Citing Costs and Changing Audience, NHPR to End Production of ‘The Exchange’ | New Hampshire Public Radio

Citing Costs and Changing Audience, NHPR to End Production of ‘The Exchange’

Jun 7, 2021

Laura Knoy hosted The Exchange for 25 years. She announced her retirement in May.
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New Hampshire Public Radio says it will cease production of its long-running call-in show The Exchange this month, a decision made in part to reduce station expenses as it faces looming financial challenges. 

The move is also a reflection of the public broadcaster’s continued shift into podcasts and other digital outlets, as its traditional radio audience erodes.

The show’s cancellation was announced Friday in an email to station staff. It’s a reversal from public statements released in May following host Laura Knoy’s announcement that she would retire after 25 years of leading The Exchange

Rather than conduct a search for a new host, NHPR’s president and CEO Jim Schachter said the station will now run Morning Edition during the 9 a.m. hour. 

“If we continue to do only the things we’ve always done, we will not be able to meet the needs of a state, a public, a community and an audience that is just changing very quickly,” Schachter said in an interview Monday. 

Like other public media stations, NHPR’s radio audience has slowly but steadily decreased during the past decade, as more listeners choose podcasts or other forms of media for news and information. Schachter said The Exchange’s audience figures have held largely stable. 

“As strong as our radio audience is, and as important as our radio audience is, we also need to be able to reach the significant and large number of people for whom scheduled radio just isn’t part of their lifestyle,” he said.

NHPR’s finances are also at a potential tipping point. After years of growing its staff through dedicated fundraising campaigns—the newsroom has more than 30 journalists, according to Schachter, and 70 full and part-time staff—the station is struggling to grow its revenues fast enough to keep pace. 

“We’ve been talking for the last year-and-a-half about NHPR’s long-term financial challenges, and our Development teams have made big strides toward closing the gap between our costs and our revenues,” Schachter wrote to staff members Friday. “But we cannot put ourselves on solid, long-term ground without reducing our expenses. If we were to wait to act, we would face drastic cuts in the near future. By acting now, we avoid that, align our staffing with our strategy and give ourselves time and space to creatively develop both our programming and our fundraising efforts.”   

News of the decision to end The Exchange leaked almost immediately to other media outlets, leading the station to publicly announce its decision in an email to members Friday afternoon. 

The Exchange serves as New Hampshire’s only statewide call-in show. Topics range from sit-downs with local politicians and newsmakers, to forums with presidential candidates and a weekly news roundup on Friday mornings. Knoy plans to continue hosting community events for the station, as well as write a novel, according to a previous station announcement

No layoffs are planned with the show’s cancellation, the station said. Current producers are being offered new positions within the newsroom.

The sudden gap in local programming comes as the station continues to invest in podcasts with national reach, including Outside/In and Civics 101. The station also garnered awards for previously released podcasts Stranglehold and Bear Brook, which has been downloaded by more than 16 million people. NHPR ended production of its other locally produced daily show Word of Mouth shortly after the departure of host Virginia Prescott in 2018. 

NHPR’s decision to end its flagship daily program stands in contrast to Vermont Public Radio, which also recently saw a longtime host, Vermont Edition’s Jane Lindholm, take a different position at the station. In February, VPR announced two new hires—Connor Cyrus and Mikaela Lefrak—would serve as hosts and senior producers for a revamped call-in show. Maine Public Radio also produces a daily call-in program, Maine Calling, which airs daily at 11 a.m. 

NHPR says it will include more locally produced interviews and segments during the local broadcast of Morning Edition, which will now air from 6-10 a.m.

“In addition, NHPR will continue to host candidate debates and forums, and to offer platforms for elected officials, nonprofit leaders and advocates to connect with the public,” Schachter wrote in his message to members. “This is a critical role The Exchange has filled, and NHPR will continue that commitment to keep you connected and informed.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of downloads for the podcast Bear Brook. We regret the error. 

(NOTE: This story was edited by Sam Hudzik of New England Public Media. No other NHPR staff or leadership had oversight or reviewed the story before publication.)