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New morning anchor narrates drive-time

By Mark Washburn
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

He’s never actually had to sit in morning rush-hour traffic, but every day he talks to thousands who do.

Duncan McFadyen, the new local host on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on WFAE-FM (90.7), sees maybe five or six cars on his way to the office each day. He hits the air at 4:59 a.m.

“You have to really want to do it to drag yourself out of bed at 3:30 every morning,” says McFadyen, who joined the station this summer, replacing Scot Graf, who left after eight years for a public radio job in Idaho.

McFadyen, 30, who grew up in Wilmington and attended both Duke and UNC Chapel Hill, started his career as a volunteer at Wilmington’s NPR affiliate. He moved from there to Asheville’s NPR station, where he hosted “Morning Edition,” and then came to Charlotte.

Wilmington and Asheville, smaller cities with lots of retirees, were places where there probably wasn’t as much active listening in the early hours of the show, McFadyen says. Charlotte, a major business center, seems much different.

“More people are up and doing things. Given the size of the metropolitan area, people also spend more time in their cars. It’s nice to know you’re doing this for more people.”

McFadyen’s philosophy on broadcasting is to pretend that he’s just talking to a friend in the studio, rather than listeners from the foothills to the central Piedmont. It takes some imagination – he is usually alone in the studios until the rest of the WFAE staff starts arriving after 8 a.m.

McFadyen is the son of an electrical engineer and a music teacher, and started playing piano as a child. “I don’t remember learning how to play the piano, but I have pictures of me sitting on mom’s lap with my hands on the keys.” After college, he worked playing piano in bars until finding his way into broadcasting. He prefers classical pieces.

McFadyen’s arrival comes as WFAE is doubling its reporting staff to six. Beginning Monday, the station will add local news on the hour from Marshall Terry after the NPR national report. Local reports are already carried during “Morning Edition” and the afternoon’s “All Things Considered,” and now the station will provide them throughout the day.

Taking a more local focus is key to the station’s future, says program director Dale Spear. Though NPR’s audience continues to grow while other genres of radio are shrinking, that trend probably won’t last forever, he says. Beefing up local coverage is a way he sees to make deeper connections to the community.

Media Movers

WSOC (Channel 9) plans to unveil its new news set on Aug. 26, a week before the Democratic National Convention opens. News director Julie Szulczewski said it will have a more contemporary look with cityscapes in the background and no window into the newsroom, like the present set has. …

Among the seven chefs on “Doomsday Survival,” 10 p.m. Aug. 16 on the Food Network, will be Charlotte’s Susanne Dillingham. Contestants have to rummage through the California desert to find materials for a cooking station and ingredients. … A literary twist has been added to the WKQC-FM (“K” 104.7) morning show with Todd Baker and Guenn Peterson. They’ve been performing scenes from the best-selling erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” at 7:42 a.m. with their own twists. …

Charlotte filmmaker Bruce Bowers receives the 2012 National Media Award from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution for his public TV documentary, “The Blue Ridge Parkway: A Long & Winding Road.” … Glenn Proctor, former executive editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is named executive editor of Lake Norman Publications, which includes the Herald Weekly serving North Mecklenburg and Mooresville Weekly, company CEO Craig Moon announces. …

Among those co-anchoring the 10 p.m. news on Fox Charlotte (WCCB, Channel 18) with Israel Balderas while Morgan Fogarty is on maternity leave is a familiar face – Ashley Anderson, the station’s former “Fox News Edge” host.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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