On Tuesday, the new WOSU radio show “All Sides with Ann Fisher” launched to replace the recently retired Fred Andrle show “Open Line”. Ann joined WOSU after 12 years of working for The Columbus Dispatch and writing a regular column in the Metro section of the paper. We recently sat down with Ann to discuss her new show, and her transition to broadcast media.
Walker Evans: Can you first tell us a bit about how this opportunity at WOSU came about?
Ann Fisher: Well, I always enjoyed being a guest on Fred’s show and while it sounds sort of cliche, his job has always been the one in town that I would love to do if I wasn’t doing the Dispatch column. So it turned out to be very serendipitous. The day I found out that I had lost the column was the day after Fred announced that he was going to retire. The person who told me that news was the first person to tell me that I should try out for that job, and within 24 hours, three other people had said the same thing. So by the end of the week I decided to fish around and see if there was any interest in me. Then I applied and just waited like everyone else. It was a long wait.
WE: Yeah, when the news first broke about Fred’s retirement, there were several people here on Columbus Underground who were upset to hear about it. I always assume that younger people don’t listen to the radio as much as they used to, but it sounds like he had a pretty wide reach. Are you hearing the same types of things from other people? Does it feel like some pretty big shoes that you’re stepping into?
AF: That imagery has been used many times, but I’d answer with both a Yes and a No. At first I was complaining about the transfer taking so long, but I’m also glad that there’s been this gap in between with the interim hosts filling in. There’s been this nice “period of mourning” to transition with. Not that anyone is going to forget Fred… because I miss him too. I listened to him all the time. I’ll miss being on his show too! (laughter)
WE: Any plans to have him be a guest on your new show?
AF: Oh, yes! Definitely. We’re just waiting for the right time. He’s always going to be speaking around town too. We still see each other from time to time socially and I just think a lot of him. He’s been very supportive of me for this job. We spent a couple of hours a few weeks ago talking about it. He’s given me lots of tips. I probably could have talked to him all day about what to do and what to say, what happens with this and that.
We’re going to be a very different show though. We’re changing the name, changing the music, and changing the format from two half hour segements to three 20 minute segments. It’s a pretty big deal, and I think it will change the pace of the show. I have a little bit more focus in terms of the first half being a little more driven by news, and then doing the culture, the authors, the art and the social sciences type of stuff. So we can book in advance for that stuff, but then kind of walk a tightrope for the current news stuff. Always hoping that something good is happening!
WE: I’ve always been interested in what you’ve done at the Dispatch because a lot of what people are interested in on Columbus Underground relates to the Metro Section of the paper. Do you think some of that will transfer over to the radio show?
AF: Yeah, I can bring my voice to it, but I can’t bring my opinion to it… all things being equal. I can bring my interests to it though, and my interests are very broad. For example, one of my first programs this week is on bicycle commuting in Columbus. I’ll always be looking for an event or happening or news to peg something like that off of. In this instance, they’re opening a new bike shelter at the wetlands at the university. I think it’s neat, and I like that we’re doing things like that. So that part is my personal opinion, but it’s also a good peg to talk about the whole commuting challenge. Not just biking etiquette, but also the logistical challenge of turning our community into something less reliant on individual automobile transportation and provide more options for personal transportation on bikes as well as mass transit alternatives. I think that’s somewhere that we’re headed, and a lot of people want it, and a lot of people who can make it happen are working on it. I think those are the types of people who care about the show.
WE: It sounds like a good time of year to talk about bike commuting as well, as a lot of people who may be novices or “fair weather” riders are going to be coming off the warmer months and could be contemplating a colder ride into the fall and winter.
AF: Absolutely. Further into the season I want to talk to the folks with the Westerville to Arena District Bikeway group. They do a Third Thursday ride once a month, which is a commuter ride, and they try different routes and they will pretty much go all year round. I did a ride with them last year and I was almost paralyzed by the time I got home that night. (laughter) It wasn’t easy. I can ride 10 miles, but these 10 miles were different when it’s at 6 o’clock in the morning.
WE: Yeah, I can imagine. Well, going back to what you mentioned earlier about changing the name of the show… can you tell us a bit more about the processes involved in starting things up?
AF: Sure! The official name is “All Sides with Ann Fisher”. I’m still getting used to saying the title with my name attached and everything. It is a commodity though, and part of the reason they hired me… but it’s still kind of weird. (laughter) The logo looks really cool, and they did a great job with that so quickly. A lot of this came together with fairly short notice. We really only got started on August 11th, but we started with the name. I like the alliteration of it, and it rolls off the tongue really easily… unlike “double-you-oh-ess-you”. (laughter) Which I have to work on. The “double-you” is tough when you’re used to using the “dubya” thing in your vernacular. But that’s how most people say it.
