WPAA Election Special Streamed Worldwide

Although major broadcast networks provided live coverage of Tuesday’s elections through the wee hours of the morning, WPAA provided an alternative star-studded commentary. Hosted by Alexander Heffner ’08, The Progressive Mind became the first Andover radio show to be available internationally over the Internet. Over 540 people logged in to to listen to Tuesday’s broadcast. According to Henry Frankievich, General Manager of WPAA, the “Election Night Special” drew listeners from as far away as California and even Mexico. Others tuned in from Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., New York, Maine, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Connecticut. The program featured discussions with esteemed correspondents and analysts of American politics. Although Heffner had to sign off at midnight, before all of the Senate and House races were resolved, he obtained valuable commentary. Two of the program’s guests were PA alumni: Sarah Chayes ’80, a former NPR correspondent who was greeted with cheers at newly elected Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s victory party, and Evan Thomas ’69, Assistant Managing Editor at Newsweek Magazine. Other notable contributors were Sheryl Gay Stolberg, White House Correspondent for the New York Times, and Judy Woodruff, PBS Political Correspondent. Although an air of chaos typically surrounds even the most professional of election night broadcasts, the show ran relatively smoothly, featuring interviews with nearly every scheduled guest, as well as live results and forecasts courtesy of news networks with intermittent features from the original WPAA broadcast and the Yorkies, PA’s male a capella group. Susan Estrich, former National Campaign Manager for Michael Dukakis, ended her commentary abruptly, apologizing and saying, “I have to go run and do a Fox interview or I’m going to be in real trouble with my employers.” The show was the culmination of a yearlong undertaking by Heffner, who has hosted various congressional candidates on his weekly WPAA broadcast, including newly elected congressmen John Hall (NY 19th District) and Dave Loebsack (IA 2nd District). “Alexander works hard to make his show sound like something you might hear on NPR,” said Frankievich. “I see my program as progressing thoughtful conversation rather than a particular partisan agenda. My aim is to be objective and open-minded and invite guests of all political persuasions,” Heffner said. Heffner’s interest in the American political system sparked his decision to organize his “Election Night Special,” and he began work on the event last summer. During the months before school, Heffner contacted a handful of political analysts, activists and reporters with the hopes that they would be interested in contributing. Heffner approached the Academy’s Senior Administrative Council about streaming the show on the web. On the Tuesday following Parents’ Weekend, with the support of the faculty, the deans decided unanimously in his favor. “His effort and the programs seemed like a valuable contribution to the PA community,” said Marlys Edwards, Dean of Students and Residential Life. Despite the conclusion of the “Campaign Forum” series, The Progressive Mind has more distinguished guests lined up, including U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as well as former senator Max Cleland (D-GA). Heffner also plans to begin a “PA Alumni Perspective Series” later this season, featuring Academy graduates who are prominent in politics and journalism. Unlike Tuesday’s show, however, Heffner’s programming will once again be limited to the PA campus. Heffner said, “In…2007 and beyond, I plan to start spotlighting governors throughout the nation and interviewing potential and declared 2008 presidential candidates.”