Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Visit to WABE, Public Broadcasting Atlanta

A week or so ago, on Wednesday 3rd August, my husband and I drove to the PBA radio station in Atlanta. The morning went very well but the evening – not so much. My laptop computer, which I use for my blog and my photos, stopped working. My cell phone stopped working. Our older car would not start and the dishwasher overflowed. A new cell phone is coming in the mail but the other three are still on hold. I did not get close to another computer until now but, there is usually something good to come out of a bad situation. I finished the two little car blankets for my new grandson – one for my daughter’s car and one for my son-in-law’s car – see below (I placed my little luggage lock to give an idea of size.) Click on collages to enlarge and then click on each picture to enlarge again.

I also had extra time to experiment with new vegetable recipes, make new travel plans and, best of all, had more time to read. I read seven books in those ten days – 6 non-fiction and reread one classic fiction which I had read decades ago – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This book shows that it cost $1.25 new at the time. After reading it, the first time, we drove to Montgomery in Alabama and visited the apartment where Scott and his wife Zelda lived in the early 30s, but I don’t remember it too well.

Photo courtesy Justin Dubois

The other books I read are: “Sacrés Américains” and “Sacrés Français” by Ted Stanger a Newsweek editor writing in French while working in France, “Paris” by Julian Green, “That Summer in Paris” by Morley Callaghan, “The Flaneur” by Edmund White and “A Literary Paris” edited by Jamie Cox Robertson. I am also well into two more books. After going to Paris in May I am still in a Paris kind of mood.

That Wednesday morning was clear and sunny. We found the WABE radio station easily and left the car at the end of a line of automobiles parked on the paved road of an unfinished, or never started, site of condominiums.

We have been supporters of WABE, our local NPR radio station, for many years and have cups, bags, tee-shirts and various sundries given from them as thank you gifts. Last October during the pledge drive we contributed toward the “Coffee with Lois” visit. Somehow we were omitted from the list of members invited to this coffee event earlier in the year but were invited to come on the 3rd of August. The building looked from the 1950 era and the graveled parking lot was being resurfaced. The entrance was very plain.

We were greeted and then stayed in the lobby a few minutes – our appointment was for 10:30 am.

Kevin Skelly, the Event Manager/On-air fundraising, escorted us to a small conference room where coffee, muffins and fruits were waiting for us. I was surprised that we were the only guests but I guess the others came earlier this year.

A large window occupied one of the walls and the studio could be seen through the glass. I took a picture (you can see the reflection of Kevin on the left and me taking the picture, on the right.)

A cheerful and friendly young lad, Kevin, shown below, gave us some background history of the station. Georgia’s first Public Radio Station 90.1 FM WABE signed on-the-air in September 1948. At first the Atlanta and Fulton County Boards of Education used the station to instruct the county children. The Atlanta Board of Education (ABE) holds the license for the station; hence the station is named WABE. In 1958 the station moved to their present location together with WPBA the companion television station (which is why the building looks like it is in the 50s style – it dates from the 50s – and has not been updated much.) In 1971 WABE became a Charter Member of National Public Radio (NPR.)

Presently Lois Reitzes, the program director and host of Second Cup, the weekday morning show, came into the room.

Here was “the voice” we knew so well. She looked so much younger than I imagined (since her voice sounds like my late mother- in-law.) She gave us a copy of that day’s Play List.

While Johannes Brahms‘ Sonata No. 2 for Violin & Piano played in the background, Lois in her contralto type voice explained how the station worked on the air. She showed us the binder with the program for the day and explained how the air time was divided into segments. The program log for the network is electronic but she also has a hard copy. The overnight music service is provided automatically by the Minnesota Public Radio. WABE broadcasts 24 hours a day and has to pay for the NPR and PRI programs as well as for the other shows presented on the station.

Most listeners like Lois’ soothing voice – it is the way she speaks and not a special “air only” voice – she is very natural. She told us that she started at WABE in 1979 with a 5:30 AM show. In 2006 there was a re-organization with a News Director. Steve Goss, the local host of Morning Edition, came in the room for a minute. I told him I used to listen to him – which did not sound very nice, so I added that since I retired a couple of years ago I do not get up so early. I used to listen to him when he started his show at 5:00 AM. He left the room quickly and I did not get a chance to take his picture, but later I saw one on the wall and snapped it. The picture is not very clear because of the reflection from the lights.

