Friday, October 29, 2010

Check Out What VPR Is Scaring Up For Halloween!

The Capitol Steps: Politics Takes A Holiday!
Put down your torch and pitchfork this Halloween and join the Capitol Steps as we skewer everything left, right and wrong with the country today!

Campus Exorcism
A VPR Commentary by Joe Citro

"St. Michael’s College in Colchester is named after the angel who booted Lucifer out of Heaven. But some say the eternal battle between good and evil is still being fought at the school... For decades there’s been a persistent rumor that an exorcism was performed right there on campus."

I Put A Spell On You....Because You're Mine!!
Happy Halloween, and a veritable traffic jam of local concerts during the upcoming week in the VPR listening area! Listen to Robert Resnik at 1pm on Halloween!

Classical Halloween
This morning, VPR Classical's Walter Parker and Cheryl Willoughby celebrated Halloween with "a frightening brew of the dark, the dissonant, and the downright macabre". Now, take your turn at Bone-Chillers And Blood-Curdlers: The 'Deceptive Cadence' Halloween Puzzler from NPR Music. For the youngest classical fans, you know Classics For Kids will select some "appropriately spooky classical music" for the holiday. (photo by Cheryl Willoughby)

Halloween Tricks And Audio Treats From NPR
Visit for "Beyond The Grave: Contacting Houdini," "Ten Things I Learned As A Zombie," "In 'Amityville,' A True Real Estate Horror Story," and more at!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VPR Responds to Dismissal of Juan Williams by NPR

Dear Listeners:

This morning we began to hear from listeners who were concerned about NPR’s decision to terminate news analyst Juan Williams’ contract after remarks he made on the Fox News program, The O’Reilly Factor.

You can learn more about NPR’s decision, and the attention that it has generated, by visiting their website. The rationale that NPR has provided for their actions today is based on their view that his comments were, “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.”

NPR produces many of the programs that Vermont Public Radio (VPR) chooses to broadcast, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. As a separate independent news organization, VPR holds its staff to the highest standards in professional ethics. Issues such as these are complex and weighed very carefully. We abide by the NPR News Code of Ethics which includes the following statement: “Our coverage must be fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest.” As journalists, “we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our independence and fairness.”

This is not the first time that a decision at NPR has generated a response by our listeners. We have reached out to NPR asking for more details on the rationale for their dismissal of Williams and await their reply. If you would like to contact NPR directly you can do so by calling the NPR Listener Care Line at (202) 513-3232 (open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.) or via their website.

As always, we appreciate hearing from our listeners, whether it is positive feedback or constructive criticism.


Robin Turnau
President and CEO
Vermont Public Radio

UPDATE (10/25/10): NPR CEO Apologizes For Handling Of Williams' Termination.

UPDATE (10/22/10): NPR's Ombudsman Alicia Shepard shares her view in a post titled, "NPR's Firing of Juan Williams Was Poorly Handled."

Behind the Mic

Before I joined the staff at Vermont Public Radio I listened diligently to membership drives (I know what you're family gave me the same look that you are making now).

But really, I enjoyed hearing personal appeals from the folks who brought me the news, information and music that I relied on each and every day. It was also exciting to listen in during a challenge to hear the phones ringing off the hook; dedicated listeners swooping in to save the day. I had a good idea of the what made up a VPR membership drive...or so I thought.

Since February, I have lived through two (and a half!) membership drives. My first week on the job was actually during the winter membership drive. In an instant, any preconceived notions about membership drives went out the window. I had no idea as a listener just how much preparation, coordination, blood, sweat and tears go into a successful membership drive. Of course, the most important ingredient in that recipe is you, the listener. We can't do it without you. And we are all humbled at how, time and again, you step forward and take ownership over your public radio station by helping to pay for the programming. Thank you!

In thinking about this membership drive, I wanted to provide our listeners with a peek behind the curtain. I asked all of our staff to send photos of the work that happens "behind the mic" during the fall membership drive. (I apologize for the quality of some of the photos, as the majority were taken with camera-phones.) I hope you enjoy the pictures...we'll continue to add more until the end of the drive on Friday evening (or sooner!).

As a post script, you'll notice that some of the photos include members of the Winooski and Saint Michael's College fire departments. On Wednesday morning we had not one, but two, fire alarms. No worries, we are all fine and there was no fire. We let the firefighting crews know that their vigilance and dedication counts as their pledge to VPR!

