It's not every day that Oregon Public Broadcasting launches a new, locally produced radio show, but for the past few months, that's exactly what we've been gearing up to do.
State of Wonder is a magazine-style radio show featuring the latest stories about literature, music, and visual, performing and creative arts in the Pacific Northwest. Longtime reporter April Baer is the host. No stranger to hosting duties, Baer is primed and is ready to get the show rolling.
"Parts of my brain are coming back online that have been dormant for a while," she says.
Baer was the host of OPB's Morning Edition before becoming one of the station's most recognizable news reporters.
"The skills that I use as a host have a lot more to do with directly connecting with people listening."
As a reporter you're a ferret, you're digging things out and dealing with reams of data and information. As a host you're a medium — its all sort of flowing through you. There's much more focus on making the stories real for people."
The idea for State of Wonder came as a response to the incredible amount of arts content that OPB's existing television, web and radio producers encounter on a day-to-day basis. State of Wonder will be a kind of "hub" for these stories and a place to share the best content from the station's other platforms for a new audience.
For the last few months, Baer has been working with Think Out Loud's executive producer, Sarah Rothenfluch, to get the new program off the ground. Rothenfluch has six years of experience working on Think Out Loud and (though she's loathe to admit it) almost two decades of experience in public broadcasting.
"Think Out Loud is a beast that we're feeding every single day and as things are breaking, we can feed it with whatever is happening. State of Wonder is going to be a new challenge because there is so much going on in the arts world ... and there's just one precious hour to fill."
There are so many things that we will have to leave on the cutting-room floor."
Soon after the duo began outlining the basic framework of the show, I was asked to join the team to bring a bit of multimedia muscle to the program. As an Arts and Life producer, my experience was largely geared toward visual storytelling, something that is notably absent when dealing with radio in the traditional sense.
Radio is completely different from what I'm used to. Obviously, there are certain things you have to see, and others that are more important to hear, but at the heart of it, stories are stories.
It's been a blast getting the opportunity to work with April and Sarah and our dedicated volunteer, Jeffrey Sprague.
"Dream team," says Baer about the crew that has been assembled around her.
"I couldn't ask for better thinking in [the group] and I love being pushed. We're small, but everyone here is in the right place."
"The stuff I enjoy the most is unpacking the production end of things," she adds. "There's this exponential, expanding amount of creative works getting made, whether it be by traditional methods, or new stuff that needs new technology. I always enjoy movies and books and so much more, but I'm always even more excited when I get a little of the backstory of how it was made. And I feel like what we're actually talking about on the show is different ways of looking at that world because that is what we expect artists to do."
Over the last few months we've created a number of pilot shows. We've fed arts content to OPB News and started our social media presence. But launching on air is the real beginning.
"Right now we're just setting the boat out to sail," Rothenfluch says. "We're introducing ourselves. A year from now, I'd like people to really know who we are and that we're the place to find out what's happening in arts and culture in Oregon."
State of Wonder premieres Saturday, November 2 at noon on OPB Radio.