Assembling the building blocks to broadcast
Every morning when you tune to Morning Edition on WITF, you are hearing the result of several different news rooms and editorial decisions at work. Morning Edition itself comes from NPR in Washington D.C. The program is two hours and then repeats. WITF carries four hours of Morning Edition in our weekday schedule 5:00am to 9:00am. The stories, interviews, commentary, and analysis that originates from Morning Edition is edited and managed by NPR’s staff of reporters and editors. However, there is more to WITF’s presentation of Morning Edition.
Within that block of four hours, WITF presents between 25 and 40 minutes of regional and statewide news content. About another 15 minutes of the morning are produced by the public radio program Marketplace which is separately produced and distributed by American Public Media. WITF also includes about 4-5 minutes of newscasts from the BBC World Service.
WITF also has news-sharing agreements with the other public radio stations in the commonwealth. Each newsroom frequently exchanges news stories. This enables WITF to provide a wider range of stories and perspectives from around the state whether it’s from Philadelphia or Altoona. This can take the shape of a 90 second news story or a four to seven minute feature report.
The arrangement of these different elements that come together every morning are local decisions managed by WITF’s Program Director. The newsrooms at work for Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, and WITF work independently of each other. The benefit is you hear a blend of different points of view, different voices, and different focus.
We take time to how these elements come together in our presentation on Morning Edition as well as where throughout the morning. To achieve this, we employ market research, listener feedback, best practices, focus groups, and consultation with other public media organizations to inform our decisions. We annually review what we do and how we do it to ensure we’re providing the best possible presentation of Morning Edition our resources permit.
Morning Edition and public radio programs in general are designed for listening in the aggregate. It isn’t appropriate to draw conclusions based on listening for 5 minutes. Interviews and reports usually happen in a series; other points of view may be examined later in the hour, in a different segment, or the next day. This is because the deep-dive that is often done on a subject.
No two public radio stations are alike. If you were to travel either direction on the turnpike and listen to our colleagues at either WHYY in Philadelphia or WESA in Pittsburgh, you’ll hear different stories on the air. It’s likely you’ll hear the same interviews and features that comprise the production from NPR’s Morning Edition. However, there are various points in each hour of the program that is either something from a local station’s newsroom, or that a decision was made by the local station to include in their presentation of Morning Edition.
Morning Edition is representative of our larger schedule. Our weekly schedule is a combination of programming from a variety of sources including NPR, American Public Media, Public Radio International, Public Radio Exchange, BBC World Service and other independent sources. The schedule is assembled based on local decisions. We collect feedback from the Community Advisory Board, conduct market research, review comments from listeners and examine other sources of data to determine programming that is the best fit for South-Central Pennsylvania.
Unlike other broadcast networks, each individual station is responsible for assembling their own schedule to the taste of the community interests. There are certain parameters to consider for each program (i.e. Morning Edition must run in the morning), but each station is free to assemble the schedule however we like. A majority of programs are licensed for broadcast for a fee and a few are free for broadcast because their costs have been directly covered by foundation, grants, listener and sponsorship funding.