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed during this fall membership drive. If you have yet to make your contribution to VPR, you can do so online or by calling 1-800-639-6391!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vermont Storytellers

Throughout the country, people are gathering in small groups to tell stories. Inspired in part by the public radio program, “The Moth”, participants share personal stories live on stage with no notes. "Moth-like" storytelling is happening in Burlington and Middlebury - and perhaps at a coffee shop near you.

The Vermont College of Fine Arts
recently held a Celebration of Storytelling in Montpelier. About 20 people put their name in the hat and waited to see if they'd be selected to come up on stage to tell their story. The Chapel was standing room only as ten people told their stories. It was a fun and memorable night for everyone there - and an honor for VPR to be involved.

VPR brings you five of those stories this week at 4:50pm during All Things Considered. The stories will also be available online.

We'd love to hear about storytelling events in your community. Here is the schedule of the Vermonters you will hear on VPR this week. Make sure to tell all your friends to listen.

10/18: Ann Hagman Cardinal of Morrisville explains how a daughter will go to any lengths to honor her mother’s last wish. Her story is entitled “Elaina’s Ashes”

10/19: Susan Cooke Kittredge of Shelburne shares a special moment from the memorial service for her mother-in-law. Her story is titled, “The Calling Card”

10/20: Gary Moore of East Calais tells about an encounter with an intriguing stranger. His story – entitled “There” – offers some food for thought.

10/21: Tom Boone of Sutton tells the story of day when everything that could go wrong went wrong – but the day still ended perfectly. His story is called “Coincidence and a Kiss”.

10/22: Peter Smith, who was Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor in the 1980s, tells a story from his college days entitled “The Tiger and the Bulldog.”

Speaking of The Moth, listen for five new episodes of The Moth Radio Hour beginning Saturday, November 6th at 4pm on VPR.

Chris Wren On VPR's Trip To Egypt

Having lived and worked for three years as Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times, I thought I knew Egypt, but VPR’s trip there encompassed so much that I had never seen before. The traffic jams are worse than ever, but our group became connoisseurs of such frustration on wheels. Our excellent adventure was a great success, thanks to our intrepid band of travelers, who bonded immediately with each other, sharing that restless intellectual curiosity that seems to distinguish VPR listeners.

We crawled over and through ancient temples, tombs and tunnels that dated back nearly five thousand years, sometimes quite literally on hands and knees. We visited Muslim mosques and Coptic Christian and Jewish places of worship. We rode camels near the Pyramids; Elizabeth Pearce and Tracey Morrill opted instead to take horses into the desert, saddling up at three a.m. to greet the dawn on horseback. We flirted with the First Cataracts of the Nile in an outboard motorboat on our visit to a friendly Nubian village in southern Egypt. We bounced along in old carriages glistening with polished brass, and watched a fat moon rise over the Nile from the deck of our five-star deluxe riverboat. But no one complained when we rose before dawn to beat the crowds to the ancient tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens in the desert outside Luxor, or caught our flight to Abu Simbel, north of the border with Sudan.

We haggled for bargains at the night market in Aswan, with street vendors on Luxor’s riverfront and the merchants in Cairo’s sprawling bazaar, the Khan Khalili. We sampled a variety of Egyptian culinary treats – who bothered to count all the falafel we ate? We picked up some useful Arabic, and even learned how to read hieroglyphics and sort out the Pharaonic royalty and their gods and goddesses.

No one complained, even when the desert temperatures climbed above 110 degrees. Bottle after bottle of cold water supplied by the solicitous Carrie McDougall slaked our thirst throughout the day, and there was frosty Stella and Saqqara beer under starry night skies. If we grew weary from the unflagging pace, no one looked bored. The sole mishap was Karen Bowles's banged-up toe, which Doctor Bill Krause taped up to keep her in motion. Al Wakefield set new sartorial
standards with a colorful new Nubian skullcap every day, sending us all out to acquire our own Egyptian apparel.

Carrie McDougall of Cultural Crossroads was a fantastic tour organizer. She recruited a brilliant Egyptologist, the delightful Amany Gawdat, to accompany us as our constant tutor. Carrie’s Egyptian-American colleague, Sherif El Sabai, and his hard-working assistant, Tamer, ensured that everything came off without a hitch. We wound up living next door to the Pyramids, in Egypt’s most celebrated hotel, Mena House, where Sherif, who seemed to know everyone in Cairo, arranged early check-ins and very late check-outs.

