On May 25, WETA-FM announced that it would replace much of its classical music programming with news broadcasts. Frank Ahrens wrote [Style, May 26]: "Classical radio listeners are a devoted lot, given to flurries of letter writing and phone calls if a favorite station tinkers with its lineup. Dropping four hours of music a day could stir a (well-behaved) revolution." I hope The Post is wrong -- let it be an avalanche, not just flurries, of letters and phone calls. Let the well-behaved revolution begin.
WETA's decision to jettison precious blocks of wonderful music will result in an immeasurable loss to the quality of life in the D.C. area. At certain times, the absence of classical music on WETA will mean the absence of classical music on radio in the Washington area -- period.
For example, early on Sunday mornings, portions of WETA's "Sunday Morning Baroque" competed with talk on the commercial classical music station (WGMS); now listeners will have to choose between talk and more talk. At other times, listeners will have to choose between news on WETA and commercials interspersed with movements -- not complete works -- of classical music on WGMS. Heretofore, the listening choice in both cases was easy -- WETA-FM. No longer.
The damage that this change inflicts on us is illustrated both on weekdays and weekends.
On weekdays, classical music on WETA was available on the radio in my office as background music. With WETA on my radio, I could close my eyes for a brief moment of stress reduction and wonder: Is that Bach or Handel? Is that Mozart or Hayden? Now I am deprived of commercial-free classical music, and I cannot listen to news at the same time as I am earning my salary.
On weekdays, getting to and from the office also will be less tolerable. WETA music during the morning commute was a help in relieving the stress of negotiating the nation's second-most congested road system.
On Sunday mornings, I enjoyed a leisurely read of The Post while drinking my morning coffee and listening to the delightful music on WETA's "Sunday Morning Baroque." Now on Sunday mornings between 8 and 10, I can read The Post and simultaneously try to listen to news on WETA, or I can listen to commercials on other radio stations. No thanks to both.
With The Post and with the abundance of so many serious news magazines and journals, radio news and talk programs and other sources of both serious and light commentary, don't news junkies have enough fodder without further reducing the enriching contribution of classical music to our lives?
Lighten up, WETA. Or should I say, "Get serious." We need more -- not less -- Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert. We get our due of politics, government, war, violence in our schools and other issues about which we should be informed without getting yet more at the expense of the serenity that classical music brings to our lives.
As a longtime contributor to WETA, I have been willing to pay for commercial-free classical music. I will not be willing to pay for more news and more talk.
-- Jack R. Goldberg
In my younger days, I spent a lot of time on the road. I recall thinking, "Ah, I'm back in civilization!" whenever I got within range of Felix Grant's voice on his old nighttime show on WMAL or Bill Cerri's voice in the morning on WETA.
Felix and Bill are, alas, long gone, but I can't help wondering what they would have said about the current state of jazz and classical music on local radio stations. WETA's recent decision to switch from classical music to "Morning Edition" is just one more in a long string of actions that have come close to eliminating the need for push-buttons on my car radio.
In 1997 WGTS in Tacoma Park switched from classical to some kind of mishmash of religious and pop music, ending up with the worst of both genres.
That same year, WDCU's superb jazz broadcasting was banished in favor of the all-blather network, C-SPAN (we really needed more talk radio, didn't we?).
And now it appears that, if I want classical music before 10 a.m., I'm going to have to listen to the strained jollity of the "personalities" on WGMS.
Post reporter Frank Ahrens pointed out that "WETA can now tell potential underwriters that it has replaced programming for a relatively small number of listeners with the most popular show on public radio." Pray tell, what's the difference between this kind of thinking and that of commercial radio? Maybe we need to come up with some kind of new public radio structure that's actually "public."
Or maybe I'll just have to load up my car with the old cassettes that have been gathering dust in my basement.
-- Robert Herring