The favorite child of public radio is having a birthday. On May 3, the award-winning news program "All Things Considered" will celebrate its 10th year of riding the public airwaves.
Produced in the Washington studios of National Public Radio (NPR), the show is credited with attracting many listeners to noncommercial radio through its informal style, creative programming, and human approach.
"We changed the sound of radio," says Susan Stamberg, one of the show's cohosts, "by using as much natural sound as possible, as well as music." The show also takes its listeners very seriously, says Ms. Stamberg. "So we put them [the listeners] on the air a lot."
The show also tries to look beyond Capitol Hill for the news, says Stamberg.
"The idea was not only to present the news of the day, but to place it in a human context," says William siemering, NPR's first program director, who hired the show's staff (including Stamberg) and planned its format in 1971. "We would not only have experts on drug addiction, but also people who had experienced that in their own lives."
Mr. Siemering says the show evolved from a general dissatisfaction over how commercial radio handles the issues of the day, and the "grayness" of educational programming.
Siemering, now a station manager at WUHY-FM in Philadelphia, believes the show has held true to its original purpose, setting a high standard for public affairs programming in the process. The show has won a Peabody Award and recently received this year's Alfred L. DuPont-Columbia University award for excellence in broadcasting.
"The hosts bring intelligence and yet also a concern for the people affected by the news," says Siemering.
But there were some rough spots during the early years. Some officials in public radio were skeptical about its prospects for success.
"We had no models when we started out," says host Stamberg. "So we had to invent a whole new medium."
Stamberg, who is currently compiling an anthology of the show's best work from the first 10 years, recalls one day, early on, when all the reporters went home before they should have.
"There was nothing to go the radio," says Stamberg. "So we just had to throw everything and anything on the air." But with a decade of experience tucked away , the show has established a solid organization -- which includes bureau correspondents in London, Chicago, and New York.
Today, many public radio stations say the show is attracting a dedicated and growing audience. More important, they say, its fans include people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds -- not just upper-class whites.
So far, no commercial stations are copying the NPR success story, while NPR has launched a morning morning news program called "Morning Edition." Siemering says this is because "All Things Considered"takes as long as necessary to explore an issue -- a principle that goes against the grain of commercial programming.