Lisa Smith was accompanied by her son Thatcher, who turned thirteen years old on the Nile and was adopted by our entire group. We chose Thatcher to mark his birthday by steering our boat from the bridge, alongside the captain. And we celebrated Sidley Heney’s birthday on a restaurant veranda overlooking the Pyramids, with two chocolate birthday cakes that Sherif carried in from Cairo’s finest bakery. Several fellow travelers stayed a day longer for an outing to the Mediterranean port of Alexandria.

A high-point was our private audience with the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, the renowned archeologist Zahi Hawass, who discussed some of his discoveries, and shared his plans to recover ancient artifacts abducted from Egypt, including the bust of
Nefertiti (now in Berlin,) the Rosetta Stone (now in London,) and the ancient calendar ripped out of a temple in Dendera that Napoleon carted back as booty to Paris (now in the Louvre.) We were also allowed to go inside the barriers protecting the Sphinx and examine itclose-up.

In some afternoon lectures, I discussed how and why Egypt made peace with Israel in defiance of its Arab neighbors, Egypt's current role in the Arab world, the problems with American aid to Egypt, and contemporary Egyptian politics, focusing on who might succeed the ailing President Hosni Mubarek after nearly three decades in power. My wife, Jaqueline, related the challenges of making a home and raising two children in Cairo. The questions from our companions were perceptive, and our discussions spirited. When I proposed a reunion in Thetford, Vermont, later this fall, everyone agreed to come, decked out in Egyptian costume.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Moth Marathon Returns to VPR

There are few things in life more compelling and evocative than a well-told story. And Saturday on VPR, you’ll hear fifteen stories courtesy of The Moth!

From noon to 5PM on Saturday, we’ll hear stories in typical Moth fashion: true stories, told live without scripts, notes, props or accompaniment. Stories include that of a firefighter searching through a blazing apartment for two missing children; author Richard Price goes on a ride-along with some New York cops who make assumptions about the people they stop; and a Mormon woman tries out a relationship with an atheist.

The Moth’s type of storytelling is catching on in Vermont. Last month in Montpelier several Vermonters took the stage at Vermont College of Fine Arts to share stories, and you’ll hear some of those all next week during All Things Considered. You can also learn how to host your own Moth event.

Programs like The Moth Radio Hour are listener-supported, which means VPR relies on you for contributions that help pay for them. Please make your contribution today. And remember to tune in Saturday at noon!

Alec Baldwin Says Don't Give.

Alec Baldwin doesn't want you to pledge...or does he? How much do you need to pledge for Robert Siegel to bake you cookies?

What would you do if Nina Totenberg was reassigned to sports, or Terry Gross to Wine Fancy, or Ira Glass to a Spanish pop station? Trust us, listen to these hilarious fundraising spots produced by WNYC and Ira Glass, and learn why you don't want that to happen!

We think you'll feel inspired to make a pledge, so we'll make that easy for you, too. Here's the link, and thanks for keeping VPR's news, music, and humor on the air!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Know You're A Die-Hard VPR Listener When...

During this morning's fundraising on Morning Edition with Mitch Wertlieb and Jane Lindholm, we got to talking on and off the air about how you know if you're a VPR die-hard. Here were some of our thoughts:

Jane: You know you're a VPR die-hard when you say "Goooooood morning!" along with Mark Breen during the Eye on the Sky forecast.

Mitch: You know you're a VPR die-hard when you not only have a VPR sticker on your car, but also on your home appliances, and sometimes on your pets and children.

Jane: You know you're a VPR die-hard when you can not only pronounce but spell the names of reporters like Sylvia Poggoli, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, or Snigdha Prakash.

Sustaining Member Carrie of Montpelier: You know you're a VPR die-hard when you can't even conceive of having your VPR Artist Mug collection interrupted by even one mug.

Mitch: You know you're a VPR die-hard when you've perfected your Lynne Rosetto-Kasper impression from The Splendid Table.

Me: You know you're a VPR die-hard when your roller derby name is Susan Slamberg, and your number is 107.9 FM.

How do you know you're a VPR die-hard? Let us know! One sure way is to make a financial contribution. Please make a pledge today online, or by calling 1-800-639-6391. Thanks for all you do!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The New Homepage

If you're a regular visitor to, you may have noticed that we just launched a redesign of the homepage.

The primary reason we redesigned the homepage was to deliver more content to visitors. Listeners consistently tell us that, when it comes to the on-air broadcast, they want more news and programming with fewer promotions and fundraising. The prior homepage fell short on this principle: it was great at promoting our service, but the actual content was short-changed.

