Wednesday, July 15, 2009

572 Two New York Culture Shocks

572 Two New York Culture Shocks

They're not the kind that rattle the earth. In fact, they each were kind of quiet. But New York underwent two big culture shocks, nonetheless.

First the good one: In the dark of night, the Canadians invaded. They converted 12 Dunkin' Donuts outlets into Tim Horton'ses. What's another bunch of coffee shops in Manhattan? Ordinarily, not much. But, as New Yorkers will find, Tim's makes the best coffee on the planet -- and it'll be better here than it is up north if only because the water here's better. Welcome to NYC, Tim's. Its about time.

Then, the bad one. In a trade reminiscent of a deal for NBA players, the ailing and mismanaged New York Times newspaper has sold its radio station, WQXR, the first commercial classical music station in the country, the biggest and the best. "Oh, don't worry," says the Times, "classical music will remain the format." Yeah. For now. Forty five million dollars will change hands in this confusing and complex deal. WQXR will move up the dial to 105.9, a hard to receive frequency that was meant to serve New Jersey (and remains licensed to Newark.) The Univision Spanish language station that's there now will move down the dial to WQXR's present spot, 96.3 which can be heard far and wide. After that, the New York public radio station, WNYC will take over owning and operating the newly repositioned WQXR.

Complicated to a fault. The classical station that's been operating since 1936 and has been under Times ownership since 1944 and has been a lighthouse of culture in a sea of garbage ever since.

Those of us who have been listening to the station starting in our mothers' wombs will notice a difference. Older listeners will remember the brilliant early days, the tolerable middle period and the okay present period as a New York icon akin to the Brooklyn Bridge, the library lions, the Penn Station eagles and the original Carnegie Hall.

And that 45 million? It's not going to make any difference to the Times' bottom line or debt or advertising woes. Unless they use the money to buy some Tim Horten's franchises.


--Meantime a group of minority broadcasters is asking the treasury for a bailout, claiming new devices used to determine listenership are showing smaller numbers and that revenue is plummeting. Earth to these guys: ALL advertising is plummeting. Everyone in the business, even the big operators, ESPECIALLY the big operations could use a bailout.

--The President has called for spending 12 billion dollars to shore up and expand two year community colleges. It's about time. Some of the best educating in the world goes on within those walls -- and with little of the pomp, claptrap and impracticality that has come to mark most other forms of higher ed these days.

--It has become almost impossible to buy a bad guitar at any price, a sharp change from only a couple of decades ago. The good American and Japanese, Chinese and Korean makers are getting better by the day. And the cheapies are fast catching up, at least in terms of sound and playability, if not in longevity.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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