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WBEZ Lets Go Of Its Bloggers

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 11, 2013 8:40PM

2013_6_11_chicago_public_radio.jpg WBEZ has let go of its talented and expert crew of bloggers in a cost-cutting move. And it's a talented and respected crew including John R. Schmidt (history), Louisa Chu (food and drink), Claire Zulkey (pop culture), and Chicagoist weekend contributor Chris Bentley (environmental issues).

The Reader's Michael Miner spoke with WBEZ's "Dueling Critics" Jonathan Abarbanel and Kelly Kleiman, and executive producer Justin Kaufmann, who confirmed the news and told Miner the station will be shifting to more listener-generated content and audience participation.

"The idea where we present a piece of journalism—15 minutes with the mayor, and the host would act like Charlie Rose or John Callaway—we're trying to change that. The mayor comes on and you ask the questions. You have to train your audience to do that. My first goal is to get audience interaction, so everyone knows it's a show you call in to. We're just about there. Every local show has to have the audience involved in some way. They call in, or it's 'Ray left this comment on Facebook.' The goal is audience interaction on every single show."

He allows that "most city officials don't like that sort of stuff. Mayor Emanuel doesn't want to come on for an hour and take calls."

Not from your engaged audience! I say.

"Yeah," says Kaufmann. But because they are so engaged, "that's exactly why we can pull it off."

In an ironic twist, the new focus on listener-generated content reminds us of how Vocalo, Chicago Public Media's red-headed stepchild, was founded, and it was at Vocalo where most of the core WBEZ blogs originated.