Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Morning Newswatch" on WHCU Radio: Conscientious News on the Dial

Knowledge is good, as they say at Faber College, and it's important to stay informed about politics and world events, so listening to public radio is good.

Except when it's bad.

There's a certain tepidness to much of public radio, and a dearth of tough analysis. There's a lot of repetition - not necessarily per broadcast, but over the days. This bombing in Iraq. That lying statement by a government person. Again, generally unfettered by much questioning.

And, while news of a train crash that left dozens dead somewhere halfway around the world is sad, isn't it really just a high-brow version of the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy of regular schlock broadcasting?

Where's the news we can use?

In Ithaca, we get an earnest shot at useful local news broadcasting every morning on WHCU, 870 on the AM dial. The program is "Morning Newswatch", hosted by Dave Vieser and Geoff Dunn, broadcasting from 5:30 - 10 a.m., Monday through Saturday.

The program covers substantive issues. Yesterday, Morning Newswatch interviewed Judith Pastel, Ithaca's school superintendent, about recent racial problems in the schools. Tim Joseph, chair of the county legislature, was interviewed about county issues. A separate segment featured Herb Engman, who will be the new Town Supervisor in November.

How much opinion from peace activists do you hear on the news? Even public radio news? Yesterday, Morning Newswatch began with an interview with Danny Burns, of the St. Patrick's Four, who was arrested again recently as part of a group refusing to leave the office of Congressman Randy Kuhl without a discussion of Kuhl's continued support for Iraq war funding.

Morning Newswatch is a valuable promotional medium for community causes. Their coverage was instrumental to the success of last week's Walk and Run for the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance. Today they featured a local 4H Club effort to promote exercise and good nutrition to reduce obesity among young people.

It's not all serious stuff on the show. There are sports (maybe a little too much, with a few minutes each hour given to local school soccer scores, etc.), birthday announcements, giveaways, and banter. Vieser and Dunn seem to genuinely like one another and their work.

There is an unfortunate Rush Limbaugh commentary each day. WHCU is ostensibly a conservative talk radio station. For much of the day, it is. But in the morning, it is conscientious, community-oriented, and worthwhile.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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