Tag Archives: To the Best of Our Knowledge

Jim Fleming: A Familiar Voice on WPR

Jim FlemingAt this week’s Downtown Rotary meeting, the iconic Jim Fleming reflected on his career at WPR that spanned over five decades. Although Jim may not look familiar, his voice is instantly recognizable as long time host of programs such as, “Chapter A Day” and “To the Best of Our Knowledge.” Jim came to Madison with his family in 1964, when his dad, Robben Fleming, accepted a Provost position at the University of Wisconsin. His mother, a violinist, helped to shape and instill his love for music from a very young age.

WHA, which later became WPR, began on campus in 1912 and is one of the oldest radio stations in the country. Since its inception, many things at WPR have changed, but it’s devotion to the Wisconsin Idea has always remained steadfast. WPR believed that the boundaries of the University were the boundaries of the state and for many years, they aired UW lectures to give access, exposure and opportunities to those in more rural areas of Wisconsin.

In 1967, The Corporation of Public Broadcast Act spurred national public TV, as well as national public radio. WHA was proud to help shape NPR by providing many staff to help it launch, including their initial program director and music director. In the mid-1970s, one of the biggest changes occurred at WPR when they moved from a single service carrier to a two services carrier. The split separated out the Ideas Network (talk services) & Music & News Service, into the framework that remains today.

When looking forward, Jim feels that the generosity, dedication and loyalty of listeners and business donors will continue to help them survive. Generally about 75% of operating funds comes from these two sources. Going forward, Jim also feels that WPR must remain committed to honoring diversity in it’s book selections, and admits there is still much work to be done on this front. Although they have made advances in sharing stories from a woman’s point of view, they must continue to look for additional voices that ring true. As anticipated, Jim is a big believer in the power of story, and encourages all leaders to consider storytelling as a tool whenever they need to be persuasive. Telling people the why and why it matters is crucial to a compelling argument.

Our thanks to Jim Fleming for his presentation this week and to Jessika Kasten for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/S3_nx0_i7Ic.

How to Be Curious and Why It Matters

Anne Strainchamps

Anne Strainchamps spoke virtually to Rotarians this week on January 20. As a veteran public radio host and producer, Strainchamps shared “How To Be Curious And Why It Matters.”

As a journalist, Anne said, “Curiosity is the DNA of our radio show.” She said curiosity is the key to learning, progress, invention; inventors are driven by curiosity.

“Curiosity is a habitat that can be cultivated,” Anne said. She continued, “We teach math, history, why not curiosity? It’s the one skill I value most; my job is to be professionally curious, and it’s my life’s satisfaction.”

But you can’t wait for it to strike. Anne told Rotarians to hunt for that spark and feed it by asking lots of questions. Asking good questions is a lost art. She suggested asking beautiful questions, questions that spark stories such as, “What do you treasure in your home and why?”

Science is a way of asking questions about the universe; politics is another opportunity for good questions. In today’s environment of polarization, Anne says it’s difficult to be curious and angry at the same time. She told the story of a former coworker, Barbara, who could disarm office conflict when hearing such a story by pausing…then asking, “Why would they say that?” And you would realize you were caught up in being angry or right.

Anne Strainchamps is the host of To the Best of Our Knowledge. She co-founded the show, along with Jim Fleming and husband Steve Paulson, and has been a featured interviewer on the program for more than a decade. She has worked in public broadcasting at WAMU in Washington, DC, and at NPR.

Our thanks to Anne Strainchamps for speaking this week and to Valerie Renk for preparing this review article. Our apologies for the technical difficulties during our livestreamed meeting on January 20. We have reloaded Anne’s video presentation, and you can view it without interruptions here: https://youtu.be/um27uKYTtn8.