Odyssey cancellation

by Henry Farrell on July 14, 2005

I’m very sorry to see via “Sean Carroll”:http://preposterousuniverse.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_preposterousuniverse_archive.html#112119788542529522 that Chicago Public Radio has cancelled Gretchen Helfrich’s “Odyssey”:http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/odyssey/ show. I appeared on it together with Eugene Volokh a few weeks ago, talking about blogging. Over the last half-year or so, I’ve done several radio/tv appearances and often found the medium and the level of questions pretty unimpressive. _Odyssey_ was the exception; Helfrich was an exceptionally well informed and intelligent moderator/interviewer, and the hour-long format allowed for real conversation. After appearing, I began to listen to the show regularly on the web. I’ll miss it.



Joshua W. Burton 07.14.05 at 7:14 pm

Terry Gross for people; Tom & Ray for cars; Gretchen for ideas. Nothing else (in North America) even comes close.


Jon H 07.14.05 at 8:17 pm


They should cut down on the tour shows of Wait Wait. And maybe trade in PJ O’Rourke for someone cheaper.

And maybe they could save money by taking listener questions by email or IM, rather than by toll-free phone lines.

There’s *got* to be some way they could scare up money for the show. I wonder how much they could make by putting shows on iTunes for purchase.

Or at the very least, cut it back to Chicago-only, and lose the expenses of trying to syndicate it.


Jon H 07.14.05 at 8:18 pm

It would be nice if there were an effort to grab the old shows and archive them as MP3.

(And in the process, adequately index the topics and guests.)


pedro 07.14.05 at 9:23 pm

Odyssey was infinitely superior to any other radio show I’ve ever heard. Schade!


nick 07.15.05 at 5:49 am

This is a shitty, shitty decision. Odyssey only gets broadcast once-weekly on my local NPR affiliate, but it stands out in the line-up. It’s one of the few American public radio offerings that wouldn’t be out of place on Radio 4.

I hope that Josh and the Odyssey team consider alternative funding and transmission methods — or that the WBEZ board responds to feedback. It’s easy to poke fun at the ‘bi-weekly beg-a-thon’ methods by which public broadcasting is funded in the US, but I’d pay specifically to keep this programme running.


Henry 07.15.05 at 7:24 am

If there’s any chance that the WBEZ board might respond to feedback, I’d be happy to write a new post encouraging people to write polite letters requesting its reinstatement (and see if Eugene V. would do the same).


Sean 07.15.05 at 7:56 am

I think the chances are small, but it might be worth a try. I’d be happy to join along in asking people to write. Probably the best person to write to is General Manager Torey Malatia.

Torey Malatia
General Manager, WBEZ
848 E. Grand
Chicago IL 60611


Michael Kremer 07.15.05 at 8:40 pm

I’m a member of WBEZ. I’m seriously considering writing to Torey Malatia and threatening to not renew my membership. Maybe that will get their attention.


David Sucher 07.16.05 at 3:20 pm

The only bright side is that now we have podcasting with Apple is in the forefront of distribution.
Shows of intelligence can be circulated — perhaps wider than before, in fact — via podcasting. That assumes the host can find a venue for th erecording and I have no idea what that involves for broadcast quality but it couldn’t bee too much thee days.


ken 07.16.05 at 8:15 pm

Tricky thing about podcasting is if there are any music rights involved. I don’t know how heavily Odyssey used music. But if it does at all then podcasting requires additional licensing of the music, apparently. We want to podcast our show Philosophy Talk. But it looks as if we’ll have to totally eliminate the music to do so. Indeed, it looks as though we’ll even have to strip the music from our audio stream. Ugh!

It might be easier for Odyssey if WBEZ is the owner of the show, as it probably is, then it is covered by the CPB’s blanket purchase of broadcast rights for all music for all NPR members. But nobody is certain, though, whether those rights extend to podcasting. And nobody is taking any risks.


stevee 07.18.05 at 3:25 pm

Odyssey is a really great program and its cancellation is truly sad. In 2002, as Program Director of WOBC 91.5 fm in Oberlin, OH, I arranged for our station to syndicate Odyssey, and Tory Malatia was extremely friendly and helpful, and of course the show was well received.

I dropped him an email today to let him know how disappointed I was to hear this news. He thanked me for my early support of the show, but the general tone of his email made it sound like the situation may be beyond salvation.

I’ve contacted another friend who works at WBEZ to see if anything else can be done. I will mention the podcasting angle to Mr. Malatia in my reply [no, Odyssey would really not have music rights issues as the only music used in the program was its (originally composed?) instrumental theme song].

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