Pubradio needs new ideas and courage to try them, MPR’s Collins says

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Can public radio still take risks?

That’s the headline of a thought-provoking post on Minnesota Public Radio’s News Cut blog by writer Bob Collins, an MPR journalist, in the wake of the Car Talk hosts’ retirement announcement.

“This has been an interesting time in public radio of late,” Collins writes, “and the next few years are going to test whether it’s capable of taking a risk enough to give an outlet to new ways of doing things. Car Talk is gone, [Prairie Home Companion‘s Garrison] Keillor is retiring, [MPR newsman Gary] Eichten has retired, and an increasing number of people who basically built public radio are turning things over to the next generation, which has not been well schooled in the art of betting it all on an idea.”

“You can do a lot of creative things when nobody listens to your radio station because there’s little downside to taking risk,” Collins writes. “But not anymore. Public radio has never been more popular and taking a risk has never been more dangerous. The early A Prairie Home Companion would have a most difficult time getting on the air — anywhere — today. Essentially, public radio is where commercial radio was 30 years ago, just before it went on its suicidal path toward irrelevance by playing it safe in order not to alienate an existing audience.”