Public radio’s ‘Says You’ to end production of new episodes

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"Says You" panelists Carolyn Faye Fox, Murray Horwitz and Deb Hiett.

The team behind Says You, the long-running public radio game show, will end production of new episodes this month but will continue to make past programs available to stations.

The decision comes after the pandemic temporarily ended production of new episodes. Pipit & Finch, Says You‘s independent production company, put together new episodes via Zoom and repackaged previous 30-minute shows into hourlong episodes. 

Since its debut in 1996, Says You has featured two teams competing to solve challenging word games. Recurring categories include “What’s the Difference,” which challenges panelists to define two words that sound similar.

Says You has been recorded before a live audience for much of its time on public radio and survived primarily on revenue from ticket sales, said EP Laura Sher. Earlier this year, “it felt as though the curtain had lifted a little bit and maybe we could get on to theaters,” Sher said. But theaters “have been one of the slowest and tightest to come back,” she said. “Even when events are outside with all of the protocols, it is tough.”

This summer, Sher began making plans to “sunset” the show. She was calling PDs and was “getting ready to nail everything shut and put it away safely,” she said. But when NPR announced the end of Ask Me Another, also a weekend show featuring games, she began getting “unsolicited calls” from stations asking to keep the show going with previous episodes. 

“I really said my goodbyes to every single station. I did not expect to be going back and knocking on their door again and saying, ‘Oh, wait a minute, just before we leave, there’s a second option now,’” Sher said. “But that request came to me from so many of them. I think a lot of stations need extra time to reimagine what they’re going to do with weekend lineups.”

When the current season concludes at the end of September, the show will begin a new season of reaired episodes from seasons eight, nine and 10, which were recorded in the early 2000s. Season eight was Says You’s first as an independently produced show, according to Sher. The seasons are “when I think that they were at the top of their game,” Sher said. 

Richard Sher, the show’s creator and former host who died in 2015, made sure the content “remained evergreen,” according to Laura Sher. Pipit & Finch has offered some archived episodes for sale, but not the episodes airing in the upcoming season, Sher said. They also haven’t been available on the Says You podcast, but each has been reaired at least once, she said. “It will not sound like repeats,” Sher said.

After those episodes air, Sher will check with stations to gauge interest in continuing to air the show. “I presume that there will be some stations that do want to carry Says You for a number of years to come, which is very easy to do,” she said. 

About half of the 86 stations carrying Says You will stop airing it this month, but some stations are picking it up, Sher said. 

“We treasure every single day of the 25 years that we had in public radio,” Sher said. “It has been a dream that no one could imagine.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that PRX distributes Says You. While the show is available on the PRX Exchange distribution marketplace, PRX does not distribute the show. In addition, due to an editing error, a panel in the accompanying photograph was misidentified. The panelist is Carolyn Faye Fox, not Erin McKean.

44 thoughts on “Public radio’s ‘Says You’ to end production of new episodes

  1. It is time to end the show. The past few years have been dull and somewhat annoying – and I never could understand the recording of the 5-year old son of Richard Sher being played for too many years at the end of the show. Surely he is in college by now. End in a high note and say fond farewell.

    • Totally disagree. This is a great show. I look forward to it every week, and I just love the word play. Its like an auditory version of the NYT Crossword. Fantastic content and really funny. We need more shows like this on NPR. this is one of the reasons I’m a sustaining member of my local station!!!

  2. I’m sad that production of new shows is ending, and I’ll be sad again when the repeats are done and/or my station drops the show. The early seasons after Richard Sher died were rough, but I think they had found their footing in the last couple of seasons and the quality was almost back to what it was before his death.

    My weekend staples have slowly been taken away. First Prairie Home Companion, then Car Talk, now Say’s You. I fear the day I hear that Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell me is throwing in the towel.

    Maybe I’m just part of the aging demographic, but it seems to me there is a hole forming in the market for a new comedy/quiz/variety show or two.