We flipped that dynamic on the new homepage, placing VPR and NPR News front and center with promotions taking a back seat. There are more News headlines and stories occupying more "above the fold" real estate than ever before. Ongoing features and series, such as "Report From Afghanistan" and "Campaign 2010", are prominently represented on the page. There is more NPR News integrated into the site, and VPR Commentaries have a larger presence.

Another key objective in redesigning the Homepage was to improve technical "accessibility" of the page. Visitors using mobile devices, such as the iPhone, will notice that the page holds up without some of the distortions that occur when someone visits a site on a mobile device. Listeners with visual disabilities, who use "screen readers" to browse the web, will find that the new page is more easily navigated and interpreted by such devices. For our site visitors using dial-up internet connections, the new page is "lighter" and loads more quickly than the prior version: this may not be noticeable to the naked eye, but it is an assurance that we're able to move the site forward without leaving behind any of our visitors/listeners.

What hasn't changed on the new homepage? The links to "Listen Live" online and stream the on-air broadcasts of VPR and VPR Classical are still prominently displayed. Many visitors come to primarily to launch the online streams, so we moved them from the right column to the top left corner of the page to make sure they're easily found. While we have moved the Promotions and Programming content down the page, you'll still find the Most Popular, the VPR Blog, links to Facebook & Twitter, and Programming mentions in the lower right corner of the page.

So what comes next? This homepage redesign was just the next step in our efforts to improve the online service for listeners. In the next few months, we plan to redesign the VPR Classical page to create a distinct homepage for this growing service and to give it the same upgrade as the "newsier" homepage. We also plan to develop more ways for listeners to access VPR and VPR Classical programming on mobile and other new devices. Listeners can already listen to VPR and VPR Classical on their iPhones, and browse VPR News headlines on mobile devices, but we'd like to improve these services so listeners can access more VPR News wherever they are.

Of course, projects like these require the contributions from a wide variety of folks. The entire staff at VPR played a role, from providing input and feedback, to developing and helping launch the new page. We also work with a couple of stellar local Vermont-based agencies: Found Line, our partners in web design, development, and strategy, and Clearbearing, the team that keeps our networks and web servers stable and secure. Of course, first and foremost, everything we do, and every service we provide, is because of the support of our listeners.

If you have questions, comments, complaints, or suggestions about the new homepage, or anything we do at VPR, we'd love to hear from you.


Jonathan Butler,
VPR Online

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Conversation with Robin

I’ll be taking listener calls tonight at 7:00, and I welcome your thoughts and ideas. Every day we get email messages and Facebook comments about our programming, and now you can easily add your voice to the mix. What programs do you look forward to, and what programs are you happy to miss? What do you want to know about VPR? Are you curious about why Radio Lab isn’t on every weekend, or how VPR is doing financially, or why we’ve added more VPR news at 4:04 and 5:04 in the afternoon? You can write to me in advance at, or call Wednesday evening between 7:00 and 8:00.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Robin Turnau

VPR President & CEO

Monday, October 4, 2010

Celebrating Chandler and VPR Classical in Central Vermont

Good news! Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph is officially ready for business again as of a recent community open house, only 15 months after the historic building’s major renovation began.

It actually never closed. Concerts and programs continued as usual throughout the dramatic transformation even as backstage and other important work areas were temporarily blocked off. The "new" building has nearly 6,000 additional square feet, an elevator that makes every floor accessible, and many 'green' improvements to help the 1907 structure transition into a classy 21st century cultural center.

I visited Chandler's open house celebration with VPR's Brendan Kinney and David Warren on Saturday, September 25th. The cheer of the sunny day was matched by the festive balloons and signs outside the Center. We enjoyed the music on all three floors, conversation with Chandler staff and board members, house tours, and stories about the remarkable effort it took to complete the project in such a short time. (Rumor has it that 49 pans of brownies went into the weekly project meetings alone!)

VPR Classical is pleased to be celebrating an opening in Randolph as well. Our newest signal, WVXR 102.1 FM is now on the air in Central Vermont! I thought about that recently when I purchased the two newest recordings by Nico Muhly for the VPR library. He's a Randolph native, 29 years old, and one of the most promising young classical composers on the scene today. Next year his first full-length opera will make its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera.

It takes a very culturally-minded, involved community to inspire a young composer - renovate a historic music hall - and support the launch of a new classical radio station.

Congratulations to Chandler, and to all of you for making great music possible in Vermont!