This public radio network in West Texas and WCAI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is separated by 2,300 miles. One radio station lies next to an ocean, the other sits in a desert. But in April, a public media exchange experiment called “Radio Hometown: Two Stations, Two Hosts, One Community of Listeners” will bridge that gap.
For three weeks this spring, Steve Junker of WCAI will travel to Marfa, Texas, to host Morning Edition, while Travis Bubenik of Marfa Public Radio goes to coastal Massachusetts to host All Things Considered. The two hosts have outlined their mission as an effort to spark conversation across what sometimes appears a divisive gap within a national culture, while reflecting the characters and concerns of their local communities.
Junker came up with the idea of an exchange program more than one year ago. Since then, he’s been working with Tom Michael, General Manager of Marfa Public Radio, who was once approached about swapping reporters with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“We want this project to be a chance to expand our definitions of community, to share our stories more widely, and to grow our sense of connection by learning more about each other—letting Massachusetts talk to Texas, the desert talk to the Cape,” said Junker.
“At conferences, most of us get to see the big stations,” Michael pointed out. “They do amazing work and pull us into the future. But in my experience, fascinating things are happening on the fringes. That’s why this host exchange interests me. What can we do better with our staff size, in our market, for our listeners? I want to find out.”
“I think the similarities between our stations, and the communities they serve, are important,” Junker added. “Glancing at a map, you might think we don’t have much in common. But we’re both small stations serving end-of-the-road communities.”
The project will run from Monday, April 18 through Friday, May 6. The two stations will document the process throughout and make their findings available to other public media groups interested in replicating the project.