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Andrew Anderson and Julia Meek played “Meet the Music” together on NIPR.

NIPR loses voice, but sees opportunities to grow

A year after his bona fide British accent became the voice of Northeast Indiana Public Radio, young Andrew Anderson is preparing to return to the United Kingdom.

And not by choice, according to Will Murphy, president and general manager of the non-profit organization that operates two public radio stations in the region.

Murphy says Anderson was here on a Trainee Visa, which he was hoping to upgrade to a full working visa. But Anderson was turned down on the last go-round because the quota for British citizens seeking such a visa was reached earlier than expected.

Anderson plans to apply again for the visa, Murphy says, but he probably won’t return to Fort Wayne, as his girlfriend resides in Chicago.

Murphy says that he tried to get the girl in question to move to Fort Wayne, but the suggestion was not met with enthusiasm.

“I mentioned it to him,” Murphy says. “He didn’t seem willing to pitch the idea.”

Murphy says he and Anderson, the non-profit’s most recent program director, collaborated throughout the past year to bring roughly a dozen new locally produced shows and segments to the airwaves on NIPR.

“That is radical in radio land,” he says. “It just doesn’t happen.”

The trend, not just in public radio but in commercial radio as well, is away from local programming to “prerecorded” fare and “satellite feeds,” Murphy says.

“I think the argument for … computerized radio is pretty clear,” he says. “It’s cheap and easy. And, to be honest, it’s popular. So that makes it hard to resist.”

But Murphy says local broadcasters and newspapers “provide a venue for local folks to get information about their specific part of the world. They can provide coverage of issues that larger media outlets don’t have time for.

“I think that Fort Wayne is a pretty remarkable place, with a lot of talent to draw on,” he says. “I don’t see a lot of value in just playing CDs. But I can see a lot of value in providing a forum for musicians to get local exposure. I can see value in highlighting the (Philharmonic), or performers from IPFW, or local speakers series. That kind of community dialogue is important, and we need to do what we can to sustain it.”

Among the more high-profile local shows on NIPR are relatively recent additions such as the daily public affairs show “Midday Matters” and the local music omnibus “Meet the Music,” and longer-running programs like Julia Meek’s “Folktales.”

Asked how long “Folktales” has been on the air, Murphy responds (affectionately), “Since before God made dirt, I think.”

Meek says it’s been at least 25 years.

And now something is happening with “Folktales” that should have happened ages ago: NIPR is preparing it for syndication.

“My initial plan is to present it to folks in Indiana,” Murphy says. “GMs at other public radio stations, and give them the right of first refusal.”

Murphy says some stations in Ohio have already expressed interest in airing “Folktales,” which features a mix of folk and world music bound by Meek’s lyrical segues, thematic wizardry and encyclopedic musical knowledge

“Meet the Music,” which Meek co-hosted with Anderson, will continue with a single emcee, she says.

“…who could ever take Andrew’s place?” she asks.

“Meet the Music” will present and broadcast more live concerts, Meek says, including one on March 29 at C2G Music Hall.

Murphy calls “Meet the Music” a “phenomenal program which is doing exactly what radio should be doing.”

Taking the show on the road – not just “Meet the Music” but the organization as a whole – is something Murphy says he wants NIPR to do more of.

To that end, NIPR will once again present its annual winter jazz festival, this year at IPFW’s Rhinehart Music Center from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 481-6555 and Murphy can be reached at 452-1189 by anyone seeking to add themselves to NIPR’s growing pool of volunteers.

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at spen@jg.net. A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at www.facebook.com/pages.

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