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WUGA Cancels Journalist Panel on ‘Athens News Matters’

Those who listen to WUGA’s “Athens News Matters” will now tune in to a half-hour version on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m., sandwiched between “All Things Considered” and “Marketplace.” Host Alexia Ridley will be doing one-on-one, in-depth interviews of “newsmakers,” according to station manager Jimmy Sanders. 

The three-member panel of journalists, a feature for two decades, will no longer be a part of “Athens News Matters.” The panel members—most recently former mayor-turned-radio host Gwen O’Looney, Flagpole editor Blake Aued and Chris Dowd of the blog Athens Politics Nerd—learned about the new format for the popular show in December. “I’m not sure why they got rid of it,” said Dowd, who estimated he’s been on the panel for at least two years. “I’m disappointed because I enjoyed doing it. I know people liked hearing from us.”

Sanders said station officials had been analyzing “Athens News Matters” since last summer. Two or three years ago, the show went from half an hour to an hour in length. Reporting, editing and producing it involved a large effort, especially when only two of those involved were full-time employees. When Sanders considered the time creating the show involved versus the audience impact, he decided a change was necessary.

Robin Whetstone is the show’s producer. She and Martin Matheny, the station’s program director and senior content director, will decide which “newsmakers” will be on “Athens News Matters.” The feature stories that used to be part of the show will be heard at other times during the broadcast day. And the panel may possibly return one day, Sanders said, “as the show continues to evolve.”