You know public radio is truly keeping with the times when a podcast named What the F*ck gets repurposed for a 10-episode run syndicated by the Public Radio Exchange. I wrote about WTF, as it is more commonly known, back in March because it’s become my favorite podcasts, in part because host/creator Marc Maron is a great radio interviewer, on par with just about anyone else on public radio today.
However, on WTF Maron doesn’t shy away from using its namesake expletive, nor other words and topics the FCC would frown upon airing before 10 PM. Thus the show’s journey onto public radio is due to a labor of love by Jesse Thorn, who produces the independent public radio show The Sound of Young America, and that show’s editor Nick White. Over the course of six months Thorn and White edited down the archives of WTF–filtering or bleeping out words and content not suitable for daytime broadcast–into ten one-hour episodes. Thorn also says that he was encouraged to take on this mission by Ira Glass of This American Live, and Torey Malatia, CEO of Chicago Public Radio, who also suggested keeping the name WTF (as an abbreviation only). Glass even recorded several promos for the program in his inimitable style:
Although Marc Maron is not exactly an unknown personality–having been a successful stand-up comedian, a host on Air America and making talk show appearances–his podcast has most certainly been an independent, up by your bootstraps affair. I have no doubt that his name recognition helped attract an audience faster than a podcast by a true unknown, combined with his ability to attract guests who also have name recognition. Nevertheless, these factors alone do not necessarily add up to a successful podcast project.
I’m pleased to see a program like WTF have the opportunity to be aired nationally on public radio. In particular I’m glad that public radio is still a venue open to challenging new projects that aren’t necessarily produced by a particular station. This is assisted in no small part by the PRX which does provide a marketplace that is open to independent producers with a relatively low bar to entry. I’d like to think that the next public radio star will be a podcaster.