Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: March 7, 2009

Fred Andrle as part of Talk of the Nation on NPR

Fred Andrle as part of Talk of the Nation on NPR

For more than 20 years, Fred Andrle has been a constant voice of intellect and reason, while serving as the radio host of WOSU AM 820’s Open Line. Fred will retire at the end of May and his announcement to that effect has sparked hundreds of emails into WOSU. Ken Rudin, NPR’s political junkie even posted a very nice tribute in his blog. His loss will be felt by the station and his colleagues, but mostly by the community. Fred is the consummate journalist, who will not shy away from asking the toughest questions. As one of his past guests told me last night at an event — “he’ll give you a few softballs and you start feeling pretty good and then he’ll lay a zinger on you out of the blue.” He’s been tough on the Mayor, on OSU Presidents, and on many local corporate heads. The thing about Fred is that his questions come from deep research and are well crafted. His follow-ups are often tougher than the original question.

I remember the first time I heard Fred Andrle on WOSU. It seven years ago on a steamy summer day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I was a week or so from coming to Columbus for a job interview at WOSU. I was roaming around the WOSU website (in its infancy at that point) and was able to listen to the “live” stream of Open Line. I remember thinking at first it was a national NPR program, then thinking how incredible it was to have this local talent on WOSU. Listening to Fred helped me prepare for my visit and certainly understand the community better. I also began to appreciate this quality person before I ever set foot in the station.

All of us will miss Fred, but we are already beginning to talk about some special projects designed to coax him out of retirement and back to the microphone, at least for a short time, in the future.

Here is Fred in his own words (MP3; running time 2:24)

Tim Feran at the Columbus Dispatch covered Fred’s retirement announcement recently. Here’s his story published on March 3, 2009:

Columbus listeners will lose a calm, familiar voice at the end of May with the retirement of veteran talk-show host Fred Andrle. The longtime host of the live, midday call-in show Open Line on WOSU (820 AM) announced yesterday that he would leave the program after 20 years.

“I never, ever thought I’d be here — or anywhere — for 20 years. I thought it would be two or three years,” said the 68-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y. “That’s all I had stayed at any job before this one. But it was just a perfect fit. The audience liked it very much, and I liked it very much.”

Tom Rieland, general manager of WOSU Public Media, called Andrle “a gift to the Columbus community.”
“I consider him the best radio talk-show host in America, and I know his loyal listeners would agree,” Rieland said. “We plan to lure Fred back to the microphone on occasion, but I know his talents will flourish in many other directions, and we wish him all the best in life.”

While much of the radio world became loud and coarse, Andrle stuck with a civil, low-key style. Only a few interview subjects caused problems for him, sometimes because of their lack of preparation. “You know you’re in trouble when you can tell the story of a nonfiction book better than the writer,” he said, chuckling.

More often, his conversational style drew out the best in his guests. “I interviewed Joan Baez today, and I interviewed her 40 years ago in California,” he said yesterday. “Back then, she was at the height of her career and she was feisty and cranky and difficult. And before today’s show, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ But she was lovely, kind and generous and relaxed. She laughs a great deal.”

Andrle broke into radio as a student at Canisius College in Buffalo, announcing between songs at “one of these lush-music stations.” After earning a master’s degree in communication at Stanford (Calif.) University, he took teaching jobs at Northern Arizona University, then Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware — bringing him to central Ohio in 1969. “I found out . . . (teaching) is not what I do best,” he said. He followed those stints in the 1970s with commercial-radio work and producing and hosting gigs for Warner-Amex Qube, the interactive cable outlet, and WOSU-TV (Channel 34).

A talk show on public television ran from 1981 to 1984, opposite the NBC sitcom Cheers. “Nobody watched,” he said. After a trip to China in early 1988 that included producing six documentaries, Andrle left WOSU for about six months, then received word about the Open Line job.

The station initially viewed it as a temporary position, but he decided to try it. “I was on a cross-country trip at the time, visiting friends in my old Dodge van,” he said. “I arrived maybe an hour before showtime, drinking Pepsi. Tom Wiebell was waiting, just in case I didn’t make it.”
In August 1988, he hosted his first Open Line segment.
The station is just starting to plan for life after Andrle, said Rieland, who confirmed that WOSU would continue with a local call-in show, “hopefully as a multimedia program.” “We’re really at the beginning stages of trying to figure out what that will be,” Rieland said. “We’re not even sure we’ll be ready by June.”

Andrle, who recently published a book of poetry, plans to continue writing, traveling and occasionally hosting for WOSU. “It’s been a delight doing the show,” he said. “I feel very, very privileged to have done a show in which we’ve been able to present all these people, ideas, issues — every point of view. “I feel a personal loss at leaving, but I know deep down it is time to leave.”