By ARIN MIKAILIAN
Los Angeles Wave Newspaper
Produced out of Culver City facility, “News and Notes” will cease production in March.
National Public Radio last week announced plans to cancel two of its programs, including “News and Notes,” its only news show geared toward African-American listeners.
Citing budget woes in a Dec. 10 statement, NPR President Dennis Haarsager said that “News and Notes,” along with “Day to Day,” would end their runs on March 20. “The difficult decision to cancel two programs and eliminate the jobs of valued NPR employees was made after an exhaustive review of our entire organization, and with the greatest reluctance,” Haarsager wrote. “With all of NPR’s revenue sources under pressure, these actions were necessary to responsibly stabilize our finances and put NPR on a realistic path.”
In addition to the termination of the “News and Notes” and “Day to Day” staff, Haarsager said a total of 64 cuts will be made to NPR’s staff of 889 as well as the elimination of 21 vacant positions.
NPR predicted a $2 million budget deficit in July that was labeled “relatively manageable” in the press release, but that figure has since grown to $23 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
Both “Day to Day” and “News and Notes” are taped inside NPR’s Culver City studios.
“News and Notes” made its debut in 2004 with its first host, Ed Gordon, the former anchor of “BET News.” A year and a half later, Gordon left the program and was replaced by current host Farai Chideya.
Since its inception, “News and Notes” focused on running news stories involving current affairs in African-American communities throughout the nation and all over the world.
Upon hearing the news, blogger and frequent “News and Notes” guest Jasmyne Cannick said she was very troubled by the program’s fate. On her blog and in an interview, the onetime congressional aide criticized NPR for what she sees as inordinately high turnover among its African-American personalities.
Two years before “News and Notes” went on the air, NPR made its first effort to draw in African-American listeners when it hired Tavis Smiley to host his own radio program. Smiley left NPR in 2004, saying that the radio network did not do a good enough job of promoting his program.
“It seems like every year or two or every 18 months there’s this turnover with African-American programming,” Cannick said.
Cannick also said NPR could have cut other programming in order to have been able to keep its only African-American oriented program.
“In terms of your roster, you have all these other programs that are duplicates of themselves,” she said.
But NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher said the decision to cut “News and Notes” and “Day to Day” from the radio network’s programming schedule was strictly based on financial restrictions, not content.
“Canceling programs and cutting valuable staff were the last things we wanted to do,” she said. “The decisions to cancel ‘News and Notes’ and ‘Day to Day’ were driven entirely by the severe economic downturn and our need to reduce expenses immediately.”
Ange-Marie Hancock, an associate professor of political science at USC who appeared on “News and Notes” just before the 2008 presidential election, said she is sad to see the show go and hopes NPR will launch another African-American oriented program in the near future.
Said Hancock: “I do think NPR needs to be attentive to how it is perceived in the African-American community.”