On the wall I saw another familiar name – Valerie Jackson. She is the former First Lady of Atlanta. Her husband Maynard Jackson (1938-2003) was the first African-American mayor of Atlanta. To honor him the name of the Atlanta Airport was changed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Valerie is the host of “Between the Lines” a weekly program where she interviews notable authors on their latest books. Her picture is below.

Lois Reitzes took us into the studio. I was surprised at how small it was. The corporation where I worked had a studio which was a lot larger.

Lois explained how she reads and follows the colored computer screen to her left and watches the clock so she can switch to a newscast or an announcement at the exact second. At the top of the hour there is usually 5 minutes of local news, 5 minutes of national news plus weather and traffic announcements.

When it was time for her to start the next CD from the Play List, we stood behind her in the studio holding our breath afraid to make a sound.

Kevin took us to the computerized music library which holds thousands of CDs.

Then he showed us two additional studios, both small. One is for interviewing guests

and the other for pre-recorded programs – that one is tiny.

John Weatherford, the general manager, came in briefly to say “hi” and tell us that he likes to greet WABE members as the station relies on our support (and I can tell that they do not spend the members’ contributions in interior decoration…) I read later that John Weatherford has been with WABE for seven years in which time the newsroom has grown from two reporters and two part-time announcers to over 10 full time newsroom employees. The station has added arts coverage with the daily “Cite Café” hosted by John Lemley. John Weatherford’s picture is below.

It was time to say “goodbye.” Kevin accompanied us downstairs. We passed the offices, then we stopped to look at all the pictures of the people who shared their life stories on StoryCorps. Since 2003, over 50,000 people have been interviewed on the national show StoryCorps which is the largest oral history project of its kind. Each conversation is recorded on a CD to share, then it is preserved in the Library of Congress. There is a StoryCorps booth in Atlanta where 1200 stories from the Atlanta community have been recorded and shared since its debut two years ago.

We left the little studio which broadcasts beautiful sounds on the airwaves as well as provides NPR News and other interesting programs. Later on, actually on August 9th, I listened to an NPR program which was thought-provoking. It was about Christian Evangelicals questioning the existence of Adam and Eve. It seems that some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe that we are descending from Adam and Eve. Some say this is a “Galileo Moment” and with the mapping of the human genome and the genetic variation of people today they cannot believe in the Bible Genesis account any longer. Some other theologians did not agree. This was an unusual program to listen to. Below is an old Newsweek issue on Adam and Eve (showing them as Africans since this is from where humankind is supposed to have evolved.)

I am not happily listening to all programs though. For example last Thursday on PRI “The World” the broadcaster was talking about S&P downgrading the US to an AA rating. He then said that 18 countries still had a triple A rating and listed them: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. I noticed that he had not listed France. But a moment later he came back and said something to the effect …and the one that hurts the most….France! France still has an AAA rating! I could not believe this. Why should the USA be hurt that France still has a triple A rating? Why not little Isle of Man for example? I thought this was a racist comment not worth of PRI (Public Radio International.) But then later I read someone commenting on this and saying “I agree that nothing brings American liberals and conservative together like French bashing.” That is sad. But c’est la vie….

Photo courtesy French Embassy

Whether I am stimulated or upset while listening to WABE, NPR and PRI I keep listening as it has some of the most interesting music, news and reporting program on the air.


Addendum January 2015 - WABE has made a change on their on-air programming.  It has now a totally different format - more local news, more talk, less music.  The classical programming has been cut extensively to hardly any music during the day.  I have enjoyed listening to this radio station for over thirty years and am a member.  But, talk radio is not something that I enjoy - there are many radio stations for this.  WABE had a special niche with great classical music, now it is one more run-of-the-mill news and talk radio station.  I am not renewing my membership.  From reading the reviews on this new format, I believe many members will not renew either.  I think WABE is in the slow process of self-destruction.  It is a terrible loss for Greater Atlanta, and it is very sad.


DJan said...

As usual, VB, your post is thought provoking and incredibly complete. I listen to two NPR stations here in Washington State, KUOW and KPLU. My car radio never has anything else on it.

You have given me such a great tour! I so appreciate your wonderful blog. How did I manage before I found you? :-)

Jojo said...

Wow! What a fun adventure and Vagabond, I could walk to their offices from my office! If I had known we could have met for lunch! So sorry about the electronic failures. Last night I watched Agata e la tempesta and it sounds as if you might be having similar electrical issues!!!

All of this S&P news, the ratings, what they mean and the long-term impact has been so frustrating to process. The market has gone haywire but when looking at the ratings of other countries it's difficult to comprehend the reason for the dive in numbers. One of my very good friends plans retirement in a year or so and when the market fluctuates as it did this week, it impacts so many boomers such as my friend. And you are right in asking why are we to complain that another country's rating is a notch up on the U.S.?