Anyway, the new music is super cool too. I’m so excited about the music. it was composed just for the show. It’s a complete composition by Allen DiCenzo, who is just an incredibly gifted musician. He has a studio up in Dublin. He brought in this amazing percussionist, double bass player, I think an alto clarinet or sax player… but first he composed it on a synthesizer, which I thought was really neat. I would have been happy with just that! It’s song is very different though for this new show. It’s going to bug some people, no question about it. But I think it’s beautiful. I can’t wait until we do an event at COSI or somewhere, so that people can hear the whole song, because it’s about 4 minutes long. I love music, so that was a big thing for me. It’s been a strange process with all of this stuff… everyone asking “What do you like, Ann?” I’m the middle child of 5 kids, so no one’s ever given a shit about what I like. (laughter) I have a 13 year old son, and he never says “Mom, what would you like?” (laughter) So anyway, it’s all kind of surreal.
WE: That is pretty wild to hear that you’ve had just under a month to get all of this launched. I’m sure you’ve been working around the clock.
AF: You know, it feels like it. I go in in the morning and bring my lunch every day, because there’s hardly any places to eat around there… not that I can afford to eat out anymore, I work for public radio! (laughter) But anyway, there’s no downtime, and it’s all good. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit and ponder what sorts of questions to ask for these first few shows, but in my mind I’m always thinking about what comes next. You know, you usually want to have around 15-20 questions ready just in case things bomb. (laughter)
WE: How has working at WOSU been so far?
AF: The people at WOSU have been fantastic! It’s been seamless. Everyone has been so welcoming. Good vibes, everyone is friendly and helpful. That really means a lot. I’m just glad to be putting my journalism hat back on and take off the marketing hat for a little while.
WE: Can you tell us a bit about this first week of shows?
AF: Yeah, the first day was on Tuesday. It was the day after labor day and featured Joe Rugola, the President of the AFL-CIO in Ohio, as well as Becky Williams. She’s the President of District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union. That was one of a few that split off from the AFL-CIO in 2005. So I talked with them about labor issues and healthcare reform. We also had an interesting conversation about the recent muslim teenager who ran off to Florida. While that story has been done to death, I wanted to look at it from a different angle. I think this girl sounds like a pretty regular rebellious teenager, so we talked with pediatrician Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin about teenage development and religion, as well as Susan Campbell, a reporter from the Hartford Courant. We did the bike commuter thing I mentioned already. There’s also a show about a new report from the women’s study department at OSU about how women are doing socioeconomically, and Ohio isn’t that great. We’re 39th in the country. So we took a look at that and what those types of problems are. We have a show with some former Brigadier Generals, one of which was at Obama’s side in the last year, and we talked about their proposals for US military security and their oppositional stance to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We’ll have Art Schlichter on next week. He has an autobiography that just came out. I have an advanced copy, and it’s very good. Very accessible for someone who doesn’t really know football. So that’s kind of the quick overview.
WE: Sounds like a solid lineup. I’ve also heard that you’re going to be integrating some new technology into this show through the use of Twitter and Blogging, right?
AF: Well, as you know, I started blogging at The Dispatch. It was pretty successful as far as the Dispatch blogs go. I didn’t maybe get the hits of say… the politics or sports blogs. But this is a total immersion I’m going into at WOSU. We’ll be blogging, twittering, texting and all of this stuff will come into play largely on the air. We’ll be looking for on-air questions via twitter & text message. We want people to participate any way that they can. For too long, the call-in questions have been limited to people who happen to be sitting next to a phone while listening to the radio, usually in the comfort of their own home. So I’m hoping that this will open us up to people who are streaming the show live online. They can listen with their earphones plugged in, and if they want to text us a question, they can. I hope that we can get a lot of younger people participating. Of course, we’re not cutting down the phone lines or getting rid of the older audience either. The phone is still going to be the busiest portal. We are going to ease into this as we get our team situated and the logistics worked out. They’re sending me to this 3-day seminar in the Kiplinger Program at OSU which is called Creator Camp. It’s very cool and should help me to learn all about social media so that I can start getting working on this stuff. I have a twitter account now, but I really don’t know how to use it. (laughter)
WE: Anything you’d like to prompt the Columbus Underground audience for in terms of participation?
AF: Yeah, if anyone has any ideas, feel free to pass them along. I’m always looking for ideas!
WE: Nice. Columbus Underground can be a pretty good breeding ground for ideas sometimes. Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us today, Ann!
AF: Thank you!
More information, as well as online streaming audio, can be found at wosu.org/allsides/.