Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Daniel Ruth semi-officially retired from the daily newspaper biz this fall, and now he’s leaving the Bay area radio waves, too.
The former 970 WFLA-AM, Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times mainstay turned in his last 88.5 WMNF-FM MidPoint news show on December 28, making way for the return of longtime WMNF personality Janelle Irwin, who first started as a WMNF newsroom volunteer in 2010 before being hired as the station’s senior reporter in 2011 and getting her own show (The Last Call) in 2012.
In 2014, Irwin left WMNF to take a position at SaintPetersblog — now Florida Politics, where she is currently employed — but she continued at the station as a host for MidPoint. Conflicts with her employment at the Tampa Bay Business Journal forced Irwin to leave radio altogether in 2017, but the community radio station recently announced that Irwin will return to host MidPoint on January 4, 2019.
“When I left my show nearly two years ago, it was a kick to the gut,” Irwin told CL via email, adding that show prep was eating away at her time for reporting. “I was sad, but I understood the business decision on [TBBJ’s] end. There were no hard feelings over it, but it did suck.”
MidPoint was the highlight of Irwin’s week. She didn't necessarily talk about stories that she covered in her paid work as a journalist, but ones that she followed as a concerned citizen. The show engaged listeners and encouraged them to actually think.
“At the end of my show I always thought, 'If I got just one person to walk away from the broadcast with new knowledge or ideas, I've done something good,’” she said. Irwin, who brought a lighthearted, sometimes humorous tone to serious stories during her time at WMNF, admits that Ruth — who’s been in the business since before Irwin was born — will be a hard act to follow.
“There's a nostalgia there I lack… But I'm also my own person, ” she said, adding that her show will include stories from the field like Ruth’s did. Irwin expects her version of MidPoint to retain some of the humor from years past, but the whole of the show will probably sound more like an NPR program with in-studio guests and better-vetted callers willing to stay on topic and be succinct when making comments. Listeners will learn, but they’ll laugh (or at least smile), too.
“Think Daily Show,” Irwin said, “but less partisan and not quite as focused on comedy.”
Nothing will change about Irwin’s reporting at Florida Politics, and she fully expects longer working hours on Thursdays and Fridays to keep up with the extra workload.
“But I eat, sleep and breathe this stuff,” she said, “so I'm thrilled to have more to tackle.”