Unemployment Line: NPR Cancels Only African-American Focused Show ‘News & Notes’

DEVELOPING STORY

Without notice, National Public Radio today canceled its African-American news show ‘News & Notes’ hosted by well-known broadcast and digital media journalist Farai Chideya—thus signaling the end of one of the best national radio newscasts dedicated to African-American news and views.

Citing insufficient levels of audience listeners and the lack of national underwriting, NPR sent an email to its staff announcing the cancellation of ‘News & Notes’ and ‘Day to Day.’ However, several staff members report a different reason given to them for the cancellation, which had nothing to do with audience levels or funding.

Contacting Executive Team at NPR

Send the executive team a reminder about what diversity truly means and let them know that you want your ‘News & Notes’ show.

Phone: (202) 513-2000

Mailing Address:
635 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

CLICK HERE TO EMAIL ALL

Sign  the Petition

Help spread the word and support for the ‘News & Notes’ team at NPR.  Sign the petition and have all of your friends and family do the same!
[iframe http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/newsandnotes/index.html 550 900]

In an email today, NPRs Interim President and CEO Dennis Haarsager said the following:

In late spring, we began to see a decrease in NPR corporate sponsorship, which makes up nearly a third of our operating budget. While we made budget cuts at that time and continued to do so as the economy faltered, all our revenue sources are under pressure. Corporate sponsorship has decreased even more sharply since mid-September. All industries, including the financial, automotive, and media industries, historically our biggest underwriters, are cutting back significantly. Additionally, the philanthropic foundations and major donors who support NPR are cautiously watching the economy and their future giving is uncertain.

The manageable $2 million budget deficit we projected in July for Fiscal Year 2009 has now risen to a projected $23 million deficit.

It is clear that this serious financial situation can’t be responsibly resolved through short-term or temporary cuts. Rather, we must take measures that provide long-term savings, and that preserve our effectiveness and ability to generate vital income in the years ahead.

Today, we are announcing the cancellation of News & Notes and Day to Day, and significant budget reductions across the organization. These cuts include the elimination of 64 filled and 21 unfilled positions, many of which are associated with the two cancelled programs. Positions have also been eliminated across NPR, including reporting, editorial, and production staffs; station services; digital media; research; communications; and administrative support. Overall, this is a 7% reduction in NPR’s current workforce.

It is important for you to understand why we chose to cancel News & Notes and Day to Day, and the implications for programming strategy and commitments. Neither program was attracting sufficient levels of audience or national underwriting necessary to sustain continued production under these tough financial circumstances.

Given the publicity that surrounded the bequest from Joan B. Kroc in 2003, it is understandable to wonder why NPR doesn’t draw on it at this time. Legal restrictions severely limit expenditure of the NPR endowment, which includes most of the bequest made by Mrs. Kroc.

Fortunately, even though the endowment lost value and did not generate earnings for this year, the NPR Foundation was able to fund a separate $10 million distribution against what NPR had budgeted for FY 2009. The NPR Board also authorized us to access up to $15 million from the NPR operating reserves, allowing us to cope with the immediate situation and limit the depth of the cuts to staff and programs.

In November, we sent a memo to all staff relaying our need to address growing budget concerns. In return, we received thoughtful budget suggestions from staff members across the organization. We reviewed them all, and investigated options such as furloughs and fringe benefit reductions. In the end, we concluded that it was necessary to eliminate some activities completely to achieve the long-term savings we require while protecting our core mission.

Laying off valued colleagues was a difficult decision and the last thing we wanted to do. You may have been directly affected by today’s announcement or work closely with someone who was. These cuts are based on the nature of positions, not a judgment of the contributions of those who are losing their jobs. We are losing talented and hardworking staff. The cuts are a reflection of the difficult economic times we are being forced to confront, and we know you will give those who are losing their jobs your personal support.

The show-related positions will end March 20, 2009, the date of both programs’ final broadcast. This date allows stations the necessary time to adjust their program schedules. Most of the remaining affected positions will end on January 12, 2009. All affected employees will receive payout of accrued and unused vacation time. Regular employees will receive NPR’s standard severance which is one day of severance for every month they have been continuously employed by NPR, to a maximum of 125 days, or about 6 months of pay. Regular staff will also be eligible for up to 6 months of continued health, dental, and vision insurance coverage and outplacement assistance.

