Over Easy: Vermont Public without the radio

For the Valley News
Published: 8/6/2022 12:30:13 AM
Modified: 8/6/2022 12:27:07 AM

I would mock the hysterics who are overreacting to the name change at the former Vermont Public Radio, except that I am one of them.

It is bad. It is wrong. I don’t like it, and you can’t make me.

In case you missed the biggest radio disaster since the burning of the Hindenburg, the former Vermont Public Radio is now Vermont Public.

VPR is R.I.P.

You hear the new name dozens of times a day, and for all I know announcers whisper it when I sleep: Vermont Public, Vermont Public, Vermont Public.

No wonder I have weird dreams.

My instant reaction to the clipped name, a response I am sure is shared by hundreds or even thousands of radio listeners from Pownal to Proctor to Derby Line: Vermont Public what?

I was first alerted to this by the good folks on the Norwich Listserv, who don’t take annoyances lying down. The new name “gets stuck in your craw,” wrote one, who also called it “a disaster to me and my wife.”

Norwich is not alone in discontent. On July 25, Vermont Public CEO Scott Finn appeared on the midday Vermont Edition program to explain the change. “I love the name Vermont Public,” he began, bravely. He said it honored the legacy of VPR “while moving forward.”

It being a call-in radio show, listeners and email writers had their say. A couple said they liked the new name, or would grin and bear it, but far more objected. Stephanie from West Glover said she can’t fathom how Vermont Public could “trash English grammar.” Lauren from St. Johnsbury wrote that the new name “means/says nothing to me.”

Finn was resolute. Vermont Public is the name of both the radio and TV services, which have merged. Not only that, but the larger media world, he said, is a-changing. Many younger Vermonters will never buy a radio. (Heresy?) They seek content from places like Instagram and TikTok, and Vermont Public will meet them where they are.

All that is well and good, but there’s the larger question: What about me? Although I live in New Hampshire, I’ve been a fan of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont Classical since 1982. I avoid Instagram and TikTok like the plagues they are. I own a handsome Tivoli One I bought some years ago from Michael’s Radio and TV in Hanover, a nifty Sangean tabletop I located from a listserv and a swell Tivoli iPal that I picked up at a garage sale. I use them in rotation.

Retired in the basement is a Proton 300, a really nice table radio from the 1980s, built in Taiwan. It has a fine sound but is ailing, and I should do something about that. My wife thinks there is something odd about my collection, but what is wrong with a $20 purchase that doesn’t get you into the police log?

Sometimes I traitorously stream classical music from our computer to a Bluetooth speaker. I have a world of choices, but Vermont Classical has always worked for me, so I stick with it. I like having someone else select the music and occasionally am delighted by what they pick. In times of turmoil, nothing soothes my nerves like Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

The main news and information channel is likewise calming, since discussion shows are aimed more at exploring issues than giving me the heebie-jeebies.

To this neighbor and admirer of the Green Mountain State, VPR has provided the background sound of Vermont. I recall someone calling in during a fundraising drive who said he kept the station on all day in his wood shop. That seemed perfectly Vermonty to me: flannel, sawdust, Mozart. I don’t know if a farmer called in to say the cows love the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, but I wish one would.

I suppose Vermont Public prepares the way for a brave new world, a digital future. I don’t trust it, and here’s why: Digital sources want to bring you everything, and when everything is everywhere, all roads lead further and further away.

When I was a kid, radio signals from New York, Chicago and Detroit beamed in from mighty AM stations only at night. They would come in strong and then fade like a dream. You might fall asleep to the big wide world, but you would wake up at home, back in New England, back in reality.

As for Vermont Public, the missing word seems like something caught on the tip of the tongue, dangling. That moment makes seniors anxious. How soon will you remember the name of a book title, an old song, an old friend?

Vermont Public Whatchamacallit will do for now.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.




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