Distinguished National Public Radio host Mindy Todd was, once upon a time, a DJ. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
She says, without irony, “I always liked music. As a kid, I used to listen to WPOP, where my favorite DJ was Sandy Beach.”
The award-winning journalist started out in commercial radio in 1981. She’s been a midday DJ, morning drive show host, traffic reporter, news reporter, TV news anchor, program director, talk show host, TV news anchor and — wait for it — a ski reporter. She’s worked in small markets like Ware, Massachusetts, and White River Junction, Vermont, and larger ones, including Indianapolis and Nashville.
Today, she is host and producer of “The Point,” at WCAI, the Cape and Islands Radio’s popular public affairs program, and, since 2012, she’s been Managing Director of Editorial.
“Mindy is energetic,” says Jay Allison, WCAI’s Peabody Award-winning Executive Producer and founder. “Her interests are eclectic, her style analytical, her manner friendly.”
For “The Point,” her four-day-a-week, hour-long show, Todd effortlessly switches from widely differing interview subjects — from sex trafficking to how the Beatles changed the world to local political debates to the whaling industry. Todd clearly does her homework, but on a schedule like hers, her endless curiosity and her ability to really listen are key.
“Frankly, she has the perfect synergy of personality and organizer,” says Allison.
When discussing the big picture in these fraught times, Todd gives a long sigh, reflecting that it’s journalism’s responsibility to report the facts, understand the issues, understand what’s important to our listeners and look under the rocks where light isn’t being shown.
“I feel like commercial news outlets, especially television news, don’t really do complete stories,” she says. “The stories they cover end up seeming more like a headline. They live and die by ratings.”
“With public radio,” she continues, “our ‘share-holders’ are our listeners, who are also our supporters. They obviously prefer our more in-depth reporting or they wouldn’t support it. It’s interesting to note, too, that, while most news rooms are shrinking, public radio’s news coverage is actually expanding, with more and more reporters across the globe.”
WCAI is Eastern Massachusetts’ local NPR station, broadcasting on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the South Coast. The area has a small-town audience during the off-season, but moves to a much more cosmopolitan population during the summer and early fall. Consequently, WCAI must balance the interests of the much larger seasonal population, while honoring the fiercely distinct character of the year-round local communities. Todd makes the challenge look easy.
WCAI shares space in the same building with Allison’s other company, Atlantic Public Media, which has syndicated a number of nationally admired shows, including The Moth Radio Hour. The atmosphere within manages to be cozy, congenial and collaborative among long-time staff in which Allison and Todd are the nucleus.
A healthy two-thirds of WCAI’s 21 on-air regular hosts are female, and, according to Todd and Allison, there are more females generally in public broadcasting than commercial markets. When building the WCAI staff, Todd says they hire the best candidates available, gender notwithstanding.
In Todd’s experience, gender equality hasn’t always been the case. Todd was one of the first women in radio to anchor a morning show. Like most women who entered a field at a time when females were just breaking in, Todd has lots of stories.
“Fairly early in my radio career, the program director I worked for said something that was clearly inappropriate. I don’t even remember exactly what he said, but I remember it was said in a kind of joking tone. I informed him, also in a joking tone, that I had the National Organization For Women’s (NOW) number in my back pocket and could have picketers outside the station within a half-hour. It never happened again.”
Todd’s tenacity, sense of self, and her dedication to her listeners and the broader public are examples for journalists of any gender.
WCAI may be a local station, but it’s got big time chops. Allison believes Todd could be easily snapped up by any of the country’s most prestigious big city news agencies
“We’re lucky she likes living on Cape Cod,” he says. As are we.