Big changes ahead for 'Walt Bodine Show'

The legendary host of KCUR's "Walt Bodine Show" will only host the show on Fridays beginning in April, and management at the public radio station plans to have a "conversation" about the program's future.

In a memo posted today to the KCUR Web site, program director Bill Anderson announced the change.

"In a couple of months, and I say this with his permission, Walt Bodine will be turning 90 years old," wrote Anderson. "Walt’s earned a respite from the daily grind of churning out a live daily call-in show but we are delighted he is going to be making contributions on our most listened to program, Morning Edition."

Bodine will collaborate with KCUR news director Frank Morris on a series of features reports. The Friday edition of "The Walt Bodine Show" features film critics and food critics on alternating weeks.

KCUR reporters will host the show Mondays through Thursdays.

Other than an extended illness nearly two years ago, Bodine has not missed much time at the KCUR microphone. The change was prompted not by him but by the news that Gina Kaufmann will be departing as Bodine's co-host. Her position was created several years ago to provide on-air help to Bodine, who suffers from poor eyesight and limited mobility.

In an e-mail to the "Walt Bodine Show" guests, Kaufmann said she was leaving to work on various writing projects, and was doing so "with fondness and affection" for Bodine.

The show currently has a temporary producer; the previous producer, Jamie Medlicott, left in February.

The instability with Bodine's staff, combined with uncertainty about KCUR's finances, forced the move, said KCUR general manager Patricia Deal Cahill in an interview.

"To continue things exactly the way they were we may not be able to," said Cahill. "We'll continue 'The Walt Bodine Show,' but not hiring a host and producer for the show gives us a chance to think about finances.

"We may be moving from this location. We're in the Green (Impact) Zone. They're talking about something being here other than us. We may be moving. We need new equipment. We have an aging transmitter. We're getting less support from the University. So I'm figuring out what to do next, and this is just a temporary fix."

KCUR receives 3 percent of its operating budget from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, about $95,000. During its last fiscal year KCUR spent 57 percent of its $2.8 million annual budget on program costs. Local programming is, hour for hour, the most expensive to put on the air.

Cahill said that Bodine's audience contributes well during pledge drives, and audience levels for a 10 a.m. show are satisfactory. But the time seemed right, she said, for "a conversation about what options we have here," adding: "I want to ask the listeners what they think. What the staff wants to do, that enters into it, too."