State of the Union

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State of the Union seems to be BBC Radio 4’s way of replacing the late Alistair Cooke’s Letters From America. Replacing Letters from America is a really tough role to fill. State of the Union has got really big shoes to fill.

The 15-minute slot from 20h50 – 21h00 on a Friday and repeated from 08h50 – 09h00 on a Sunday is hosted by a different American journalist each week. You can have a listen here. I was a relatively recent convert to Alistair Cooke; but the short time that I experienced his programmes immediately made me realise what I had missed out on. Cooke was an institution and a relic of when Britishness meant life as a character in an Agatha Christie novel and acting like Cole Porter show tunes were still all the rage. State of the Union is very now, and a good way of ensuring that the presenter doesn’t get unfavourably compared to Mr Cooke’s legacy. It won’t be cult listening, but listenable all the same.

The BBC’s own spiel: In this US election year, a new series, State of the Union tells the stories that define the American nation. Drawn from the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts, the deep South and the mid-West heartland, each week a distinctive American broadcasting voice reflects on everyday America.

The first one was done by Betty DeRamus, a Pulitizer prize winning columnist from the Detroit News. State of the Union will continue until November. It will be followed by Letter, first-person reports from Beijing, Delhi, Johannesburg, etc, which already goes out on the World Service at 05h30 on Sundays. More related content here.