    • Agree. NPR is pursuing a younger demographic. Unfortunately, they don’t open their wallets as we did. My local station missed its pledge goal for the first time in liberal San Francisco.

      Some of the newer shows have hosts whose constant vocal fry makes me cringe. Or, they are very excluding – our body politic is an example – a show for women of color (only apparently.) I Hope NPR’s new best friends pay up or NPR will be history.

      • Oh, yes, I agree with you and am finding less of interest on KAED, whereas I had been a steady listener. I m sad every Sunday when 4 pm comes around.

  3. I’ve really enjoyed the show, including those composite early episodes that I had never had a chance to hear before. Wonderful to hear people being genuinely witty.

  4. Please don’t end the show; it is my favorite radio show. As someone else said, radio has been taking away my favorites, not just weekends but also weekday nights. I have attended Says You in person several times and would do so again if they were in a place I could reasonably get to. And yes, the younger Sher is much older now, but so what? I still enjoy hearing him say the goodbye; I listen to the very end for that reason! I love this show!!!

  5. I agree. Too much hair splitting for a rollicking good show. I sometimes use the weird vocab to impress and seldom cite my source. Where can I steal now ?
    Y’all are messing with our lives, so please reconsider ..
    Jay Peterson
    Cambridge

  6. This would explain the “Commercial” that Ben has been doing about 1 last hurrah Using up those Frequent flyer Miles. I hope my local Station continues and seeing it is Says You base station, WGBH, they should. I agree, we’ve lost Saturday staples….1st with Prairie and now this. I am glad I’ve attended numerous local shows over the past few years.

  7. If you *gulp* really must go permanently *sniff* I will happily purchase 50 or 100 of the later episodes if you can format onto a CD..
    Will pre-order & pre-pay because I’ll miss you all so very much. Much luck with your individual pursuits and future directions to all of you.
    Hoping this is just a temporary farewell.
    Going to grab the nearest tissue box now……
    KS

  8. The panelists are so talented and the subject matter is so humorous and informative, Says You has set a very high bar for future radio shows. With that said, there’s a tremendous need for this format – while I hate to see Says You go, I think a refresh may help attract newer viewers. I’m not sure the subscription model would work – if it was delivered vi webcast, I honestly would not mind hearing a few well-places ads to make it worth production time. Thank you to the panelists who feel like friends – Murray, Caroline, Dave and the rest. I’ll kiss you all dreadfully and I hope I can listen to you long into my dotage, where everything old will be new again.

  9. Please, please do not end the show. You have no idea how much I enjoy this very literate and witty show. There is no other like it and I always look forward to it when I get to laugh more than at any other time during the week. It is educational and genuinely funny and that is something not easily found in today’s media. Most of the shows on the air seem to be involved in dumbing down their audience. Few, if any, try to improve their listeners/watchers knowledge and appreciation of the English language. If we lose “Says You”, we love a true treasure. Please try to keep the amazing show on the air. I promise that I shall be listening.

  10. Says You is my favorite radio show. Saturday night at 6 pm in Tacoma, Wa is Says You night at my house. I agree with previous writers about how we have lost some good radio. It was so much better than the repeated fear based programs we get now day after day. I loved the show that replaced Prairie Home Companion.

    • I am no linguist for sure. I will miss the wit and laughter of the show. So smart! I think NPR is going towards a fear programming model. It is getting a little tiresome. Our local station KQED lost Michael krasny on forum. The programming has changed substantially. Rather than dealing with Bay area problems finding solutions we’re stuck in this equality thing. I’m all for quality and equity. But you got to give us a break sometimes.

  11. I’m so sad to read that Says You is being discontinued. I really enjoy it. Often I listen to both weekend broadcasts, the one on Saturday and the one on Sunday. Please reconsider.

