Journalist Warren Olney's To the Point, a signature show for local current affairs radio, will end as a daily feature on KCRW (89.9 FM). Pulling the plug on the one-hour program means Olney won't have his own daily radio show in the nation's second-largest media market for the first time in 25 years.
Station president Jennifer Ferro says, “He doesn't want people thinking he's retiring — because he's not.”
The station that has laid claim to being National Public Radio's flagship in Southern California announced this afternoon that Olney's nationally syndicated show would leave the air and re-emerge as a weekly podcast. Olney also is expected to be a regular voice on the daily show Press Play With Madeleine Brand, Ferro says.
Last year marked the end of To the Point's predecessor, Which Way L.A., which started life as a forum for rage and discussion following the 1992 L.A. riots. At the time of its demise, Olney said, “At this point in my career, I felt it was time to make a choice to do one show a day — that’s already a full-time job.”
To the Point took Which Way L.A.'s almost debatelike format — with Olney serving as a moderator for recognized politicians, professors, journalists and authors — and put it on a nationally syndicated stage. KCRW officials said they were notifying stations across the country today that the daily show was being pulled.
Mayor Eric Garcetti once called Olney “the city's institutional memory and town center.”
“It's so hard to imagine public radio without a constant stream of Warren Olney,” says Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of Cal State L.A.'s Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs. “He has been a authoritative voice, a fair moderator and a steady source of intellectual information and engagement.”
Former Los Angeles Times Metro editor Kevin Roderick, publisher of L.A. Observed, notes that Olney was on local television news for 25 years before starting at KCRW in 1992. “Fifty years is a long time to be doing anything,” Roderick said via email. “To the Point has been a major presence on L.A. radio for a long time, and that's thanks to Warren Olney.”
Nov. 10 will mark the last on-air show; Nov. 13 will see the debut of the podcast, Ferro said. Olney also is expected to helm a live event series in partnership with Zócalo Public Square downtown starting Oct. 10, she said. Programmers are still working on what will fill the 1 p.m. slot that will be vacated by To the Point. Ferro says it will be occupied by a news-oriented program.
The station president said that Olney is catching a new wave of news and public affairs podcasting. “With the whole podcasting platform, news is really taking off, and we want to be there,” she says.
The format would allow Olney to be more opinionated and would give guests more time. “'I'm sorry, we've run out of time' — he doesn't have to say that again,” Ferro says.
“It's interesting to see someone in TV and radio is interested in opening new routes,” Sonenshein says. “My guess is it will be successful.”