Booted from public radio, an old-timer turns to podcasting

With somewhat less fanfare, another high-profile public radio show is departing the earthly airwaves, this time to the dismay of its long-time host.

Michael Feldman, host of Whad’Ya Know?, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was “blindsided” when Wisconsin Public Radio canceled the program. The last broadcast is Saturday.

“‘Here’s the press release’,” he said WPR told him. “‘This blank is where you say what you say. It’s set to go out.'”

He started the program in 1985, but its decline mirrors much of what public radio has experienced. Other stations, who pay WPR to carry the show, have stopped carrying it and the money crunch dictated the move, the Journal Sentinel says.

“Whad’Ya Know?” is as much a Wisconsin tradition as Bob Uecker and Friday fish fries. Even its title has a dairy state flair.

Some suggested this regional flavor hurt him nationally, but a similar approach did not seem to hurt Minnesotan Keillor.

Feldman’s time slot — Saturday morning from 10 a.m. until noon — is public radio prime time. The Saturday morning time slot was vacant until he started his show.

“Now everybody wants to be there,” said Jack Mitchell, WPR director from 1976 to 1998 and now a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His competition in the time slot includes “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”, a nationally syndicated comedy quiz show based in Chicago. The show was developed by National Public Radio after Feldman left for American Public Radio in the 1990s, Mitchell said.

There has been bad blood between the shows since Feldman called it “Wait Wait…Don’t Wake Me.” The Chicago show badmouthed him in return.

Like many other initiatives in the public broadcasting sphere, the show may migrate to the world of podcasting. Feldman says a Kickstarter campaign has made it possible to give it a try, although he seems to lack a certain excitement about the possibility.

“Everything now is narrow casting,” he lamented to a Cleveland publication earlier this year. “You go to someone on an elliptical machine for half an hour and that’s your audience. I come from broadcasting where there’s an audience in front of you and people listening. It’s difficult for me to adjust to podcasting.”