MEDIA: Literate’Company’ keeps New York tuned in - WNYC’s New York & Company may not have high ratings, but its high- culture subject matter attracts the right demographic for many publicists. Claire Atkinson reports

New York’s WNYC-AM attracts just under a half-million listeners per week, making it the highest-rated public radio station in the country. The station carries the usual mix of National Public Radio’s syndicated shows, like Morning Edition and All Things Considered, but its homegrown show, New York & Company, is one of the city’s most popular with highbrow publicists.

New York’s WNYC-AM attracts just under a half-million listeners per week, making it the highest-rated public radio station in the country. The station carries the usual mix of National Public Radio’s syndicated shows, like Morning Edition and All Things Considered, but its homegrown show, New York & Company, is one of the city’s most popular with highbrow publicists.

New York’s WNYC-AM attracts just under a half-million listeners per

week, making it the highest-rated public radio station in the country.

The station carries the usual mix of National Public Radio’s syndicated

shows, like Morning Edition and All Things Considered, but its homegrown

show, New York & Company, is one of the city’s most popular with

highbrow publicists.



The program is broadcast throughout the Empire State and beyond to New

Jersey and Connecticut. It can also be heard, along with archives of

previous shows, on the station’s Web site.



The lunch-time talk series is on air from noon until 2 pm, which is

obviously not a good time to interrupt its executive producer Melissa

Eagan, who oversees the proceedings.



Eagan works closely with the legendary host, Leonard Lopate, currently

celebrating 15 years on the show. Eagan says the team spends hours

researching each guest to augment Lopate’s already extensive knowledge

of the arts scene. ’The show is encyclopedic and esoteric. It is all

over the map,’ she adds.





An eclectic guest list



Studio guests come from a mix of backgrounds - the worlds of books,

music, theater, art, film and sometimes politics. Guests tend to fall

into two categories, the famous (John Updike, PD James) and the obscure

(a group of middle-aged English women who posed nude for a calendar to

raise money for charity). In May, the show aired an interview with Dr.

James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. But it isn’t

all high culture: record producer Sam Phillips, who helped create the

Elvis Presley phenomenon, was also booked this month.



This willingness to look at edgy and unusual topics means that the scope

for publicists is pretty wide. Eagan even says that she’ll listen to

pitches on unknown first-time writers. But she inserts a caveat: ’People

shouldn’t send anything too trendy. We don’t do Black History Month,

because we have black authors all year round. We don’t want to typecast

anyone.’



New York & Company is broadcast live, though Eagan says the show will

tape interviews if it means the difference between gaining and losing a

good guest. The show also experiments with remote broadcasting from

locations such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But there are many

perils of working live. ’It is always hazardous. We are at the mercy of

New York traffic,’ says Eagan, who recalls that news anchor Dan Rather,

rather than be late, once ran to the studio after his taxi got stuck in

traffic.



The only policy about offering your guests to other shows is that New

York & Company can’t accommodate anyone who’s already appeared on Brian

Lehrer’s On the Line, the preceding program.



New York & Company also has an international following. Salman Rushdie

selected the show as his first radio interview last year, and the

program was scheduled to air an interview with cast members of the Royal

Shakespeare Company last week.



Musician Randy Newman brought his piano to the studio to perform a

review of his music life. But at the top of Eagan’s favorite-guest list

is Robert Duvall, whom Eagan describes as ’astonishing. He is one of our

finest actors and to have the chance to meet someone of that caliber is

stellar.’



The station is based in the Municipal Building at the foot of the

Brooklyn Bridge, and the staff has a scenic view of the Hudson River. It

is an inspiring diversion for the team, which is usually buried

knee-deep in books.



Eagan joined WNYC in 1983 after a stint freelance writing for special

interest publications. She readily admits she had no knowledge of the

actual production process and that she learned on the job. As executive

producer of the show, however, Eagan appears no less enthusiastic about

her job than she must have been on the day she joined. ’It feels like

I’ve been here forever, but then every day is different,’ says the

native New Yorker.



Eagan searches out some material for the show, but she admits most of

the guests are booked as a result of PR pitches. She offers a range of

encouraging tips. ’If it doesn’t sound right for the show, I will always

give the publicist the benefit of the doubt,’ she says, reminding

publicists that follow-up calls are always important. ’We receive a

book, then people don’t call me on it. Or they call too early and then I

forget about it.’



Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at Knopf, has just placed

Michael Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient, on the show. ’If

authors are making an in-store appearance, readers will often say, ’I

heard you on New York & Company.’ It has great impact, especially with

the demographic we are trying to hit,’ he explains.





The pitching process



Bogaards says he talks to both Eagan and Lopate about upcoming guests

and adds that it helps if novelists have a good story about how their

books came about or interesting life experiences.



’It is the premiere cultural talk show in New York, and pitching is a

fairly simple process,’ says Graham Leggat, director of communications

at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. ’They do film, fine arts and

literature. They do go outside the box. But don’t pitch them people who

sell cutlery.’



Eagan advises PR pros representing authors to always send the book and

then give her some time to read it. But she advises pros to back up

their suggestions with reviews once the book has been published: ’People

don’t fax reviews. We prefer being deluged with material.’



While Eagan says she wants people to fax her, she is also in contact via

the show’s e-mail address, nyandco@wnyc.org. The executive producer

plans the show two weeks in advance and has usually booked all the

week’s guests one week before broadcast.



The Web site (www.wnyc.org) carries a number of sections that help

publicists get to know the show. The message board, named ’Lopate’s

Place,’ contains fiery responses to recent interviews, among other

comments, while a section called ’Reading Room’ houses the first chapter

of new books. Previous interviews are also archived at the site.



While the title of the show is New York & Company, the team has a

worldly outlook and does not discriminate on the basis of geography.





CONTACT LIST



WNYC



New York & Company



The Municipal Building



1 Center Street



New York, NY 10007



Tel: (212) 669 8460



Fax: (212) 553 0621



E-mail: nyandco@wnyc.org



Web: www.wnyc.org



Executive producer: Melissa Eagan



Associate producer: Emily Hoffman



Assistant producer: Laura Wilson.



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