In addition to these programming and staff changes, we are greatly restricting the budget for discretionary expenses such as travel, NPR-sponsored events, conferences, training, and consultants in FY09.

We have eliminated all FY09 merit increases for the senior team, which includes all vice presidents and executive staff. All other staff will receive their January merit increases as planned. (Severance packages for affected employees will include their January 1 salary increases.)

I have personally focused on the alignment of NPR’s senior team, our current executive position vacancies, and the roles of our senior vice presidents, in an effort to better align work and make changes that will contribute to the net savings for NPR. This resulted in the decision to reclassify several positions: Ellen Weiss, VP for News; Kathleen Jackson, VP for HR; and Joyce Slocum, VP for Legal Affairs and General Counsel are promoted to the SVP level. Debra May Hughes, Executive Director of Public Interactive, is promoted to VP. These changes were made to better reflect the scope of their responsibilities and contributions. Three of these were title changes and did not involve a change in pay.

Additionally, the Board of Directors has asked me to stay on as an Executive VP during the first six months of new CEO Vivian Schiller’s transition. I have also made a decision to eliminate the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships position, and Dana Davis Rehm has accepted a new role as SVP of Marketing, Communications, and External Relations. This expanded position replaces the currently vacant VP of Marketing and Communications.

The Court of Public Opinion

  • anthea raymond

    This show is important because it speaks two TWO demographics that NPR has had a hard time capturing: African-Americans AND young people. With the death of The Bryant Park Project, NPR has no vehicle as effective as N&N for speaking to young people who care about change and global music culture. Cancelling this show is a mistake for that reason, among many.

  • News & Notes is a crucial forum; it provides information and views that otherwise would not be heard in that format and services an audience that is generally overlooked. Given the state of and recent developments in our national politics, the show is needed more than ever. Please reconsider this decision.

  • Nikki Brown

    “News and Notes” provides critical insight on the top news stories and their impact on African Americans. This important program must be allowed space within NPR.

  • Anonymous

    Michele Martin’s Tell me More is another such program, still on the air:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=46

  • News and Notes has consistently covered a broad range of topics of interest not only to people of color, but to young people, ie, new listeners to NPR, exactly the group NPR must continue to cultivate in order to survive. They are quite literally the future of the enterprise.

    We need public programming to stay relevant to all, to serve the populace, to give a respectful voice to so many who are not given the respect in mainstream media they deserve. You cannot fulfill this mission with more integrity and understanding of the depth and range of a generation than by continuing to support Farai Chideya and her talented staff.

    The cutting of this show is a mistake especially at this point in our national history when, now more than ever, young and younger people of color feel enfranchised and are poised to exercise the voice and views they/we have been cultivating for the last two decades.

    This is a mistake when, now more than ever, people who are hit hard by the economic downturn will need to speak and share and come together–through forums like News and Notes.

    The best idea for this show is to grow it, to help give it more penetration, not less. Its time is now. Be an agent of change. We won’t make it by staying the same. Not us, not you.

  • jeff axelrod

    this is awful news. News and Notes is the most thoughtfully
    produced show on national NPR. While the “TakeOut” gots is
    qualities, for broadcast journalism at the cutting edge of
    new media News and Notes wins. Middle aged white man here,
    and listened for the the only regular African news, the media
    assassin, the sly Dr. Frances Berry and even lengthy segments
    on the particulars of African-American mental illness.
    soon NPR will be nothing but business shows and Norwegian Plain
    state liberal storytellers.

    will miss you bloggers,
    jeffrey axelrod
    peoples republic of brooklyn

  • anon

    What do you mean “without notice?” The shows go silent 3/20. That’s more notice than I got on my last gig.

  • So the fallout from the new “postracial” America begins. I’m sure that with Obama headed to the white house, the need for programming aimed at African Americans is seen as unnecessary. Too bad. My need to support public broadcasting has dried up as well.

  • Nyah Molineaux

    When I heard the news, my heart sank because Farai lost her job. It was a very good news show and it will be missed.

