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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Smiley leaving NPR

Fuck NPR, I'm outta here

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December

Tavis Smiley has opted not to renew his contract with National Public Radio to host his daily one-hour talk show
Hollywood Reporter
Updated: 11:37 a.m. ET Nov. 30, 2004

LOS ANGELES - After nearly three years on the air, Tavis Smiley has opted not to renew his contract with National Public Radio to host his daily one-hour talk show.

Smiley said Monday that his last day on the air will be Dec. 16. In announcing his decision, Smiley criticized NPR for what he characterized as its failure to “meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don’t know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future.”

Melanie pointed this out, which kind of went under the radar for a lot of people

I know a lot of people get discomforted when I call NPR the network for college professors and the graduate students they fuck. But it's true. NPR is an elitist organization which is regularly put to shame by the BBC and even PBS.

While I am hardly a fan of PBS, at least it runs a range of diverse programming. NPR is designed to appeal to middle class whites and few others. I would love nothing better than to see Ira Glass and his smug little show beset by a pack of raging wolfhounds. If you take the good of NPR, Terry Gross, vs the repellent of NPR, the Beltway Bandits who run their news programming, there isn't much there. NPR is insular and clubby.

The best thing which ever happened to PBS was Joan Ganz Cooney, the creator of Children's Television Workshop, the people who bring you Sesame Street. Not just because it set the gold standard of children's programming, but because it created a diverse television workplace. A place where not only children and adults interacted realistically, no more Father Knows Best, but was a multiracial, multicultural world. But Sesame Street's effect wasn't only those little cards I got in Kindergarten with the alphabet. It set the tone for the entire range of programming on the network. Everything from jazz documentaries to an American Family came from a sense that NPR had to represent a range of views. NPR was founded by a clique and has stayed a clique.

It is hardly surprising that Smiley would grow tired of NPR. He is a singular voice there. Minorties do best on NPR when they don't act like minorities and even then, they tend to move on. Ray Suarez became an anchor on the News Hour.

And let's consider the News Hour for a moment. Their second anchor is a black woman, the others are a hispanic man and a woman, and Red Smith'
s Son Terry. Their commentators are equally balanced. Despite it's stogy nature and reliance on Washington sources, it is the most diverse anchor team on TV. NPR is still largely white. Cable is a blizzard of whiteness.

In short, Jim Lehrer hired a diverse cast of reporters and anchors for his show, while NPR's news cast is the preserve of a clique of white women. Few minorities have ever broken through at NPR. And their program largely panders to their white contributor base. Minorities usually show up on NPR as either victims, success stories or Africans. They love Africans, the poorer the better. But a balanced view of American minorities?

People give NPR a pass because of their "liberal" politics. But when you get past it, Smiley's frustration is evidently clear. NPR doesn't care about minorities, except as news subjects. Instead of a range of programming and new hiring, it's just more lip service.

I can see Smiley moving to bigger leagues sooner rather than later.

posted by Steve @ 1:35:00 PM

1:35:00 PM

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