A few months ago, I noted
that Ohio University's WOUB
is a much better public radio station than West Virginia Public Broadcasting
. Well, a week or two back, an employee of WVPB asked why I felt that way. I've been thinking for a bit on how to answer that question (and if I even really agree with my previous assessment) and have decided to pit the two networks against each other in a "death match." In other words, I'll compare and contrast them in a few different categories from the perspective and bias of an over-educated, under-paid 20-something guy in Huntington and see who comes out on top based on overall aggregate scoring.Category 1: Drive-time Programming
For the most part, the two networks play the same stuff during the morning and evening rush hour, as they both run "Morning Edition" in the AM and "All Things Considered" in the PM. There are, however, some variations with which we can compare the two. In the morning, WVPB runs a show called "West Virginia Morning" over some segments of "Morning Edition." This program is usually anchored by Beth Vorhees and is a mix of news headlines and in-depth features from around the state. WOUB, on the other hand, has local anchor Chris Riddle reading headlines for stories of interest in the Tri-State area, including political news from Columbus, Charleston, and Frankfort. As for the evening programs, they are essentially the same, other than WVPB switching to PRI's "The World" at 6 PM while WOUB has another hour of "ATC."
I give the drive-time nod to WVPB, as Beth Vorhees is the best anchorperson to be found in West Virginia on radio or television. Chris Riddle is a fine newsreader, but that is about all they offer other than a segment called "Family Health" (that being said, I do dial in WOUB whenever a WVPB story gets long and boring). I also like the fact that they switch to "The World" at 6 rather than subject the audience to another hour of "ATC" repeats.
WVPB 1, WOUB 0Category 2: Daytime Programming
While the morning and evening rush hour on the stations are rather similar, their programming between 9 AM and 4 PM couldn't be any more different (well, maybe if one of them played death metal, but you know what I mean). WOUB has a talk radio format with "The Diane Rehm Show" and "Talk of the Nation," among others, while WV Public Radio stations air music shows featuring classical, baroque, opera, etc.
While I know that classical music radio stations are considered by some to be an endangered treasure and I suppose that I am grateful that such an option is available to me, I have to go with WOUB's daytime talk format. I'd rather hear intelligent speech while I'm at work than some music that I barely understand (the music programs in my public school system sucked balls unless you wanted to be in a marching band). Plus, the middle-of-the-road talk format can be used to drown out and refute the office Dittoheads
WVPB 1, WOUB 1Category 3: Feature Reporting
This one ain't even close. While WOUB tends to send student reporting scurrying about to cover the usual crap, WVPB has the two of the three (along with the AP's Lawrence Messina
) best field journalists/interviewers in the state in Anna Sale and Scott Finn. Sale is fearless and thorough in her investigative pieces on topics relevant to many West Virginians such as mountaintop removal and inadequate care for WV's elderly population. Finn has the most finely-tuned bullshit detector of anyone this side of Tim Russert and has busted the balls of everyone from RFK, Jr. to Russell Sobel
to Chuck E. Cheese.
WVPB 2, WOUB 1Category 4: Headline News
Okay, this one I will admit is totally subjective, but I would for the most part rather listen to WOUB's review of new stories than those given by WVPB. WOUB covers a portion of southeastern Ohio, western West Virginia, and northeastern Kentucky, usually known as the Tri-State, that is a functional and cohesive culture region while WVPB has to cover the entire state, which is an oddly-drawn collection of microcultures smushed together with a common governor, legislature, and little else. Therefore, from WOUB I get news from nearby places like Athens, Ashland, Portsmouth, Ironton, and (my hometown) Huntington. You know, the cities about which I actually give a rat's ass. Come to think of it, WOUB might give even more attention to Huntington than our own state's public radio news, but that would require hours of research by a communications grad student to prove conclusively. WVPB, on the other hand, is regularly telling me stories about zoning problems in the Eastern Panhandle and Morgantown and urban decline in Wheeling. Don't get me wrong, I understand that, as cities bound under a common political regime, what happens in one of those places does indeed have an impact on Huntington and Cabell County. Put, when push comes to shove, I really do care more about what happens to folks in nearby cities that I visit regularly, even if they are in another state, than the events taking place 5 hours away in locations that I will likely never visit. I understand WVPB has to do what it has to do and that they aren't the only news outlet who thinks that the world ends at Virginia Point Park
(I'm looking at you, WOWK). But, yea, I gotta do what I gotta do, too.
WVPB 2, WOUB 2Category 5: Local Entertainment And Documentary Shows
When it comes to great local programming, I would imagine that it is hard to beat WOUB in the small-to-midsized market category. WOUB brings its listeners kick-ass music shows like "Crossing Boundaries," "D 28 + 5 Bluegrass," "Live From Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch," and "Hornpipe and Fugue." WVPB isn't too shabby when taken by itself, with "Mountain Stage" getting national syndication and some cool shows hosted by Jim Lange. However, those programs, "Inside Appalachia," and a BORING show about old people are all they can really throw up against the WOUB juggernaut
. The gang in Athens takes this one handily.
WVPB 2, WOUB 3Category 6: Pledge Drives
WVPB makes you feel a little bit less like a goddamn thief for listening to their station without pledging some cashish than WOUB does during their pledge drives. But only a by little, so they only get a half of a point.
WVPB 2.5 , WOUB 3Category 7: The Internet
If this was a couple of months ago, I would have just said "next" and given the point to WOUB but, as one of ...ASAT's readers pointed out, WVPB now has streaming audio. That alone goes a long way in improving my opinion of WV Public Radio. That being said, the web presence of WOUB is still light years ahead of WVPB's. WOUB's url is easier to navigate, gives better detail about programing, and the streaming audio is more reliable than that of WVPB (which is prone to skitching out every 10 seconds). Hopefully this will change soon, as WVPB will have to rely on the 'net to reach the many mountain towns not serviced by a broadcast affiliate.Final Score:WVPB 2.5, WOUB 4
Well, it does indeed appear that I consider WOUB to be a better public radio network than WV Public Broadcasting, but not by "much," as I had previously stated. Furthermore, the margin of victory falls within the realm of the subjective, as a 45 year-old classical music lover who grew up in Martinsburg and went to WVU could easily score this as 4.5 to 2 for WVPB. But with that being said, the radio of this and many other Huntingtonians will be set to 89.1 a good bit more than on 89.9..
Labels: Anna Sale, Athens, Beth Vorhees, Death Match, Huntington, Ohio University, Radio, Scott Finn, West Virginia, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, WOUB