With public radio station WPLN’s semiannual radio beg-a-thon under way, garage-sale goers all over Middle Tennessee are bracing for a tsunami of radio-station-themed “premiums.”
“Coffee mugs, travel mugs, ugly T-shirts, all kinds of Prairie Home Companion crap—I get depressed just thinking about it,” says one local garage sale veteran. “As my husband says, ‘It’s all ugly but it’s cheap.’ In the weeks after one of their membership drives, you can’t stop at a sale anywhere in Green Hills or Bellevue without having to plow through those things.”
The station stages its fundraisers only twice a year, but somehow manages to be so tedious in its on-air huckstering that its announcers pack six months’ worth of annoyance into only a few days. This is primarily accomplished by mind-numbing repetition of the pledge phone number while filling the air with pointless exhortations about the quality of the programming.
“Listening to Henry Fennell or Rebecca Bain yammer on about nothing for dreary days on end is not my idea of great programming, and I can’t imagine why they think this is a good way to raise money,” says a fund-raiser for a local nonprofit organization. “It’s like they’re holding the real shows hostage or something.”
Listeners to WPLN have another reason to consider making a contribution this spring, however, as the station has become the first in the U.S. to pledge a portion of its revenue toward a depression screening for Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor.
“Our listeners hear his show, of course, and the remarkably emotionless manner of his voice has led a lot of people to assume he’s depressed, if not suicidal,” a station spokeswoman says. “We just want to have Garrison taken care of, and our listeners have stepped up, just as they did a couple of years ago when we funded that oral hygiene checkup for [gummy-voiced NPR news reader] Carl Kasell.