Celeste Headlee's 'On Second Thought' debuts on WRAS-FM Monday Oct. 20

Celeste Headlee, a long-time public radio host, will be leading "On Second Thought" on WRAS-FM for GPB starting October 20, 2014. CREDIT: publicity shot

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

90.1/WABE-FM has spent decades with a split personality: a blend of news/talk and classical music.

Now Georgia State University’s 88.5/WRAS-FM has its own dual format: news/talk during the day, college alternative music by night.

Georgia Public Broadcasting, in a controversial deal with GSU, has been airing national public news/talk programming such as "All Things Considered" and "Here and Now" since late June on the station. And Monday morning, October 20, GPB is rolling out its first local weekday program at 9 a.m. hosted by former National Public Radio host Celeste Headlee. (GPB has no affiliation with WABE, which is run by Public Broadcasting Atlanta.)

The show, dubbed "On Second Thought," will focus on state-wide subjects with a broad array of sources. She said she will avoid putting on the same old pundits on air.

"I have the freedom to innovate," Headlee said. At the networks such as NPR, "you have to answer to a lot of bureaucracy and focus groups. Here, they are giving me the freedom to try stuff and fail." She said the show will evolve as they figure out what works and what won't.

While she will take on issues such as local education, politics and transportation, she will also address national and international topics that resonate with listeners.

The first week, Headlee plans to tackle the ebola crisis, the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial, film production in the state, the upcoming elections and a state law allowing guns in hospitals. She has also banked interviews with host and author Tavis Smiley and British screenwriter Amma Asante.

"We're thrilled to have a journalist of Celeste's caliber to host 'On Second Thought,'" said GPB President and CEO Teya Ryan, who hired her. "She has a wealth of experience covering a multitude of issues on radio and a drive to get to the heart of stories. Her commitment to highlighting diverse voices makes her the perfect choice to lead this new effort for GPB."

Headlee, a married 44-year-old California native with two kids, said her mother's side of the family was owned by a Georgia plantation owner during the Civil War. The owner helped his mixed-race children with land and education, she said. Her grandfather is a famous composer William Grant Still, known as the first African-American to conduct a leading American orchestra.

She herself is a classically trained soprano and still performs opera professionally. But her primary focus the past 15 years has been public radio journalist for a variety of shows in cities such as Detroit and Washington D.C.

Not surprisingly, she plans to cover plenty of culture stories. "I don't see arts as fluff," she said.

She isn't fazed by the new competition with WABE-FM, which plays classical music while she is on air. "I come from L.A.," she said. "We have multiple public stations. One station can't be all things to all people. The winners are going to be the listeners."

GPB plans to heavily market "On Second Thought" with a digital billboard campaign and the slogan, "Mornings just got smarter." "She's going to be everywhere," promised Bert Huffman, vice president for marketing and development.

About the Author

In Other News