358 Resources

Facts vs. Fluff

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.


Program Cost and Sustainability

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.

Program Staffing

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.

The Basics of Program Design

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.

Defining Your Program’s Content Mission

You’ll need to articulate the fundamental mission of your program. Everything you put on the air should validate that mission. Based on your station’s mission, it will inform and clarify your program’s overall focus and provide a framework for topic and guest selection. Making the development of your show’s mission a collaborative staff process will help get everyone on the same editorial page.

Building a Strong Infrastructure

This section of the handbook is based on our Checklist for Starting a Talk Show  and was developed to provide a framework for a set of critical decisions about your program’s mission, format, staffing, funding and sustainability. The more planning you can do before you launch your show, the more likely it will be that you will avoid common pitfalls like high burnout rates, crippling staff dissent, financial troubles, or lackluster audience response.