Teri said...

Part of the issue is that the US has a better (and growing) gross domestic product than France. The US GDP grew over 1% in the 2nd quarter while France grew less than .5%.

The US has a lower percent of external debt and a lower unemployment rate than France.

Yet the US is downgraded and France not.

Pondside said...

This was such an interesting read. We have the excellent CBC radio up here, but I often listen to NPR from WA and especially enjoy the music programs.
The tendency to 'bash' other countries/cultures is a worrying one, and one that I had never associated with Americans, who I have always considered among the most generous, fair and enlightened people. The 'dumbing down' of America is frightening. I head part of speech from a newly announced Republican hopeful in which he bashed the current president for the economic woes. Do people truly believe that this mess is a result of only less than three years of control?

Anonymous said...

We love our Minnesota Public Radio. I listen to two of their three stations...the news station and the classical music station. If I am sick of news, the music is so refreshing!
Storycorps is one of my favorite projects. I like that there are so many from all over the country.
There are so many (inaccurate)stories that the French have such disdain for the U.S. and Americans, that I think many Americans feel their pride is hurt. So then the French and France become a target of their prejudice.
I apologize for them.

Divine Theatre said...

Where some see racism others see reality.
U.S. external debt was 61 percent of GDP, compared to France’s 67 percent and the U.K.’s 86 percent. Austria also maintains a lowest-risk rating from all three firms, and its external debt was 66 percent of GDP last year.
Our July 2011 unemployment rate figure was 9.1 percent, which is lower than France, who had 9.7 percent unemployment in June. Other than the fact that S&P lowered our rating, there has been no change in the US financial situation.

Vagabonde said...

DJan, Jojo, Pondside and alwaysinthebackrow – Thanks for stopping by today. I appreciate reading your comments. My laptop has not been repaired or replaced so it will take me a little while to visit your blogs, but I’ll come for sure.

Terri – Thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog. I don’t think I have seen you on my blog before. I understand that France may also get its rating down but S&P re-affirmed that France's outlook was stable right now – I think that the bickering in US politics had a lot to do with the country weak outlook future. My remark on my post was mainly about the sarcastic way the announcer was talking about France. Thanks for stopping by.

Vagabonde said...

Hi Divine Theatre – welcome to my blog – as I don’t remember seeing you here before. As I mentioned above I was remarking on the sarcastic comment about France from the PRI announcer. I have lived in the US for decades and have encountered many nice and kind persons here, however I have also received hate emails and have almost been run of the road – so I am sensitive to this subject. There is a blog which addresses this a lot better than I could ever do (or has more interest in it than I have) here is the link: Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Divine Theatre said...

I understand your sensitivity. My husband is a police officer and has great job security due to the fact that there are an infinite number of angry people making poor decisions. They are outnumbered by many, many more good people. Don't forget that! We are the Great Melting Pot, a nation forged by people of every ethnicity. Most Americans are proud of that!
Thanks for visiting my blog and especially thanks for your encouraging comment!


Sally Wessely said...

You are so multi-talented. No wonder you write such an interesting blog. I will have to check out some of the books you just read.

It is great to hear you are such a supporter of public radio. I am just amazed at all of the working parts that go into producing the programs and music that are a part of public radio.

Diane said...

Interesting post. Amazing how much one can get done when all the modern appliances do not work!! Diane

Anonymous said...

Oh! I forgot to mention that I love the car blankets. I think that those colors and the size and designs are great. You do have many talents!

Ann said...

first,let me start by offering my sincere "condolences" on your "losses" always happens to more than one thing..never spread out!!! always at once!!!
the car blankets are so pretty..such a lovely item to special to be made with such love and care.
so enjoyed your post on you local public radio visit! so interesting. we don't get the public radio clearly where i am..but we are big supporters of the public tv stations in the area.
so may good books...i would enjoy seeing the Fitzgerald home!
i must add,i am thouroughly tired of the "French bashing"..from the start!!! Freedom Fries..GIVE ME A BREAK!!!..LAUGHABLE!! i can only imagine the other countries laughing at this!
thank you for a wonderful post my friend! :)

Frances said...

Well Vagabonde, you've again written a blog that covers lots and lots of are a true vagabonde.

Those little car blankets are adorable and I know that they are going to get lots of use.

Sorry about the various equipment breakdowns. Somehow, I always just hope that all my stuff will last a long, long time, and actually find that the older items seem to have longer lives. (Maybe that just means I haven't given the nouveaux things a long enough opportunity!)

