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April 5, 2004   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | An ear for news

An ear for news

Public radio station WUGA-FM debuts local news program

April 5, 2004
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A new local news program will hit the Athens airwaves beginning April 8 at 4:30 p.m. Athens News Matters, produced by local public radio station WUGA-FM 91.7/97.9, is a weekly program featuring media professionals discussing issues important in and around Athens. The journalists will also discuss how their publications choose to cover the news and what news to cover.

Regular panelists include Jason Winders, executive editor of the Athens Banner-Herald, and Brad Aaron, executive editor and publisher of Athens Weekly News. Each week a third journalist will rotate onto the panel from such publications as The Red & Black, Oconee Enterprise, Eco Latino, Flagpole, Zebra and others. Mary Kay Mitchell, news director at WUGA, is the show's host.

Davin Welter, WUGA station manager, expects a spirited but civil debate on civic issues. 

"Our local democracy relies on accurate information from several different local sources," says Welter. "I feel it's important that WUGA foster a discussion of ideas and opinions about the issues that face our community. We need an engaged citizenry, and I hope that Athens News Matters will play a key role in that process."

Topics will range widely from unfolding issues to examinations of long-standing issues. Subjects up for discussion on the show's debut are the proposed toll and potential future development of Ga. Hwy. 316 and local ­"quality-of-life" ordinances-issues that affect a broad cross-section of citizens, including students, residents and visitors. At the conclusion of the program, each panelist will have a minute in which to discuss an issue of his or her choosing.

The show will be broadcast on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. before National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Show host Mitchell has been working in radio for 30 years and is one of the original staff members who helped put WUGA on the air in 1987. Since then, she has served as news and public affairs director by managing the station's local informational programs.

A team of volunteers will produce the show each week. Patricia Priest, a local independent radio producer, is the executive producer; Mary Whitehead serves as technical producer. Original music was written for the show's theme by Neal Priest, director of emergency services at St. Mary's Hospital and a local musician.

"Local news is crucial to our everyday lives and is the very foundation of the future landscape and vitality of the Athens area," says Pat Priest. "We designed this show to foster spirited discussions that highlight the relevance and importance of local issues-and of the press coverage that conveys our sense of community to ourselves."

Broadcasting from the UGA campus, WUGA's weekly listenership numbers more than 25,000.

"This show is the result of our listeners expressing a desire to hear more local news coverage and the station finding creative and inexpensive ways to produce this type of program," Welter says. "Athens News Matters is the result of our panelists and volunteers who believe in making our great community better."

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