New York public radio chief is ousted

Laura R. Walker will step down as president of NYPR in the New Year after 23 years in charge.

She said she and the Board “have agreed that the time has come for me to move on.”

There have been troubles.

She was paid $954,582 in 2016,

Read on here.

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  • I can hear the pledge week appeal now: “please consider donating $5,000 this year; Ms Walker needs a new pair of designer shoes.”

  • “When Walker became president of NYPR in 1996, the organization had just become independent from the city, where it had been a municipally-owned station for decades. Under her leadership, NYPR’s listenership grew from 1 million to 26 million, becoming the largest public radio station in the country. The newsroom expanded from three reporters to 70 people. The organization’s budget also grew from $1 million to $97.3 million for the fiscal year ended June 30.”

    Not saying anything, just quoting from the article.

    • While I do enjoy WNYC as it has become, what Walker did was to completely dismantle the old WNYC when it was the municipal station, and that was a great old radio station with a history going back to the 1920s. (We can thank Rudy Giuliani for selling it off.) She got rid of all the classical music (the then-newly acquired classical station WQXR was supposed to take care of THAT audience) to make it all talk all the time. But the classical programming that the old WNYC had was quirky and exceptional, and never duplicated on WQXR.

      There was there the old morning program with the inimitable Steve Post, probably the most sardonic individual ever to be unleashed on radio. Unless you heard him read the news on the hour, you’ve never heard how just reading the news could say so much between the lines. Then there was Tim Page’s “New, Old, and Unexpected” (did I get that right, Tim?) program in the afternoon. You never knew who would turn up for an interview (I did twice) or what you would hear. Not only that, but WNYC also broadcast lots of local concerts – the famous Bartok interview from the early 1940s was a WNYC intermission feature from an all-Bartok Brooklyn Museum concert in which his wife was the featured pianist.

      The small-scale operation may have been basic budget (I remember doing an interview with Tim Page in which the microphone stand was a cold water pipe) but it’s very smallness allowed it to do much that was inventive and interesting – sort of like a souped-up college station in a way. Many of us tuned in to these programs regularly in the hope we’d hear music we didn’t already know or could rarely hear live.

      Walker made it explicit that her mission was to “park” (her term) classical music elsewhere (although at the same time the morning talk/interview shows, as great as they were, were simulcast on BOTH AM and FM, for what reason I don’t know). She claimed that they “saved” classical music programming by purchasing from the New York TImes WQXR-FM (where classical music would be “parked), but all that did was to further water down the already conventional program to suit dentists offices everywhere, which is all that’s left in New York City, once home to multiple classical music stations. And they were all exceptional.

      WNYC today is a great radio station – and, I think, the best in New York by far in terms of the value of its programming. But it has nothing to do with the old WNYC except its call letters and its AM and FM frequencies. And many of us miss the old station – and for good reason.

      • By 1993, I had been living in NYC for several years. At midnight on 18 December, the final classical piece concluded on WNCN-FM, viz., Hadyn’s Farewell Symphony. This was followed by an ear-shattering song (?) by a heavy-metal band, as the station format changed (and the call letters as well). I believe that Elliott Forrest hosted the final classical program on WNCN-FM. A sad moment in the cultural history of NYC.

  • The comments on the WNYC website were scathing after the ouster of Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz. The ire was directed toward Laura Walker, to the effect that both of these radio personalities were terminated for accusations that were trivial, vague, or stemming from incidents that had taken place in the distant past. Many of the commenters vowed to discontinue their financial support for WNYC until Walker was gone.

    Jasper

    • For many years, Leonard Lopate was a marvelous interviewer, so there was (and is, to an extent) a lot of residual good will toward him from the audience. But his abilities had begun to weaken badly over his last year or so; he had gotten to the point where he was audibly reading questions off a list, something that would have been unheard of for him even two or three years earlier.

      It was not unlike the (pre-harassment allegations) case of James Levine: a prominent, beloved figure who could no longer do his job to a high standard but absolutely did not want to retire.

      So I think Walker and WNYC management may have taken advantage of the #MeToo moment in general and the Hockenberry scandal in particular to get rid of Lopate with relatively little push back from the public.

      (Schwartz knew everything about the American Songbook and had personally known almost everyone involved with it — and he always made sure to let listeners know that. He was insufferable, and I was not sorry to see him go.)

  • Good. A terrible steward of the station’s classical music programming and the reason why so many employees either worked in fear or left in troubled circumstances.

  • Walker did some great work, but allowed terrible things to take place under her watch. I am gratified to see that the Board of WNYC moved her out. I give them credit for doing it quietly.

  • You must be very jealous of American salaries. You love to point out how much we make. Why don’t you move over here, and see if you can get rich and if you work for the right group, we can see how much you make!

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