Farewell to WEKU’s Charles Compton

Listeners to NPR’s Morning Edition often joke that they have to have a box of tissues ready Friday mornings for the often moving Story Corps segments, which present real-life conversations between people who agreed to have their chats recorded and archived in the Library of Congress.

Outgoing WEKU news director Charles Compton. Photo stolen from his Facebook page.

Outgoing WEKU news director Charles Compton. Photo stolen from his Facebook page.

But this Friday morning, I may get a bit misty for another segment: My final Friday morning arts chat with WEKU‘s Charles Compton. Charles, as many listeners know, is departing Richmond for WSKG in Binghamton, N.Y., where he will be the director for news and public affairs content development and radio operations and programming. The stations cover 21 counties in New York and Pennsylvania.

It is hard to believe — and it is hard to pin down an exact start date — but Charles and I have been having these weekly conversations since 2009.

For us, it’s been a chance to give voice on air to a little bit of what we do in the Herald-Leader’s Weekender section each Friday, highlighting the most interesting things happening in Central Kentucky. I knew the segment was gaining traction when people would pitch stories to me for the paper and add, “could you mention us on the radio, too?”

For me, it was also just fun to be on the radio, even if I am definitely one of those people who can’t stand to hear my own voice. I’ve always loved listening to radio, in part because it’s such populist medium. If you’ve got a few bucks, you can buy a very basic radio and have a lot of listening options. All you need is an AM portable to hear every Cats game. You can’t even say that for TV anymore. And it was a particular thrill to be on during Morning Edition, the flagship show of NPR News, hands down the best broadcast news source in the nation.

But what has really made it great was working with Charles, a consummate radio news guy from central casting. In addition to putting together the weekly segments, he also has taught me about radio production to put together some actual stories for the air both as extensions of my Herald-Leader work and as a freelance reporter for WEKU. There has been a lot of talk about collaborations between different kinds of media in recent years, and it has been a thrill to be part of that.

Of course, both our organizations have gone through significant changes the past five years, some of them painful, and we have enjoyed comparing notes on those situations and  journalism issues.

One of my favorite collaborations was when Charles and I sat down to talk with Actors Guild of Lexington director Eric Seale to discuss issues surrounding the theater’s production of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. The one-man play was by Mike Daisey and based on what he said was his reporting in China. It was the basis of an episode of This American Life, which airs on WEKU, and then a source of controversy when it was revealed Daisey fabricated quite a bit of the content of the play. Actors Guild’s production provided the three of us a great opportunity to sit down and discuss the ethical obligations of journalism vs. theater for an extended segment on WEKU’s Arts Weekly program (it does not appear that segment is still available online). A portion of the chat also ended up in my preview story about the play, and it was a cross-media collaboration that wouldn’t have happened had Charles and I not already had that relationship.

And now the curtain is falling on this collaboration, at least in the week-to-week broadcast sense with Charles. I will continue to work with WEKU, picking up the conversation next week with associate manager and program director John Hingsbergen, who I have enjoyed getting to know the past few years and am really looking forward to working with.

But Charles is off to New York, where he will be imparting his vast experience to a young staff. As a journalist and friend, I will miss the collaboration. And as a listener, I will miss hearing that straightforward delivery and, “For WEKU News, I’m Charles Compton.”

Godspeed, Charles. Our loss is New York’s gain.

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