  12. Is NPR seriously trying to shoot itself in the foot? What demographic supports public radio do we think? Perhaps NPR’s new hires have already lined up the 19 year old celebrity film director/artist/ author/ composer/ poet/ blogger as executive producer eager to replace such antiquated concepts as wit, energy, thought, and focus ? If so can we expect riveting insights into their ‘journey’ and ‘transition’ in a new ‘self care’ ‘space’ where the oppression of correct grammar & pronunciation will be deaccessioned – marginalized as double negatives had once been. Will such topics as Gendered Actors Code Switching, Inhabiting Your Twitter Feed, Negative Impacts of Literacy, Struggles with Having a Moment, and Extended Dorm Life Streams highlight NPR’s empowered new season? Hold tight – A Way With Words may be next to go!
    Excellent writing keeps programs evergreen but I fear we are heading to an era of the deciduous.

    • Excellently nails worries & feelings some of even your (slightly) younger listeners feel. Thank you Ms. Hubbard for your contribution here. Here’s hoping they actually get heard.
      Sincerely,
      K.Stewart

  13. Dang! Now I’ll never get a chance to answer a question before Arnie does. So many enjoyable hours, two live performances–I’m grateful for every minute. Please please please offer seasons for sale. I want to keep listening, as I do with Car Talk. Thank you, Richard, Laura, Ben and all cast members for years of joy and education.

  14. I don’t usually comment but just had to this time. I completely agree with ADeweyan. Most of my favorite shows have gone away. “Says You” has changed but that’s the way of the world. I was privileged to attend 4 broadcasts in my area. The last was in Utica NY. I always loved seeing everyone in person. I will treasure those memories as I sit back and listen to whatever comes my way, be it fairly current 0r dusted off. I felt that I knew you not just as panelists but old friends. Thanks to you all for a great run.

  15. The death of Richard Sher was probably the “beginning of the end” for Says You!, just as Tom Magliozzi’s illness was the end of Car Talk. But it’s true that public radio seems to be dumbing down and flailing to be “hip.” Here in Wisconsin, WPR dumped its weekend old time radio theatre, popular for over 30 years as a “racist, sexist embarrassment” only a few weeks after praising it as one of their biggest money-makers; raising “Amos ‘n’ Andy” as a straw-man argument. (I listened to the show for 20 years and can’t recall ever hearing them air A ‘n’ A…) All backlogged shows formerly available at their website were erased in a purge worthy of Putin. Minnesota Public Radio recently aired a series called “The Warming House,” dedicated to interviews with Twin Cities scenesters interspersed with music played strictly from artisanal sixties vinyl, of course. (It went off air for the summer, but I’m guessing will be back in the fall.) Long live the hip and the “woke.” Phooey.

    • There should’ve been a comma after “popular for over 30 years.” The show was not popular for being a “racist, sexist embarrassment.” (I really thought I hit that damn comma too!) The local WPR station last year dropped their annual Halloween tradition of airing Orson Welles’ classic “War Of The Worlds” as well. Guess they were afraid of offending any Martians who might be listening…

  16. When I first met Richard I was descending from a balcony and missed a step. (I claim I prostrated myself at his feet.) He looked down at me and said Mr. Jonsson I presume. We discussed “My Word!”, a BBC show that ran 32 years, probably over 50 if you include the reruns in the US and Australia. I said then and still say that I would like to see “Says You!” beat that record. NPR shouldn’t be able to tell Pipit & Finch not to produce any new shows, only that they will not buy them. Pipit & Finch’s non-profit status may be a hindrance to going commercial, but if there are not other “educational” options we need to invent them.

    • Far as I can tell, Pipit & Finch ( Richard Sher’s media company, not to be confused with the soap company in Nevada which somehow uses the same name!) is independent of NPR, so you’d have to convince Laura et al. to keep it going. But more importantly, convince NPR and its stations to keep airing it.

  17. Broken hearted. Like everyone else posting here we’re losing great radio that NPR is know for! Gawd forbid Fresh Air or SciFri are next !. I will request my donation back .

