbey,” the most successful drama in PBS history; B) prove that American public television can make great scripted TV instead of just importing it from the U.K.
Has this Civil War medical drama succeeded against that nearly impossible yardstick? We ask Slate culture critic (and native Brit) June Thomas. Short answer: No. This week, we hear Thomas’ take on where PBS’s big-budget effort went wrong, and contemplate the role of expensive dramatic series in public service broadcasting.
Also, Michigan Radio proves what public media is all about with its Flint water coverage, and host Adam Ragusea argues that news people should stop referring to Martin Luther King Jr. as “Dr. King.”
B.J. Leiderman was an underachieving student at American University in Washington — studying “shall we say, chemistry, wink wink,” he says — when a friend who worked at NPR helped him land the gig that would define his career: composing theme music for NPR’s then-new show, Morning Edition. Commissions to score five more national radio shows followed, and now “B.J. Leiderman” is a household name among the millions of people who hear it in the credits.
Leiderman sincerely relishes his public radio fame, but it’s been a tough high-water mark to try to reach again in the years since. He’s a delightful, charming and talented guy whose life and career have been hampered by mental health problems, chronic illness and his white whale of an album — a collection of pop tunes called “Natural Public Leiderman” that he’s been working on for decades, hoping to capitalize on his NPR fame.
This week on The Pub we hear some of that album, along with the story of how Leiderman got his big break with NPR and what he’s been doing since.
Also, we catch up on some of the public media news that broke while the show was on holiday hiatus, including NPR Silicon Valley reporter Steve Henn’s very public resignation, the release of a rap album based entirely on samples from public radio programs, and Oregon Public Broadcasting’s excellent coverage of the ongoing armed occupation of a federal building.