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MPR cancels 'Radio Heartland with Dale Connelly'

[Update with member letter added 3:30 p.m.]

Don't have much more than the news release I just received, but Minnesota Public Radio is ending Dale Connelly's "Radio Heartland" web- and HD-radio-casts Friday. Sounds like Radio Heartland without Dale Connelly will survive in some form; the service emphasizes "acoustic and Americana" music.

Connelly has been broadcasting via the alterna-formats since his "Morning Show" with Jim Ed Poole ended its run on the Current last December with Poole's retirement. The release cites money for ending Connelly's three-decade-plus MPR career, during which he replaced Garrison Keillor on the "Morning Show."

Here's the release:

Minnesota Public Radio is ending "Radio Heartland with Dale Connelly" on the Radio Heartland Web and HD music service effective Friday, June 4, 2010. This move is being taken in order to move the Radio Heartland platform to a more sustainable business model. Dale Connelly is part of the fabric of what built MPR into the strong service that it is today, and MPR is deeply grateful for his 34 years of innovation and service.

Update — Here's the communication members received ... slightly more human:

I'm writing to share some news with you about Radio Heartland.

It's been eighteen months since Radio Heartland has been in existence. We've closely monitored its growth during this time and have come to the conclusion that in order to continue with Radio Heartland music on Web and HD, we need to decrease programming expenses.

We're continuously evaluating all of our activities, programs and services as we focus on serving your needs in a financially sustainable way. Along with Dale Connelly, we have been constantly assessing the sustainability of Radio Heartland since its launch and we all agreed that we would make changes, if needed, after eighteen months. Unfortunately, the sustainability we all worked toward was not achieved.

As a result, while we'll be able to continue providing the wonderful music that you expect from Radio Heartland, we've cancelled Dale Connelly's weekday morning show and his Saturday evening show on MPR News. This means that Dale will leave MPR. His last show on Radio Heartland will air on Friday, June 4.

Dale is part of the fabric of what built MPR into the strong service that it is today. We know that he will be greatly missed by you, and that's why we wanted to let you know about this change first hand. We're deeply grateful to Dale for his 34 years of innovation and service to MPR and to you for supporting him. It's because of this that we do not take lightly the difficult decision to end Dale's involvement with Radio Heartland.

Radio Heartland producer, Mike Pengra, will continue picking the music that you'll hear on Radio Heartland. And you'll continue to hear Thistle and Shamrock with Fiona Ritchie, Mountain Stage with Larry Groce,American Routes with Nick Spitzer, and A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.

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Comments (13)

Wow. Big whopping mistake. Connelly *is* Radio Heartland. The music was great, yeah, but that could be gotten elsewhere. What made Radio Heartland unique was the conversation. Connelly's conversation with the players.

A sustainable business model might have been syndication (as in every other show mentioned in the communication to members). I'm sure that was considered but I'm flummoxed as to why it wasn't tried.

It would be interesting to know how many people listen to Radio Heartland, and how much that drives listeners to become members. I am sure there are a lot of people who listen to the three mainstream services, but they tune into Radio Heartland quite a bit too.

There's something about Dale which added a touch of human interaction to Radio Heartland. He knew how to program a radio show and make it interesting. He also provided a human link between the local musicians and the transmitter.

Is MPR sinking to the level of ClearChannel by computerizing their broadcasts even more? What's to keep them from automating The Current in a cost-cutting move?

Maybe PRI or NPR could pick up a show by Connelly and distribute it, per Michael's suggestion.

Agree completely with the comments of Michael and Matt. Very well said. Like the PRI or NPR idea too.

I hope that all of us who appreciate Dale and his creativity, humor and taste in eclectic music can let it be known that MPR made a poor decision.

MinnPost, keep up the good work.

Having been a guest on Dale's "Radio Heartland" (and it is hard to imagine that program without him) I can attest he was a class act. He'll be sorely missed.

He won't, but Dale Connelly could write a killer satire of corporate communications like those.

Dale was never a favorite at MPR. I don't know the reason why.

Go figger. Great music, intelligent commentary, interesting interviews, dry humor. Got to get rid of this guy for the common good.

Every pledge drive I rage at the station I love, but I mostly get over it by the time the next pledge drive comes around. But I won't forgive this.

The Morning Show was the original reason I ever listened to MPR. As Garrison left and Dale entered the scene the show got even better. I raised my family listening to that show. I knew that when the station moved Dale out to HD radio - an empty box, it seemed that it showed that MPR no longer valued his wonderful talent. Now that you have finally pushed him off the air, I will never have the same respect for MPR that I once held. The bottom line isn't everything that matters, Mr. Kling!

Let's all hope that Dale continues in a place that is more appreciative and that we can continue enjoying his patter and exceptional music selection.

Somewhere between Dale Commelly and Peter Schickele is the core of a great radio station based on MPR castoffs alone.

Dale Connelly and Jim Ed Poole were the reasons
that I began listening to MPR. Give the Radio Heartland program more time and it, too, will succeed. It is strange how Dale was competent for 34 years, helping to build the music programs and MPR name but now he is led out the door. Dale is experienced and knowledgeable at selecting interesting, diverse music, something that Bill Kling should value.

It was a sad day for sure. I lost touch with the Morning Show when it moved to the Current and was thrilled to get Radio Heartland and his show available on HD broadcast. We have three HD receivers in in the house and I have one in my work vehicle only because of Dale C and his wonderful storytelling and interviews.

I hope he lands somewhere where we can listen in again.

(I think he plays accordion, too, doesn't he? Talk about a complete package. Wow.)

Loved listening to Dale and Jim Ed. I liked what Dale was doing with Heartland and as many here have said, he was the show.

Well I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but as corporate radio giant MPR shifts to a more "economical" model, your all more than welcome to tune us in at KFAI. (90.3 FM)

We begin our new morning format in about a week. We think you'll enjoy it and hope you'll give it a try!

Help support real indy radio!

Marty