  • The irony in which things are continuing to decline these days is beyond rapid. Wasn’t it 40 years ago that the famous – or infamous – Kerner Commission Report was released? The report spoke of there being two separate nations in this country, and more specifically to media here’s a passage from the report which was initiated by the riots of that day:

    The Media and Race Relations

    Our second and fundamental criticism is that the news media have failed to analyze and report adequately on racial problems in the United States and, as a related matter, to meet the Negro’s legitimate expectations in journalism. By and large, news organizations have failed to communicate to both their black and white audiences a sense of the problems America faces and the sources of potential solutions. The media report and write from the standpoint of a white man’s world. The ills of the ghetto, the difficulties of life there, the Negro’s burning sense of grievance, are seldom conveyed. Slights and indignities are part of the Negro’s daily life, and many of them come from what he now calls “the white press”—a press that repeatedly, if unconsciously, reflects the biases, the paternalism, the indifference of white America. This may be understandable, but it is not excusable in an institution that has the mission to inform and educate the whole of our society.

    Here’s an opportunity for BET – though I doubt it – TV One, the Africa Channel, etc.. to step up.

  • Georgia “Flash”

    NPR made a courageous, albeit painful, decision to drop the “News and Notes” program; a decision that earns my respect. “NPR” stands for NATIONAL Public Radio; and, thankfully, covers issues that affect Americans – period. If we African Americans want our local/parochial issues covered, then we should demand that the Oprahs; the Russell Simmonses; super-star athletes and rap artists; (Euro-White owned) BET – gimme a break!- put up the requisite money, technology and people. Understand, however, that they won’t because most of our issues ARE specific and local, and, more importantly – UNPROFITABLE.

  • I don’t know of another radio show that will offer the the level of conversation and commentaries about the Afro-
    American community. I live in a S.C community where 99% percent of my neighbors are white but so many of them told me they listened to News & Notes when I had commentaries featured. And they continued to listen afterwards because they enjoyed it and commented that they learned so much about American culture. They especially admired the skillfill leadership of Farai Chideya. I truly expected the show would expand. I am saddened that it will be silenced. I will definitely miss it.

  • I don’t know of another radio show that will offer the the level of conversation and commentaries about the Afro-
    American community. I live in a S.C community where 99% percent of my neighbors are white but so many of them told me they listened to News & Notes when I had commentaries featured. And they continued to listen afterwards because they enjoyed it and commented that they learned so much about American culture. They especially admired the skillfill leadership of Farai Chideya. I truly expected the show would expand. I am saddened that it will be silenced. I will definitely miss it.

  • lizz bronson

    i think that news and notes is one of the shows that actually got me into listening to npr and checking out its various shows on a daily basis. i am at the point where i am looking for info and viewpoints expressed that i don’t see in mainstream media. for a long time, i have walked around with a feeling that something was wrong with me, that i was noticing things i had no language for in certain social situations. news and notes is critical in terms of assisting me form my perspective, helping me find that language, helping me solidify certain modes of thinking— and with the broad perspective of interviews: i never know what will be discussed or who will be on. for instance, i heard an interview with darius rucker i never would hear in mainstream media–because we are talking about country music, preconceptions, and someone who is an anomaly. news and notes actually provides a critical point of departure in media format—it brings different segments of blacks together in a thoughtful discussion about our direction. we educate ourselves about issues. and we are treated intelligently. and we go out, armed with raising discussion better, and lifting the consciousness of ourselves and others. thank you and many blessings. npr is the place for me.

  • lizz bronson

    i think that news and notes is one of the shows that actually got me into listening to npr and checking out its various shows on a daily basis. i am at the point where i am looking for info and viewpoints expressed that i don’t see in mainstream media. for a long time, i have walked around with a feeling that something was wrong with me, that i was noticing things i had no language for in certain social situations. news and notes is critical in terms of assisting me form my perspective, helping me find that language, helping me solidify certain modes of thinking— and with the broad perspective of interviews: i never know what will be discussed or who will be on. for instance, i heard an interview with darius rucker i never would hear in mainstream media–because we are talking about country music, preconceptions, and someone who is an anomaly. news and notes actually provides a critical point of departure in media format—it brings different segments of blacks together in a thoughtful discussion about our direction. we educate ourselves about issues. and we are treated intelligently. and we go out, armed with raising discussion better, and lifting the consciousness of ourselves and others. thank you and many blessings. npr is the place for me.

  • Don L. Whitfield Sr.

