Wisconsin on the Air: 100 Years of Public Broadcasting in the State that Invented It (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), by Jack Mitchell
Jan. 24, 2017
A century ago the “Wisconsin Idea” went on the air, broadcasting the University of Wisconsin’s mission of service beyond the lecture hall. In 1917 the radio station that became WHA, the mothership of Wisconsin Public Radio, began as a project by UW-Madison physics students. As WPR’s former director Jack Mitchell admits in Wisconsin on the Air, WHA is not America’s oldest radio station. However, it is the nation’s oldest public broadcaster, sustained by an ideal of public service rather than advertising. Mitchell’s account is engaging reading for anyone interested in Wisconsin history. Who remembers that in the 1960s WHA was managed by the state’s future GOP governor, Lee Sherman Dreyfus (the students called him LSD). For many years the station devoted much airtime to school instructional programs, but under Mitchell’s leadership, it moved toward an array of popular talk and call-in shows with personality hosts such as Kathleen Dunn and Zorba Pastor.