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Friday, Dec. 19, 2008 | Tom Fudge is leaving “These Days,” the KPBS radio morning interview show that has become synonymous with his name. His last show will be Monday.
KPBS is reassigning Fudge to be an investigative health-care reporter, a new position at the station, and will move KPBS “Morning Edition” co-host Maureen Cavanaugh to Fudge’s old post. “These Days” will add an hour and run Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon to fill the gap created by the cancellation of National Public Radio’s “Day-to-Day.”
While the reassignment was made by the station’s management, Fudge said, he’d told them he was ready for either a break or a change.
“It’s been a tremendous amount of fun, it’s been exciting, it’s been challenging, but I’ve been doing it for nine-and-a-half years,” Fudge said. “I’d reached a point where I was feeling like I was beginning to burn out.”
Leaving “These Days” will not be easy, Fudge said, as it will break a bond with the show’s listeners. He said he realized the bond’s strength after a car struck him while bicycling to work in April 2007. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was off the show for three months. He still has the get-well cards at his desk.
“I’m looking at this pile of cards from people wishing me well after my accident,” he said. “It was very moving. Until that happened I didn’t realize what kind of relationship I had with my listeners. That I’m definitely going to miss.”
Fudge started at the station in April 1998 as a reporter and newscaster, taking the “These Days” hosting job in September 1999.
Cavanaugh, who co-hosts KPBS “Morning Edition” with Dwane Brown, will be replaced by senior editor Alan Ray, who will balance the hosting job with his editing duties, said John Decker, KPBS’s director of radio news and programming.
Decker said his goal for the longer “These Days” is to cover more issues but said the expanded show will likely begin with longer segments. Cavanaugh’s first show in the anchor’s seat will be Jan. 5.
“Maureen is going to be asking a few more questions, we’ll be taking more phone calls,” Decker said. “But it’s my goal to have a segmented program and spend the time on a topic that it deserves.”
A grant from the California HealthCare Foundation will fund Fudge’s new position, Decker said. Filling the position internally will help KPBS maintain costs while expanding coverage. The station already has one health-care reporter, Kenny Goldberg. Decker said he was unsure exactly how Fudge and Goldberg would divide the beat.
The switch at KPBS isn’t directly tied to NPR’s budget shortfalls, Decker said. NPR cut about 7 percent of its staff last week, citing the nationwide economic slowdown’s effect on corporate sponsorships.
KPBS and NPR don’t share budgets, Decker said, but “we’re living in the same economic realities they are.”
As Fudge leaves “These Days” on Monday, he said he may say “a little something” at the show’s conclusion.
“I’ve had a marvelous time hosting the show,” he said. “It’s really been a privilege. I’m not just saying that because it sounds good — it’s true. To have that direct line of communication with our listeners and to interview all the fascinating people that come through our studios, I’ve had a wonderful time.”