    As a yearly financial supporter of our local PBS Radio Station in Baton Rouge, La., I am very sad, and disappointed in this decision by NPR. News & Notes is one of the few national news programs geared toward the a minority view point. There are things more important than commercial ratings. Please reconsider this decision, because you are making a crucial misstake if you don’t reverse this. I will continue to support my local station, but will take a dim view of NPR from now on. Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion.
    D. Whitfield

  • Farah Jasmine Griffin

    This is deeply disappointing. Now, more than ever, we need a show like News and Notes, which has been consistently innovative in its coverage of politics and culture. While the show has been attentive to African American perspectives it is also important for Americans of all races who want intelligent and informed commentary on current events. What a loss.

  • Mary Giancoli

    NPR, I listed to your show every morning for features on Latino and African-American issues. Please let us know why this decision was made, and what next we can expect in the future from NPR when Obama is President?
    Thanks for the opportunity to voice my view.

  • Monique Doryland

    Here is another middle-aged white person who really, really enjoys News & Notes. This is not a show that NPR should be cutting, in my opinion, as a sustainer and long-time public radio listener. News & Notes is an informative, selective, well-done radio show and I don’t want it to vanish. I think NPR needs News & Notes even more than News & Notes needs NPR. And it seems quite odd to me that a show designed to showcase African-American issues, commentators and intellectuals is one of the two that got the axe.

  • NancyP

    Agree with above commenters – N&N is unique and valuable. Furthermore, I’d bet that the NPR management seriously underestimates the number of listeners – they likely believe that only blacks listen to N&N – not true – many of the news-oriented urban whites and non-A-A POC who listen to NPR are likely to view this show as a unique glimpse of issues and of African-American public intellectuals not seen on general-purpose news. I am one of those white listeners, a stereotypical long-time NPR listener (middle-aged, well-educated, gets news from multiple sources including print, white-collar worker).

  • Tanya

    The show is not broadcast here in Chicago (which amazes me as the third largest city) but I have listened to the it online. In my native state of New York (specifically in the five boroughs) it comes on late at night. I know it is produced in California but it would be interesting to see what time the show is broadcast in other markets. That could effect “ratings” and “numbers” too. I signed the petition and hope that we save this very informative and well-produced show.

  • I’m a white listener, formerly from Maine, presently living in South Korea. News & Notes is the only NPR program to which I listen regularly. For straight-ahead news, I go to BBC World. But, for an insight into America, from a perspective that I can’t find anywhere else, I count on N&N. Farai is a clear-eyed journalist with a warm and reasonable manner. She has become one of my favorites. I do sincerely hope that she will find employment with an organization that respects her skills and talents. As far as further donations to NPR, all they’ll get from me is the back of my hand and the sole of my foot.

  • Houston

    Houstonians could listen live to News & Notes on KTSU 90.9 FM at noon M – Th.
    I enjoyed the show and its hosts.
    But I especially liked subscribing to the podcast feeds for each segment during the show.
    The podcasts were handy in case I missed the live airing or to listen to the Friday show that KTSU did not air.

    Hopefully we can save News & Notes because its the only current show that I can relate.

  • I agree with all the statements…let’s ensure our voice continues to be heard…

  • This really pisses me off and I’ve added the petition to my sidebar on my blog. They can have a ‘sudden’ change in funding that would restore it. I mean I have to suffer through This American Life but I can’t have News & Notes?!!

  • Shirley Wells

    I am so disappointed in the decision to cancel News and Notes. Since it is the only African American oriented program on NPR, how is it possible it is not adequately attended by listeners? It is the only show I tune to for a completely unbiased accounting of world events. I have supported the station in the past but will not any longer. I can’t imagine NPR could not find two of the somewhat marginal shows to cancel rather than News and Notes. This reminds me of the CW ousting of the bulk of African American shows citing similar ratings issues.

  • Helena Meryman

    News & Notes is one of my favorite shows, right up there with Radio Lab and Talk of the nation. I happen to be white. News and Notes offers me a valuable perspective that I do not get any where else. I am probably like many urban liberals that don’t have close african american friends. Now is the time (with Obama coming into office) when it is especially important to keep the voices of african americans in the media. Just because we have a 1/2 black president elect does not mean race issues and differences have evaporated. Farai does an amazing job and her choices of guests, often enlisting a panel, provides an important diversity of perspective within the african american community. Its just a great show and deserves to be on the air. Do we really need “wait wait dont tell me”, sure its a funny show but so is “says you”? Will Shortz, do we need the puzzler as much as we need some diversity or is NPR conceding that it really is only for clever good humored white people??

