This list of questions was developed by Jay Kernis for a program development exercise he has conducted with both NPR and station programs
Public radio listeners have a vigilant curiosity about the world. Their desire to learn is what draws them to us. But in our Sense of Place study, we often heard listeners say they didn't learn anything from the local program examples we played. They want programming rich in facts and data not "fluff“ such as generalities, conjecture, opinion or pitches to our emotions.
Be enterprising. As many topics as possible should be original rather than re- used from the usual sources. Dig for trends, people and events that are flying under the radar. Find events and issues that will have lasting impact on your listeners.
Regular editorial meetings are essential. These are where staff propose or pitch topics, guests, or stories and from which selections are made for production, or for further consideration.
Local shows are expensive with a higher cost-per-listener hour than most mid-day acquired programs. They take time to build an audience. They place demands on staff in virtually every station department. So when you build a budget, don’t stop with the direct show staff costs. Successful shows are whole station efforts so make sure to consider the impact and demands on other station departments.
Many PD's argue that the minimum staff needed for a one-hour M-F call-in talk show with an average of one or two topics per hour is 2 F/T staff (host and producer). Recommended minimum staffing for two hours using that same format is 3 F/T staff (1 host, 1 producer and 1 associate producer). Others would argue those minimums are too low, especially if you want an internet component. As a rule of thumb, the more discrete topics per hour, the more production staff that is needed. Whatever the staff size, the two key positions are always the producer and the host.
Determine what station oversight structure will best assure these key audience building functions.
How many segments will there be per show? How long? How many breaks will there be and what will go in each break? Will music or sound be used? How much will be live? How much pre-produced? Will you engage callers? In every show? Only for certain topics? Never? The answer to each question will have a profound effect on the staff and resources you’ll need to produce a show at a consistently high level of quality. More topics generally require more production support.