For years, Joy Cardin has been an companion for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites as they drive to work in the morning. But soon, the public radio personality will hang up the headphones.
Cardin announced last month that her final broadcast would be on Sept. 29. She will retire after 14 years broadcasting “The Joy Cardin Show,” and after more than 30 years with the network as a journalist and as a programming director, in addition to her hosting.
The show has been a call-in current affairs show that, as Cardin puts it, is talk radio minus the shock and minus the shouting. It’s a show about informing the public, facilitating civil discussions, and “changing the world,” said Cardin. It’s also a show about culture, technology, music, leisure, travel and health. Topics from the past week include Hurricane Irma, the state budget, ADHD, and Wisconsin destinations for the fall.
The show isn’t going away: WPR’s Kate Archer Kent will fill in as an interim host starting in October. The name, of course, will have to change — as will many of the other aspects of the show that were imbued with Cardin’s personality, like the popular “Tell Joy Where to Go” travel segments.
Take me back to 2003, when you were leading the Ideas Network. Why did you want to do the show in the first place?
I was in the midst of starting a search for a new host after Tom Clark announced his retirement, and a budgeting freeze occurred...so I took it over as a temporary thing. I was interim, until we decided if we could afford to hire a new host.
I was doing both jobs. I was the boss, and the host. It wasn't until many, many, many years later, I think it was 2010, I eventually said, you know, I have to do one or the other. Phil Corriveau was our director at that time, and he said, which one would you want to do? And I said I'd rather host than be the boss.
I felt (hosting) was an important job. It was fun at times, it was aggravating at times. But it was something I did enjoy doing.
When your name is so prominently branding the thing you’re making, that must have been lots of pressure. Was building trust and credibility with your audience something you had to think a lot about as a host?
I certainly want people to trust me. But I want them to trust me that I'm going to be fair. And I want them to trust me that this will be a civil discussion. I want them to trust me that they'll hear from a wide variety of viewpoints.
We will, though, bring on viewpoints that you're not going to like. You can't trust that you won't hear things you'll disagree with.
I think our audience for the most part understands that...but some don’t understand that. "How dare you have so and so on your air, I don't expect this from public radio."
It's important to me that people know that if not me personally, the show is going to be presenting them with a wide variety of viewpoints on issues that are important to their lives, and that they will hear balance of at least fair treatment of guests no matter what their political view. And that's what they trust me to do.
Still, public radio is a politicized thing, even when you’re trying to be apolitical. Was it tough to navigate that as a host?
You talk to the guest who says, you should be defunded and this is why. And you ask that person challenging questions. Just as you would ask the person who says you're the best thing since sliced bread challenging questions.
It's not easy to hear someone say you need to be defunded because you're so liberal, when you truly don't believe you're taking a liberal point of view on everything — when you know the effort that goes into finding as many perspectives on issues as you can. When you truly do invite Republicans, conservatives, Green Party, Libertarians. When you go to the effort that we go to balance topics and to find different viewpoints, and not just two sides to an issue. There's more than two sides to an issue.
I think we do present liberal points of view. And sometimes, we do have conservative points of view that turn us down. That doesn't mean we're not going to talk about the issue. If they don't come on, they don't come on. But the listener or politician who thinks that he's not hearing, or she's not hearing, their side of the story all the time, that we're biased...it's frustrating. I truly believe that we go out of our way to not be.
So, what are you going to be up to now?
I don't have a new career or job. I really do want to spend some time doing nothing. This has been a wonderful job, and a wonderful career. But it's been a lot of work. I've worked hard, and I've had a hard schedule. And I'm ready to not do a whole lot.
Can you tell us more about what’s going to happen with your time slot?
The show is going to say essentially the way it's been for the interim, until a new host, or hosts, are hired. Who knows, (Kate Archer Kent) might apply for the job. She's our fill-in host. She'll continue to fill in until a permanent hiring decision is made.
It will be a national search. It will be a Wisconsin-based, Wisconsin-focused show. It's not going to be a nationally syndicated show from somewhere else...I'm happy that it will probably be a Wisconsin-based show with a Wisconsin-based host and it will continue as a live morning program.
Do you see think it’s important for the call-in show to remain part of the mix of public radio?
In public radio, the focus has not been on the call-in show, hardly at all. I think the call-in show is considered a lesser. In public radio, I think there's a bias in public radio for pre-produced news magazine programming -- highly edited and highly produced.
I think that we don't need to have slick, highly produced, completely edited material to sound good. I know that hearing ordinary people talk about issues, there's a certain benefit to that. You get to hear from people all over the state, or all over the nation.
I love the live call-in talk show. I do think that there's a stronger connection between listeners and a call-in talk show, than there is with listeners and a highly produced news magazine. I know there's some people who don't care what Joe Blow has to say. But I think there's a value in hearing that. I think there's a value in hearing voices from all over.
You’ve long had a popular travel segment on your show called “Tell Joy Where to Go.” Now that you’re retiring, you tell us — where should we go?
I love Door County. I go to Door County even when people don't tell me to go there. Because it has the scenic beauty. You can go kayaking, you can go biking, you can watch the sunset. You can hop on a sailboat. Nature hikes. There's just so much there that I absolutely adore.
I love the Bayfield area for a lot of similar reasons. There's arts and culture in both of those areas. I love the Driftless Region. I love the Great River Road.
There's lots of places. It depends on what you like, if you like to hike or bike, or if you like nightlife. I can't be an expert on nightlife, though. I'm super early to bed, super early to rise.
I’m guessing you’ll be ditching that now that you won’t have an early morning talk show. Is there anything you'll miss about getting up that early?
I don't think I'm going to give it up entirely because I think my body clock is set a little bit, (but) I'm not going to get up at 1 o’clock in the morning.
I love mornings. They're quiet. You can get a lot done when the phone's not ringing. You can focus in on stuff without a lot of distractions.
I don't get to see sunrises very often. I'm usually already (at work). But still, I like the quiet time.