Now...I am also a NPR fan and supporter. I loved our local WNYC more when it featured more music, but also like the current variety. I learned just about all I know about classical music listening to WNYC, and eventually got to actually meet my favorite presenter and get to know her. How wonderful to actually let someone you've listened to for years how her skill both entertained and educated you.

(Actually, I would think that the Atlanta NPR station might do well to have you as one of their broadcasters. Really!) xo

Elaine said...

You certainly have had a rough time with so many things breaking down at once! That seems to be the way it goes though, and it usually happens when you have the least amount of energy to deal with it too. Fun that you got to visit the PBA radio station. It's always interesting to meet the people you listen to all the time. I love the two little blankets for your grandson! Just perfect to tuck him up in his car seat.

French Girl in Seattle said...

Great story, Vagababonde. Well done. I need to read the books you mentioned about The French and The Americans. As a French person living here in the States I find this French bashing so disgraceful. Prejudice is never attractive, and even less so when it comes from media types whose every word goes out there on the airwaves or in cyberspace. Most Americans have nothing against the French. In fact, they probably don't care much about them, just as the average Frenchman does not walk around mumbling: "I hate the Americans!" I teach travel workshops about France in Seattle, and it makes me cringe when participants show up and ask why the French hate the Americans so much... Fortunately, I receive so many emails from the same people after their trip who simply rave about France, the French, and how gracious they were to them. As I always say, a passport and international travel are cultural stereotypes' worst enemies. Glad your technical issues have been solved! - Writing this from the French Riviera where life is oh so sweet, for the French, the Americans, and everyone else in between. Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

Ginnie said...

After all the calamities facing you in one day, I sure am glad you were able to make the most of your time, Vagabonde! I declare. All those books AND everything else. You amaze me!

I was not a radio listener while in Atlanta, nor ever, to be honest, which means I am not privy to all these goodies to which you refer. I don't even turn the TV on as background noise, unless I want to watch/listen to CNN Int'l news.

I always learn a lot from you about my former backyard. I feel like I'm catching up for lost time! :)

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

First, let's just say that those car blankets are adorable and will be loved for years to come.

I am adamately opposed to bashing any nation or general group... how ignorant of any of us and it makes me ashamed... We all need to be more open and more tolerant. As said by a commenter above, we are a melting pot.

I lived in Atlanta for many years and although I did not visit WABE, it was a constant companion. We support our local public radio station as well as the other state radio we listen to.

As usual, your posts are provacative, enlightening, and filled with photos. Merci!

Oh, and I am reading "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris" by David McCullough.


Darlene said...

It does seem that if one thing goes haywire two or three others will follow shortly. I'm sorry yours all happened at once. I suppose that's Murphy's Law. (Whatever can go wrong, will.)

I do think the French bashing came from the Republicans and not the Liberals. It was the Republicans that re-named French Fries calling them Freedom Fries.

My husband was sales manager for a commercial radio station for many years and I visited the inside of the station often. It is amazing how small they are unless they are owned by a large corporation.

Unknown said...

You made some really beautiful car blankets! Your tour of the public radio stations sounds like it was a lot of fun and quite educational.

Arti said...

What an interesting and thorough tour you've given us into the WABE station... and I'm thousands of miles away. I'm particularly impressed though by your reading speed, 7 books in 10 days. They are impressive reads too. As I've just finished Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, I'm reading The Sun Also Rises, and still dwelling on Paris in my mind.

The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favourite books. You know there's a new movie adaptation filming right now with Leo DiCaprio as Gatsby. I'm curious to see it... although I can't shake off Robert Redford's shadow.

Again, thanks for a very detailed and informative post.

Jeanie said...

It's such a pleasure to finally be coming back to the blog world and catching up with you! And what familiar territory! I can only hope that if the NPR station I work for offers such a tour as a thank you, an articulate, eloquent blogger with a good camera wins! I loved seeing how a sister station operates, and what I loved most of all was hearing your take on the station, the radio and what intrigued you~! I'll be sharing this post with my colleagues!

wenn said...

great photos!

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

What a great collection!

Howdy by the way?

Ruth said...

Thank you for the peek into the studio. I always wonder how these things happen when I listen to our local public radio station. I laughed about Lois's voice being an older woman's, your mother-in-law's.

It is good if the station airs different viewpoints. Sometimes NPR gets criticized for being overly liberal. Perhaps it's true, because I am usually comfortable listening. But sometimes it is good to be uncomfortable.