    Thank you for the ksighter, tears and cool new words!

  18. Dreadful decision. My weekends of hobbies, gardening and errand runs along with NPR’s wonderful weekend lineup keeping me company take another step into obscurity. I’m trying to adjust to the replacements, but the Golden Age is over, and I suppose I will need to self-curate podcasts as a substitution.

  19. I don’t understand why it’s necessary to quit? This isn’t just some old game, I live alone, and it’s the only intelligent show on. I have the stations, days, and times on my phone’s alarm. The ring tone? “Stairway to Heaven”! I would arrange my schedule around “Says You!” I would stop what I was doing to listen. I cried when I heard my station was dropping the show, especially after losing Michael Krasney on Forum and Car Talk. DON’T DO THIS!! Please take a break, but COME BACK when this virus burns out. PLEASE, Please, please, pls…

    • Though Barry Nolan, being a regular panelist, must have seemed like a logical successor to Richard, he really didn’t work well at all. Too aggressive and overbearing. Greg Porter was better, and Richard’s co-writer Dave Zobel has been the best so far, probably because he and Richard must have shared a similar viewpoint and sense of humor when they were writing together. I would be content to see “Says You” continue with him as host, but it’s not in the cards.

  20. I agree with many of those who have posted that this show has been a main stay in my Saturday evening routine. My schedule revolved around this show and I tried to attend every time they were in Seattle. I hope that Laura Sher will reconsider new shows – I just can’t imagine my weekend with out hearing Arnie, Paula, Francine, Barry, Tony, Carolyn and Murray and marveling at the depth of their knowledge of arcane subjects.

  21. I was surprised to discover how very sad I was upon hearing the news. I have been crestfallen since.

    “Crestfallen” originated in the 16th Century and means “dejected, having a drooping crest or hanging head” and refers to when birds lowers the feathers on their head. Or, did it originate in Middle Ages in Europe, to describe the practice of removing the crest of defeated royal families from a castle or fort. Or maybe it’s adopted from a mining term for removing the top of a hill, as in strip-mining.

    Regrettably, now we’ll never know.

    But 10 points to the commenters who can resist the reflexive impulse to upbraid younger generations and be magnanimous instead. If public radio is an important institution to you, then remember your public radio station in your estate planning. Perhaps remember that tastes change. If the kids don’t have money to support programming, it might be because they’re young and that wealth has been disproportionately distributed for 40 years to older generations and myopic policies have contaminated the biosphere beyond the point of sustaining their economic prospects. I heard all about it on NPR.

  22. There is too much sadness in news of the demise of Says You. I was informed of the show’s end by a friend on Saturday while we were on a sunset cruise (!) aboard the Island Queen out of Falmouth [MA]. And now to add the news from Arnie Reisman’s “home-island” newspaper, The Vineyard Gazette, which reported with this headline on October 4,, “Arnie Reisman, Journalist, Humorist, Former Island Poet Laureate, Dies at 79.”
    According to the Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, Reisman had filed his latest column last week, entitled “Washashore Chronicles: A Parting Gift” as a homage to Says You. The opening line of the article: “ I can see a headline now. SAYS YOU! Says Adieu!”
    Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM on WCAI, our local NPR station, and all the other evenings to come, will be empty of wit and humor and gracious repartee. We need that blend now more than ever in our lives.
    A plea to Laura Sher: we can’t bring back Arnie, but you can bring back Says You. Please…

    • RIP Arnie.
      Thanks for the pleasure of your company all these years.
      Sincere condolences to your friends & family.
      You will be much missed.

  23. I am so sad about this! This show celebrated all that is language, literature, word derivations and meanings, history, geography, science, theater and even sports. All this was handled with witty humor!! It was wonderful to hear incredibly intelligent people quote poetry and prose, share stories and answer questions faster than many of us could process the question!
    This is a huge loss for Public Radio!

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