This is not radio to zone out to. There are no canned sound bites or vanilla opinions here.
"Off Topic," an hourlong KRCC radio program that started in mid-March, is designed to make listeners think. The program tackles a complex subject Saturday mornings on 91.5 FM, exploring it from multiple perspectives through interviews with local, national and international voices.
The idea germinated from a taping of "The Big Something," another locally produced KRCC show. After Steven Hayward, a Colorado College English professor, gave a mini lecture on advice for Americans moving to Canada, he and producer Craig Richardson started to conceptualize a new show. "Off Topic" was born.
"It's taking a topic-driven idea," Hayward says outside the studio at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media, where the show is taped, "and do what we do at Colorado College - slice it and dice it, constellate it. Get a perspective on it that's fresh and broader and more deeply considered."
Hayward invited fellow CC sociology professor Kathy Giuffre onboard, and the crew now has close to 20 shows and a long list of topics under their belts, such as race and racism, food politics and policy, and death in the digital age.
Show ideas spring up easily, they say, sometimes from simple conversations or current news trends. Each show starts with a premise and a brainstorming session, and from there they decide on experts who can speak to differing angles of the topic. For example, a recent September show explored how the English language started. The idea came as Hayward and Giuffre sat in a restaurant with a visiting writer. From across the room, they could see their food was ready, but knew they couldn't go get it. The writer wondered why there was no word for that particular feeling.
They interviewed five people during the course of an hour. Re Evitt, associate dean and English professor at Colorado College, spoke about the beginnings of the English language, and David Peterson discussed his creation of languages for the TV shows "Game of Thrones" and "Defiance."
"We find the relevant voices," Hayward says, "and place those voices in dialogue with local people."
The show isn't meant to be easy.
"It's like a mini-lecture," says executive producer Richardson. "The idea is to not dumb it down."
And they already have a built-in audience - KRCC listeners who enjoy similar shows, such as "This American Life," "and "WireTap."
"I think people enjoy hearing intelligent conversation," says Giuffre.
Airs: 9 a.m. Saturdays, KRCC 91.5 FM
Contact Mulson at 636-0270