But I just don't understand the French/France bashing. I am more conscious of it now, because of you. It hurts me.

Excellent and informative, as always. Thank you.

Cloudia said...

a complete tour and joy!

Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral
> < } } ( ° >


this is Belgium said...

I am very impatient when what I now consider daily necessities (laptop, phone) do not do what I want them to do.

You are an awesome grandma because you knit awesome blankets.

A very funny coincidence is that (spending my last day in la douce Provence) I just finished the Great Gatsby yesterday night and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Will be looking at your other suggestions but am going to soak up some FRENCHNESS first though.

this is Belgium said...

I am very impatient when what I now consider daily necessities (laptop, phone) do not do what I want them to do.

You are an awesome grandma because you knit awesome blankets.

A very funny coincidence is that (spending my last day in la douce Provence) I just finished the Great Gatsby yesterday night and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Will be looking at your other suggestions but am going to soak up some FRENCHNESS first though.

Vicki Lane said...

A fascinating post, as always, Vagabonde. It seems to be human nature to find some group to dislike or look down on. Not a nice thing, alas.

claude said...

Bonjour Vagabonde !
Super tes couvertures ! Il va être bien au chaud Bébé !
Cela doit être sympa de visiter une station de radio. J'ai toujours rêvé d'aller à Europe1 à Paris.
Je vois que tu lis pour moi (je suis une piètre lectrice - en ce moment je relis un bouquin écrit par un profiler américain).
A plus tard ! et bises.
Dis moi, quand tu lis, tu lis en anglais ou en français.

Marja said...

Ah the netherlands has an trilple A
My friends and family are complainging though that everything is going worse there as well and hee what's in an A. NZ is not on the list but I still think it is the best country to live.
You read 7 books in 10 days, wow that's a lot. I am on a reading spray as well but I am a very slow reader so one book takes me at least one to two weeks. I love reading though and stil have a couple waiting. Au revoir

Amanda said...

The people I ran into that are bashing France, are mostly uneducated "sheep" and unfortunately anti-everything. They are the ones that vote against their own best interest. We have that type in France too, in England... Idiots everywhere!
The blankets are adorable.
Have you ever read "Mais qu'est-ce qu'on mange ce soir?" That blog made me really homesick and very hungry. (C'est en Français).

Frances said...

Please keep me posted on your September travel plans. I would love to see you.

Shammickite said...

First, I have to say that I love your baby blankets, great colours and very nice designs.... your grandson will be thrilled with them!
And what a fascinating day you had at the radio studio. I always have the radio on, usually I listen to CBC radio. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Very informative, lots of news and throught provoking programmes.
But there is a small local radio station in my town too, and sometime I listen to that. Local news, local people. "Radio about people you know, by people you know". I've been interviewed on air.... quite daunting to be answering questions while wearing the headset, and knowing that people are listening to you in their homes and cars.

Vagabonde said...

Retired English Teacher, Food Fund and Life in the Charente, Ann, Frances, Elaine, French Girl in Seattle, Ginnie, Genie – Paris and Beyond, Darlene, Tim, Arti, Jeanie, wenn, Bhavesh Shhatbar, Ruth, Cloudia, This is Belgium, Vicki Lane, Marja and Shammickite – Thank you as always for your wonderful visits and kind comments that always make me happy. I certainly appreciate your thoughts and thank you for taking the time to write them.

Claude – je lis en français et surtout en anglais car on ne trouve pas beaucoup de livres français ou j’habite. Merci pour ton com.

Nadege – J’ai regardé le blog "Mais qu'est-ce qu'on mange ce soir?" Elle a des recettes succulentes et je suis contente de voir que ces posts sont plus longs que les miens… merci pour ta visite ici.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

The very last thing you said--That is the thing about Public Radio & TV...It is the most INTERESTING and informative News around....Network News is just filled with Gossip and Murders, etc., etc....So, even though there are things we don't agree with..(I feel the same way) It is STILL one's Best Bet for REAL News! What a great tour!

When you described all the things that had gone wrong...I had to smile because Mercury Is Retrograde and THIS is what happens during a Mecury Retrograde...Things go wrong, especially where communication is concerned. I have had many obstacles in my path this last three weeks or so, and I swear, they are all related to Mecury! I t will be over the end of August, with a few more weeks of what they call a "shadow retrograde"...not as bad, but things can still go wonky...!

fly44d said...

Very cool field trip! I'll have to try to get into one of our local NPR stations!

I hope Irene doesn't cause you too much damage.

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