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December 2013
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New Perspective: WFMT Names David Polk Program Director


Introductions host and producer David Polk is moving up in the world. You’ve probably heard his voice during membership campaigns as well as a number of special features on WFMT. Now his presence will be integral to the off-microphone workings of the station, as program director.

Get to know David as we the staff have known him, for his fresh perspective and enthusiasm for trying the newest, the latest, the greatest. David offered these answers to a Q and A:

What has your time with WFMT meant to you?

One of my first assignments at WFMT was to help Studs Terkel organize his press interviews when one of his last books was published. Can you imagine an assignment like that? And since all of the interviews were done over the phone he had me sit next to him so that he could pretend that he was talking to someone in person. That was surreal. And I’ve had so many special experiences like that over the years. It’s meant a more interesting life, both as a staff member and as a listener.

How would you characterize WFMT within the Chicago community? If you could wave a magic wand, what would WFMT look like in 5 years?

We are part of the glue that connects much of Chicago’s cultural community and all of us here at WFMT aspire to help strengthen that glue even more. As we move forward I hope that we become the gathering place for the arts in Chicago not only on the radio, but wherever and however it is people “tune in.”

Do you think WFMT needs to change? In what way?

We are and have always been — both our staff and our listeners — a group of arts lovers who happen to have a radio station. And that will not change. The fundamentals — that we are devoted to Chicago, that we present the most interesting mix of music and programming about the arts, emphasize live music, never talk down to the listener and don’t air jingles — do not need to change.

We will, however, continue to work on making WFMT accessible however it is that people want to access it, whether it’s on FM radio or online. WFMT has always embraced new technology and we’ll continue to adapt to new technology.

All of our fellow classical and radio institutions are thinking about the same things: How to expand the audience, how to remain relevant and how to adapt to new technology. We’ll continue those conversations and among us (the staff and listeners) we’ll come up with great new ideas.

Have you gained insight from the kids on Introductions that will inform your job as PD?

Yes! First and foremost that it’s not true that young people don’t like classical music. (I find) that people like to be exposed to all kinds of classical music. And that if you’re really nervous before a big presentation you should eat a banana. They help with nerves.

Any sneak peaks into new programs?

We’re debuting an arts reporting project in January, coordinated by Matt DeStefano. But I didn’t have anything to do with that! Every week, we’ll air a new story about the arts in Chicago. We’re very excited about that. There’s much more, too. Stay tuned!

Do you see social media becoming more integrated with the work that your staff does?

Yes, because it’s become integrated with life in general! We’ve been experimenting with social media, mainly Facebook, for a while now, and we’ll continue to experiment with that and other platforms. If it’s going to be a part of the programming though it has to be used in interesting and thoughtful ways. But since we have an interesting and thoughtful audience I’m sure it won’t be hard to find ways.

All of the new technology is great, but the advantage of radio and WFMT is, in fact, that it’s linear. All of our heads are spinning from the media options out there but you can still press one button, sit back and relax and go on with what you want to do and some of the most knowledgeable people about classical music and culture will expose you to great art.


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