Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

A Way with Words is gonna kick some ass

On Wednesday, the managment of KPBS radio in San Diego, the producing station for A Way with Words, announced it would no longer produce the show.

As you can imagine, my co-host Martha Barnette and I, as well as our producer, Stefanie Levine, are disappointed. As were, apparently, thousands of listeners who have in just a few days called, emailed, and left comments on our new web site. The fire in some of those book-and-word people! Whoa. Many have also left passionate comments on stories on web sites of local newspapers and KPBS, and have signed up for our new email list, where we intend to announce news about the show. Because we will have news!

Our first news: we are already on the move to find a new home for the show.

KPBS management—which supports our efforts to continue A Way with Words elsewhere—made it plain that the show had everything good radio should have: quality content, a large (and devoted) audience, and good ratings.

What was the striking blow, though, was that the show is too expensive for a locally produced show. What was really needed was to make the show more national—it’s already broadcast in six other markets and is hugely popular via podcast—and thereby share the costs. The costs, in fact, are mostly very modest public radio wages (a synonym for “how do you like your ramen?”) without which it would be impossible to do a show of this caliber.

It’s difficult, however, for a station manager or program director to devote a disproportionate amount of time to taking a single hour of programming national when there are so many other shows and staff that also deserve attention. John Decker, the program director, and Doug Myrland, the general manager, did what they could with the limited time and resources they had. But it wasn’t enough.

One thing that has always delighted us is that when people from San Diego move to other parts of the country, they’re surprised that the show isn’t carried on the public radio affiliate there. They write us with comments like, “I thought the whole country could hear you guys. It sounds like an NPR show. I just assumed that, alongside Car Talk and Wait, Wait, everybody else in America was listening to A Way with Words, too.”

Which, of course, is a sound we have always strived for—even though our budget and staff are much smaller than those of the big shows. A Way with Words sounds like a big market show, thanks, in large part, to our editor Beth Accomando (who also has this amazing ability to make me sound like a pro).

So, we—Martha, Stefanie, and I—are picking up where John and Doug left off. We’re already reaching out to other stations, to other networks. You can keep up with our news by signing up for our email list on the new A Way with Words web site.

Thanks to everyone who has written or called with your support. As soon as our plans are fixed, we’ll put the word out.

You can read more about the station’s decision:

San Diego Union-Tribune news story.

KPBS press release.

In yesterday’s episode of KPBS’s These Days, station manager Doug Myrland had very nice things to say about the show.

Voice of San Diego.

San Diego’s CityBeat.

Linguist Eric Bakovic’s weblog.

author avatar
Grant Barrett