Michael Krall’s Program Notes

I’m no Mama Stamberg, but…

Even if you haven’t tried it, you’ve most likely heard about it. I’m speaking, of course, about that pink Thanksgiving concoction from NPR’s Susan Stamberg – her mama’s cranberry relish. This recipe has become such a tradition at NPR they’ve dedicated an entire online series to it. Over the years, Mama Stamberg’s holiday concoction has […]

Here Comes the Sun

Starting in late October until just recently, we heard from a number of listeners who were having trouble picking up WBHM on their radio. They reported ongoing static where previously the signal was uninterrupted. As best, they found this anomaly annoying. After all, WBHM sounded fine yesterday, so there must be a problem with our […]

More Than Meets the Ear

As Program Director, an important part of my job is to field listener questions and, yes, answer complaints. This week, I received a particular vitriolic message regarding the program Reveal – public radio’s weekly investigative journalism program. This listener was concerned the program missed crucial elements of the story and accused us of censoring the […]

Happy Halloween!

Just a quick note looking forward to All Hallows’ Eve this weekend. Don’t miss the ghoulishly good fun of Snap Judgment: Spooked – four hours of scary stories you can hear Sunday night from 6 to 10 – if you dare. You say storytelling isn’t quite your thing but still want to get into the […]

Where is this cutting room and what’s that on the floor?

Last week, I wrote about speaking with artists who come through Birmingham and how a good interview should be thought of as a journey of discovery. I also mentioned the art of editing and how we must boil an interview down from 30-45 minutes to somewhere between four and eight minutes. (Missed it? Here you […]

Speaking with the Stars

I’ve been fortunate to get to interview many artists and musicians making their way through Birmingham. From soloists performing with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra to singer-songwriters, the purpose is to introduce you to interesting people. Some you’ve heard of; others maybe not. But they all have a passion for what they do, and as an […]

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A Trip Down Memory Lane: Part 2

Last week’s trip down memory lane was so popular, I thought I’d share some additional finds.  It used to be that if you wanted to be on the air, you needed a license from the Federal Communications Commission. There was no test. All you had to do was fill out a simple postcard application! This “restricted/radiotelephone operator permit” was […]

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I recently cleaned out my office so new flooring could be installed and came across what I would only describe as blasts from the past!

Membership at WBHM

As you are probably aware, WBHM’s Fall Membership Drive is underway. I often hear from current members who want to know why we still have these on-air membership drives or they want to know what they can do to eliminate them. The fact of the matter is that we can’t eliminate membership drives entirely. Why? […]

Remembering 9/11

It’s one of those moments in history where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. I’m speaking, of course, about September 11th. I was attending a workshop in Baltimore ahead of the Public Radio Program Director’s Conference. Long before everyone owned a smartphone, a colleague entered our workshop and said, “You need […]

A Quick Reminder

Just a quick reminder from Martha and me about program changes going into effect this weekend. You can sleep in a bit later Saturday and Sunday (if you’d like) and still stay on top of the latest news, hear quirky, interesting stories, and do the Sunday puzzle! Weekend Edition now airs from 7 to 10 a.m. on […]

A Change in Programming

This week, I’m writing to let you know of some upcoming program changes. TL;DR: Ask Me Another and Says You! are ending resulting in extra hour of Weekend Edition. After an impressive 25-year run, Says You! is ending production. Billed as “A public radio show of bluff and bluster, words and whimsy,” the program airs Friday nights from 6:30 to 7, and […]

You’ve got…stationality!

Last week, I wrote about stationality – the “feel” or identity of WBHM – and I asked you to use three adjectives to describe our stationality in a short survey. Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply.  The most popular words you chose to describe WBHM were: informative, friendly, trustworthy, smart and intelligent. But there […]

What the heck is “stationality”?

You’ve heard of personality? This week, I want to introduce you to stationality.     Stationality creates a sense of place and gives you another reason why you listen to WBHM. It’s the identity, the “feel” of WBHM. In other words, if WBHM were a person, would you want to hang out with us? Do you […]

The Alphabet Soup of the Public Radio Ecosystem

You’ve no doubt heard of NPR. But you’ve probably also heard of APM, PRI, PRX and a host of other acronyms and call letters such as MPR, WHYY, WAMU, and WNYC. Have you ever wondered what it all means? I’m going to give it my best shot and unpack it all for you, hopefully without […]

On Air, Online, and On the Sofa: Listening During the Pandemic

To say radio listening was impacted by the pandemic would be an understatement. As the country went into lock-down in March 2020, many people had their schedule upended and were no longer commuting. As you can imagine, at home listening surged during this time. This was especially true during the summer of 2020. Today, these […]

