On Monday, November 17, KUSP and all the other NPR stations in America will debut a slightly different version of Morning Edition.
In radio jargon, a “clock” is the hourly pattern of newscasts, feature stories, traffic and weather, and other things you hear. The clock makes it possible for stations to mix local news with the national broadcast in line with the needs of their community and the resources of the station. Every station does it a little differently.
The pattern for the different segments of Morning Edition supplied to us by NPR has not changed in decades (the show just celebrated its 35th birthday; the first broadcast was on November 5, 1979). While we have added and changed our own Morning Edition content steadily since the program came to KUSP in 1984, the NPR elements have not adapted with the times.
Last year NPR started a research project with a sample group of listeners nationwide to see how best to update the format of the show. Much negotiation with stations and other public radio producers ensued. On Monday you’ll hear the results of that work.
The most important finding was that listeners are, generally speaking, involved in a pretty massive multi-tasking effort while they listen to Morning Edition. People also have less time to take in the day’s news than was probably true 35 years ago.
On this side of the radio transmitter, local stations like KUSP have more capacity to cover the news in their area than they used to, and there are many regional and statewide news partnerships (such as The California Report and Capital Public Radio News) able to furnish top-quality coverage to compliment NPR’s strength at the national and international level.
For those reasons, the new clock provides more frequent newscasts – from the NPR newsroom in Washington and from our newsroom in Santa Cruz. The KUSP newscasts will include reporting from this area and the state coverage from Capital Public Radio News in Sacramento. The longer, more in-depth reporting from NPR that is the signature sound of public radio news stays – there’s no intention of dropping down to the 20-second story length that is typical for commercial all-news radio. This will be true for our longer stories about California news as well; you’ll hear those on The California Report at about ten minutes before six and ten minutes before eight, as you do now, and in stories by KUSP reporters at various times outside our short newscasts.
The times for some KUSP-produced features will change – for now, not very much, but if you have your alarm clock set to go off exactly when we start a feature like Life In the Fast Lane with Kelly O’Brien or our community commentary, First Person Singular, you might need to adjust those settings a little.
The changes to the clock, as I said, are prompted by gaining a deeper understanding of what public radio listeners want to hear in the early morning. In the next few months that information will inform more changes to how KUSP presents the news… but we’re taking this in stages, as opposed to changing everything all at once.
The changes to these programs have come with a lot of thought, and while any change at all can throw a person out of a long-established routine, in the long run we hope they will enable us to give you the news in a way that fits the life we lead a little better. If you have any thoughts about the new news lineup on KUSP, please share them with me.