Madeleine Brand launched her new KCRW show “Press Play” on Monday after spending over a year off public radio airwaves.
Long a rush-hour fixture in Los Angeles, she quit her top-rated morning news show on KPCC in September 2012 after the Southern California Public Radio station forced her to take A. Martinez, a former sports commentator, as a co-host. KPCC, a rival NPR-affiliate to KRCW, was required to hire a Latino co-host to receive the full payment of a $1.8 million grant from the Corporate for Public Broadcasting.
Her new hour-long show debuted at 12 p.m. PST with an interview with public radio icon Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life.”
The inaugural lineup reflected Brand’s vision for the show to cover regional, national and international current affairs through a Southern California lens.
She previewed President Obama‘s State of the Union address with “Left, Right & Center” co-host Matt Miller. The next 15 minutes were divided between an Oakland Raiders cheerleader lawsuit over missing or late payments and a high-profile education lawsuit in California.
She spent the final half our dishing with legendary KCRW music director Jason Bentley about last night’s Grammy Awards.
Last July, she also said she was working on a monthly foreign affairs shows.
In an email to KCRW listeners on Monday afternoon, she explained with charming frankness how she decided her new show’s name:
“Why ‘Press Play’?” you might ask. The producers and I batted around dozens of ideas and finally came up with one I love (not least because I have a thing for puns): Press Play, as in — let’s start the show. And Press Play, as in playing a little on the air.
One thing’s for sure, we are going to have fun. We will explore Southern California, the city that we love, through serious inquiry, but not taking ourselves too seriously. We will also look at national and international stories — bringing them home through the unique lens of Los Angeles and the incredible voices that live in our backyard. For example, we’re putting together a series called “Fault Lines,” which will examine income inequality with stories on what its’ like to live in Los Angeles on a median income ($56,000 for a family of four), profiles of newly rich and poor, and where these neighborhoods collide.
I know you have tons of options when it comes to your free time, and you want to be intellectually challenged and also entertained. Hopefully, both will happen when you listen to Press Play. And when you have an idea or feel we haven’t adequately covered an important issue, please let us know! We will have a daily segment at the end of each show called “Feedback” where we engage listeners and hear your thoughts.
And listeners are likely to flock.
KPCC was thrashed by fans after quickly replacing Brand with former “All Things Considered” host Alex Cohen just three days after she quit.
“I know some listeners are unhappy, Madeleine had a very strong following,” Cohen told TheWrap at the time. “Change is hard sometimes, especially in public radio.” But comments beneath the story mused on why KPCC chief Russ Stanton let top talent like Brand leave.
“I will not renew. I will not renew!” one, identified as Brent, wrote. “I love KPCC, and respect Alex Cohen immensely, but this is a fools decision.”
Another, identified as Sharon, said: “I finally realized this morning that Madeleine Brand is not just gone on vacation. How sad…”
If elated listeners will translate their gratitude into donation dollars during the next pledge drive, KCRW will certainly have an edge on its cross-town rival.