Is this man the next Garrison Keillor?


I won’t keep you in suspense; I don’t know. But a news release from American Public Media today, coupled with the occasional remark from Garrison Keillor that he might retire will certainly lead to speculation that John Moe, pictured, might be the answer to a question that media observers have been asking for years: What’s the post-“A Prairie Home Companion” landscape look like at Minnesota Public Radio?

The lede on the release was that David Brancaccio, Marketplace’s special correspondent and recent host of Marketplace Morning Report, will be taking on the role of host of Marketplace Tech Report. That’s a job now held by Moe.

But this is the real news: 

By having Brancaccio host Marketplace Tech Report, its current host, John Moe, will devote the full measure of his talents and energy to Wits, Minnesota Public Radio’s two-year old show that features creative storytelling and musical performances by some of America’s most talented writers and musicians including Fred Willard, Roseanne Cash, Andy Richter, Amy Sedaris and They Might Be Giants.

Moe has been hosting the show, since its launch, in addition to his on-going duties hosting Marketplace Tech Report.

“In just two years, Wits has established itself as a weekend destination for great storytelling, great music and illuminating conversation” said McAlpine. “We think there is enormous potential for Wits to go national and John’s absolutely the right person to lead that effort.”

“It has been a fantastic opportunity to host and develop Marketplace Tech Report, while also pursuing my passion for music and storytelling on stage in front of a live studio audience,” said Moe. “With Tech Report in such good hands, I’m free to plunge whole-heartedly [sic] into Wits and into making it a national show. I’m thrilled.”

When asked the obvious question (the one in the headline to this post), Moe played the good soldier.

“I think we already have a Garrison Keillor, don’t we?” he said.

Wit’s recent finale — moved to a Saturday night from its Friday evening incubator — could hardly have been more inviting to a comparison with A Prairie Home Companion.

Wits is, to put it succinctly, hip. It attracts the children and grandchildren of Keillor’s audience, which still sets the traditional public radio image. But for how much longer? Public radio needs younger listeners for long-term survival.

Keillor “announced” more than a year ago that he would step aside as host in 2013, then later in the year seemed to backtrack from the announcement.

The show still packs them in, especially when it hits the road. There’s a comfortable “sameness” to it, and there’s no indication anyone in public radio is anxious to move Keillor along.

But with the recent announcement that Car Talk — another public radio icon — would cease production in October, there’s been more speculation (including in this space) about whether public radio has a plan for replacing an aging fleet.

If Moe is part of one, his employers (who are also my employers) aren’t saying.

(Update 7/11 7:22 a.m.) — “I don’t see Wits in relation to a ‘post APHC world,'” Judy McAlpine, the senior vice president and general manager of American Public Media, says. “APHC is going strong and we are much more focused on the current world where APHC and Garrison Keillor continue to delight fans with a beloved program. In my view, no one is going to replace Garrison Keillor. He is one of a kind. Wits is its own project, with its own personality, John Moe, and will develop on its own terms. Overall, I think there is room in public radio for many unique programs and personalities to bring joy to people’s lives.”