Blocking off some time

Weekends on WBHM are a time when we add a little variety to our programming mix. We still keep you up to date with the news, however the programming is slightly different. You’ll hear analysis of the week’s events, long-form journalism, personal storytelling, and music from our region. Part of the programming secret sauce is […]

Meet Ann Alquist

Today I’m talking with Ann Alquist, WBHM’s new Executive Director and General Manager. She begins on July 6th, but I thought you’d like to get a sneak preview! What interested you in the General Manager position at WBHM? I’ve always been a localist, and I’ve been unnerved by the rise of news deserts and the […]

A special interview for our Lissa-ners…

Some voices are so familiar and comforting to you that it’s like listening to an dear friend. Lissa LeGrand is that dear friend, and I’m writing about her because 2021 marks her 40th year of working at WBHM! To celebrate her service, I’m interviewing her for this week’s column. When did you start working here? In […]

Clocks, clocks everywhere…

Last month, I wrote about technology and time, and I specifically mentioned clocks that sync every mission critical system at the station. Today, I’m writing about a different kind of clock – a programming clock. “Clocks” are the specific templates used at NPR, WBHM and other stations to tell us the precise timing of all the […]

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Welcome to the world of EAS

You’ve no doubt heard these harsh tones on our air at random times. These tones activate a computer-generated voice that sends out severe weather warnings. The system is tested weekly and interrupts programming – sometimes at very inopportune times. To broadcasters, it’s known as The Emergency Alert System (EAS), a national warning system in the […]

The secret to good radio is…

Want to know the secret to good radio? Airchecks. What’s that? It’s regular listening sessions with WBHM hosts where I offer feedback on their on-air performance. We talk about what works well and the opportunities to continuously improve. Most of us do our jobs every day and maybe we get feedback once a year. Consider an […]

Technically speaking…

Technology plays a crucial part in the daily operation of WBHM. As program director, I don’t have to understand the nuts and bolts of how a piece of equipment works or know how to fix it. But I do need to have a big picture idea of how something works. Sometimes I feel like I’m the universal translator […]

Why does that announcement air all the time?

As promised, here’s the second part of my column from last week. And, like last week, the answer has to do with how listeners like you use radio and the time spent listening to WBHM. We air 30-second announcements throughout the day (including the overnight hours) which usually promote specific programs, fundraising, special events, or […]

Why do I hear the same thing all the time?

“Why do you air the same stories over and over?” “How come you repeat some programs?” I hear comments like this often and the answers have to do with how listeners use radio, programming economics, and the time spent listening to WBHM. Morning Edition is actually a two-hour program, and savvy listeners know that between 5-7 […]

Breaking news…what goes on behind the scenes

Usually, my newsletter comes out on Tuesday, but given this past Tuesday’s special coverage of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, we decided to wait until today. You might be wondering what goes into airing special coverage on WBHM. The short answer? A lot more than you might think. When special coverage is about […]

My favorite driveway moment…

This week’s column features one of my all-time favorite stories on NPR. Before I share the link, you have to promise me you won’t read this story online, you’ll listen to it. I’ll wait…Okay, promise? Good! See, at NPR.org, in addition to the audio, they also make the transcript available. That’s not a bad thing. Many people go to […]

It’s that time of year again…

What’s the one phrase that repels public radio listeners faster than anything? On-air fund drive. But wait!! Before your eyes glaze over, it’s important to realize that when it comes to fundraising, WBHM (and all of public radio) have grown up over the years. Fifteen or so years ago public radio asked listeners how they perceive fundraising both on an […]

Public Radio’s Core Values

If someone asked you what WBHM sounds like, what would you tell them? Could you put it into words? And if you could, what would those words be? Enter Core Values. A while back, the Public Radio Program Directors Association (yes, there is such a thing!) asked the top producers in public radio to come […]

About 5 years ago…

I once received a phone call that started like this: “About five years ago…I heard this piece of music…that had bells in it…do you know what it was?” My answer was “Maybe? Let me take a look.” The interstitial music you hear on WBHM can come from either a network program or originate in our […]

Worth reading: NPR’s Public Editor

Every so often, I get an e-mail from NPR’s Public Editor, and when I do, I always read it. The Public Editor is a source of independent accountability and serves as a bridge between NPR’s newsroom and the audience. The office strives to both listen to the audience’s concerns and explain the newsroom’s work and ambitions. […]

On the radio, you can’t be clear enough.

At the beginning of the year, you may have noticed something sounded a bit different when you listened to WBHM but you couldn’t put your finger on it. You were right! Something is different. Previously, we identified ourselves as Public Radio for the Heart of Alabama as well as Your NPR Station. For consistency and clarity we made a […]