In a move that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago, public radio stations WYPR and WEAA today announced a collaboration to cover stories following the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death.
As part of the deal, the stations' news directors, Joel McCord at WYPR and Carla Wills at WEAA, will work together to coordinate coverage and assign stories. Each piece will be available to both stations with joint attribution.
It's a smart move for both stations. WYPR's Aaron Henkin produced a great edition of "The Signal" this week, interviewing residents of Penn-North, the scene of recent unrest, but other than that and some segments on "Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast" and "Midday with Dan Rodricks," the station has mostly relied on national NPR reporters to cover recent events in Baltimore. A collaboration with WEAA, which is based at Morgan State University and has a mostly black listenership, should open opportunities to do more complete coverage.
WEAA's recent Freddie Gray coverage includes daily segments on "The Marc Steiner Show" and "Listen Up!" with Farajii Muhammad, who was interviewed on CNN. WEAA's "Hip-Hop Chronicles" used audio of political speeches and press conferences collected by Marc Steiner's producers Mark Gunnery and Stefanie Mavronis to mix into essential late-night tunes for burning a spliff and trying to relax and remain informed. The collaboration with WYPR will give the station's reporters a broader platform to be heard.
Still, the move will come as a surprise to longtime public-radio observers.
Eight years ago, WYPR fired Vice President for Broadcast and Programming and station co-founder Marc Steiner, a move that sparked outrage among some listeners and led to demonstrations. Steiner moved his talk show to rival station WEAA. As recently as March, when City Paper wrote about WYPR's questionable underwriting practices, Steiner was still railing against WYPR General Manager Tony Brandon for the direction he took the station. "The lines were constantly being blurred," Steiner said of his time with Brandon at WYPR. "[Brandon] would push to put someone on the air because they underwrite it."
In the release, WEAA General Manager Michele Williams said: "This is unity for a greater cause, one that gets defined and redefined every single day here in Baltimore. To deploy our resources collectively to inform the community certainly lives up to our public radio mission as a community asset."