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One of Louisville’s Soundtracks

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Louisville Public Media

When asked to write something about Louisville, I wondered what I should highlight: Maybe about how the city is building a Bike Interstate around and through the city; maybe I would write about the final resting place of Colonel Sanders; or maybe I could attempt to draw more attention to the fact that Louisville’s public libraries are grossly under funded (one of the lowest in the nation). In the end though, I chose the thing I first loved about this city–the selection and quality of Louisville’s public radio stations.

The (newly coined) Louisville Public Media consists of an impressive three separate positions on the dial:

WFPL, 89.3 – local and national newsWUOL 90.5 – classical
WFPK, 91.9 – music oriented goodness

I have lived in a handful of cities over the years and I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a great set of local public radio stations. But Louisville’s public stations aren’t great only because of their availability and accessibility (something that’s easily taken for granted until you move somewhere where it isn’t available), it’s their local influence and participation that makes them distinct.

A couple of examples of their popular local events include Waterfront Wednesdays and Live Lunch. Their Spring through Autumn concert series of local and regional performers takes place down by the river on Waterfront Wednesdays. And Live Lunch is the ever popular performance / chat session which has hosted acts like Early Day Miners, Dr. Dog, Will Oldham, Caroline Dahl and the recent showing of the Meat Puppets. Having a comfortable and state of the art performance space and studio make Live Lunch a nice treat for the folks who are encouraged to attend.

In addition to their community driven initiatives, WFPK has no shortage of standout disc jockeys. The weekly time slots are filled with local favorites such as Marion Dries and Duke Meyer, as well as the national syndication of the delicious World Café. Weekends include Saturday Night Blues Party and the broadcast of Relics, where you can routinely hear a Skip Spence track followed by an equally brilliant Thin Lizzy album cut. Sunday’s begin with a twelve hour stretch of classic Jazz followed some Bluegrass and the Grateful Dead hour. As you can assess, there are few genres not covered in their week to week programming.

WFPK’s sister station, WFPL 89.3, is the local National Public Radio spot. In addition to their impressive local news coverage, their recent procurement of the Diane Rehm Show means they now carry most every major national program available… something that is sorely missed in some cities I have lived in recently (Nashville, I’m looking at you).

There are obviously plenty of adept and brilliant public radio stations across the country, those within reception range of KCRW, KEXP, WAMU and WHYY know what I’m talkin’ about. But I feel confident in saying Louisville Public Media rivals all of them in their ability to realize goodness and provide unique play lists for their listeners.

With the Bush administration proposing the deepest cuts ever to the funding of Public Broadcasting (60% cut proposed for 2009), stations like these are the exceptions to the clearcorporatetakeoverchannel rule of radio. Without this sounding like a fundraising letter (too late probably), I think the necessity of these stations are often underrated. Maybe not to those reading this sidebar, but certainly to the masses that aren’t.