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Briefings: Riding Some Airwaves of Change for Public Radio in the 413…

New England Public Media

Trying to be more of a talker. (via

After a year that saw tumult and retirements across journalism, the two main players in the public media space in the 413 have undergone some hopeful changes. New England Public Media, the complicated union of UMass-Amherst’s WFCR and the GBH Foundation’s WGBY, has begun a new talk program. Meanwhile, Albany-based WAMC has hired a new reporter to man its bureau in Springfield.

A Thanos-like wave of journalism layoffs dominated much of 2023 in media and carried into this year. NEPM was not immune to this, although the causes were not the same. Moreover, they reflected programmatic questions that the new show, The Rundown with Carrie Saldo seeks to solve. Saldo, a former Connecting Point host, has returned to NEPM to lead the show. By contrast, WAMC posting James Paleologopoulos to its Valley bureau reflected necessity. Longtime reporter WAMC Paul Tuthill retired in December.

In Western Massachusetts, the growth of more local programming and WAMC’s recommitment to the region could not come at a better time. While The Republican has hired some people in recent months, Masslive continues its shift eastward. Readers have noticed that once-separated pages for individual community news now redirect to a general “westernmass” subfolder. The Reminder has expanded, but the news hole is growing faster. Commercial television news still provides width but ever less depth.

The developments certainly seems to be on the mind of NEPM’s executives.

“We hope that the addition of ‘The Rundown with Carrie Saldo,’ which will bring together the region’s most insightful reporters with one of its most talented hosts, will further strengthen the local news ecosystem and benefit all of us,” said NEPM president Matt Abramovitz, in a release about the show.

Despite bloodletting at NPR and major local affiliates like WNYC, public radio has long stood out as ray of hope in the local news apocalypse. They often enjoy large institutional support (like universities), hyperlocal focus and broad range. Indeed, regional public radio networks had seen growth before the pandemic. Many remained stable thereafter.

WAMC Albany

WAMC in Albany, somewhere over the Berkshires… (via wikipedia)

With principal studios just west of the New York State Capitol and 84 miles from Springfield, WAMC appears to be one such operator. Serving a sprawling part of Upstate New York, it continues to maintain news bureaus in both Pittsfield—its longtime chief executive Alan Chartock, who retired last year, lived in Berkshire County—and Springfield. It main transmitter is actually in Adams on Mount Greylock.

Tuthill covered all manner of news about politics, business and society in the Valley. He became a fixture at major political events, including those at Springfield City Hall. WAMC’s interim CEO Stacey Rosenberry said hiring Paleologopoulos was a way to assure that reporting would continue.

“We are excited to welcome James to WAMC and our Pioneer Valley Bureau” she said in a statement.

“As WAMC is committed to our long-standing relationship with WNEU and Springfield, James’ experience will allow us to build on Paul’s success,” Rosenberry continued, referring to WMAC’s studios at Western New England University in Springfield. “James will be a great addition to our news team.”

NEPM’s struggles last year included layoffs and a controversial cancellation of Connecting Point. Nevertheless, the outlet plotted a reorientation of its flagship station, WFCR, to more talk. Earlier in 2023, it poached Valley radio personality Monte Belmonte from WHMP, who now hosts The Fabulous 413.

Saldo’s new show echoes The Short List, a since-cancelled but much shorter news discussion. Appended to NEPM’s All Things Considered broadcast, The Short List also featured a roundtable with journalists from around the 413. The Rundown began airing last Friday at 9am as a follow-up to NPR’s Morning Edition. In addition to talking to area journalists, it will include interviews with newsmakers and experts.

Tony Dunne, NEPM’s director of content, is The Rundown‘s executive producer.

Saldo’s first show featured NEPM’s Managing Editor Elizabeth Román, independent journalist and investigations editor Dusty Christensen at The Shoestring and Kevin Moran executive editor of The Berkshire Eagle. Saldo also interviewed UMass-Amherst professor Charmaine Nelson.

*Western Mass Politics & Insight Editor-in-chief Matt Szafranski has appeared as a contributor on both WMAC and NEPM programs.