What’s on the radio: Philly vs. Washington, and other radio musings

A radio station billed as "NPR with caffeine" is going off the air after only an 18 month lifespan.  Washington Post Radio, which tried to turn newspaper reporters and columnists into talk radio hosts in the DC area, never took off, earning only 1.2% of the listening audience.  I guess that NPR doesn’t need caffeine, after all.

I’ve listened to Washington Post Radio a few times since moving here, and I’ve been unimpressed.  It blends diverse political perspectives with the antics of standard conservative talk radio, creating annoying programs that have no point.  (Much of the same can be said for some segments of the church attempting to mix diverse theologies and odd worship styles to create a nonsensical mess, but that’s not the point of this post.)

I don’t like most of what’s on radio: conservative talk, most sports talk (though I like much of what ESPN Radio puts together), religious broadcasting or pop music broadcasting.  In other words, there’s lots of territory on that radio dial that I don’t explore.  That’s why I got an XM Satellite Radio, though currently I only have it at home, not in my car.  In Washington as in Philly, there are only three reasons I listen to standard terrestrial radio:

  1. News, Weather and Traffic – KYW 1060 in Philly, and WTOP 103.5 in Washington
  2. National Public Radio (NPR) – WHYY 90.9 in Philly, WAMU 88.5 in Washington
  3. Baseball – Phillies on WCAU 1210AM in Philly, Nationals on WTWP 107.7 in Washington (Washington Post Radio, which will soon have a new format and new name)

Making the transition from my old Philly stations to my new Washington stations has been interesting.  I catch traffic on the 8’s here, rather than "traffic and transit on the two’s" back in Philly.  I’m learning a new NPR broadcast schedule, and when I’m not listening to the Phillies on XM Satellite Radio I’m really enjoying the National’s broadcast team.  So with that, here are my comparisons:

  1. KYW vs. WTOP – Washington’s WTOP is head-and-shoulders better than KYW.  Whereas KYW broadcasts a series of taped reports that essentially repeats every 30 minutes, WTOP has much more live content and "life" among their reporters and announcers.  They have an overall lighter feel than KYW, and sometimes even make you laugh – which is a good thing, considering most roads around here are worse than Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Expressway.  Washington 1, Philly 0.
  2. WHYY vs. WAMU – Philadelphia’s WHYY wins, hands down.  Perhaps it is simply because I have been listening to WHYY since my late teens, but I find their schedule much more appealing than WAMU’s schedule.  WHYY offers more of the national NPR fare, including Talk of the Nation and Day to Day, programs not carried on WAMU.  And whereas The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU is excellent – including the best two hours of radio on her Friday weekly news roundup show – locally produced The Kojo Nnamdi Show and KCRW’s To the Point don’t compare with the NPR shows that could be in their time slots.  Washington 1, Philadelphia 1.
  3. Phillies Broadcast Team vs. Nationals Broadcast Team – The Phillies, though a better baseball team, are much worse in the radio broadcast department than are the Nats.  The Nats’ straightforward approach to broadcasting – the same two guys the whole game, rather than the Phillies rotation of Hall of Famer Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler, Larry Anderson, and Scott Franzke – is much easier to listen to.  Additionally, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler, the Nats broadcasters, generally stick to the game, unlike the Phillies broadcasters who talk about golf, make inside jokes, and discuss plans for their day off while on air.  The only complaint I have about the Nats’ broadcast is that Charlie Slowes often makes a very long and complicated call on exciting plays – "a deep drive to left center field, Joe Schmo is back, back, to the warning track, under the Geico Insurance sign, it goes over his head and it is gone – bang, zoom! – into the visitor’s bullpen, scattering opposing players from the bullpen bench for Joe Blow’s 4th home run since the All Star Break, ending a three-week drought and bringing his team to within 18 runs in the bottom of the 4th inning here on a starlit night at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, where the crowd is on their feet hoping for more as their Nats continue to bat against the 32 year-old lefthander from the Dominican Republic . . ." This is only a slight exaggeration.  The Nats broadcast team, which features a guy who got his first big league baseball gig with the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is head and shoulders above the Phillies.  Washington 2, Philadelphia 1.

So there it is, an odd post about radio preferences.  I’m liking the Washington radio stations better than the Philly stations.  Have a good weekend!

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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