  • Open letter to NPR:
    I am a huge fan of NPR. I am contacting you not simply because I enjoy Farai Chideya’s voice, but because I find her to be in an integral aspect of your programming. While I grew up in Louisville, KY listening to your programming on air, I now live in New Delhi, India and listen via podcast. Given the benefits and years of experience of listening to news and views from America from a young, African-American journalist’s perspective, with plenty of colored guests and analysis of general news from this “minority” perspective, I can hardly go back to NPR’s “normal” programming. I listen to most of your other stock shows- Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation- and am shocked at their social elitism. While News and Notes acknowledges the rainbow of ways in which our nation is diverse and faces difference, your “White” shows present a world where America is a nation of white, middle class women and men with some Black, brown and queer friends. Please Keep News and Notes and double the time! Like the Obamaania, America needs to revisit itself from the perspective of its African brothers and sisters at center stage. Don’t worry, if you listened to Farai’s show you’d know that we’re into forgiveness not revenge.

  • A.J. Muhammad

    I hope that we as a people can mobilize like people did for the Obama campaign because this is just as important: to show NPR that we won’t stand for the cutting of “News & Notes” at a time when we need the most. Where else (besides WABC’s weekly “Like It Is” which is only broadcast in NYC or Bev Smith’s radio show that’s only broadcast in a few states) can African Americans or anybody can listen to thoughful analysis of issues that affect the Black community or this country as a whole? Where else can we hear about the conditions and contributions of Black people from across the African diaspora besides “News & Notes?” Farai Chideya and her indispensible crew have been taken for granted by NPR and we ain’t gonna stand for it. D.L. Hugley’s show on CNN ain’t gonna cut. We want Chideya. We want Chideya. We want Chideya!!!! Let’s boycott NPR and it’s sponsors until NPR does right by us and Farai!

  • Jabani Bennett

    I listen to NPR News and Notes everyday online. I do not find many programs that reflect the diverse worlds of people of color around the world.

    How did NPR crunch its numbers to determine who is listening to the show? Did they look at online listeners? Did they create creative solutions before canceling the most edgy show in their organization? Do they care about a diverse listeners (outside of their middle aged upper middle class white base)?

    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Charles W. Negendank

    Even though this program unfortunately does not air on my local affiliate, I am deeply troubled by its cancellation. While I access it online for in-depth features and valuable news from the African-American community, I am most concerned for those regular radio listeners across the country who will be denied the daily benefits of this enriching program. Using “small audience” or lack of national underwriting as the reasons for cancellation masks a subtle racism upon the part of the Executive staff of NPR. Denying a public outlet for such a crucial demographic is an untimely incident in the wake of a much-needed shift in America’s political landscape. NPR should re-think this poor decision.

  • News and Notes is one of the few programs where there is no excuse made for being Black. It is still difficult to say anything about being Black or about Blacks without someone attempting to dilute the message by saying that such and such is also true of some other group. Rarely is the same thing actually true without qualification due to the very unique circumstances under which we arrived in this environment illegally or were subjugated as the first “American” civilization (Moor). But the diluters refuse to wait for the clarification because they have another mission.

  • Jim

    Cancelled? I thought I just heard it on-air only a day or two ago. Terrific program, and I don’t listen with any cultural point of view (I’m not African-American) but as a fine source of news and entertainment information.

  • Janette Greer

    I will miss news & notes . Farai show ,made my hour long lunch more enjoyable. I miss hearing her conversations and commentaries about current events. I am a 48 year old black woman from Huntsville, Alabama. Farai stories were fascinating and always timely.I have always supported NPR news. When Farai leaves I will listen more to I R N news. Farai. God bless you.

  • Mark LaPointe

    I was doing a google search for “News and Notes” this morning and was surprised to come across this posting. In fact, News and Notes is indeed still on the air. I wonder if it’s been taken off the air by specific, independently-run NPR affiliates… but from a national NPR point-of-view, it’s still around.

    I don’t get it in my local market, but I do listen to it online. Perhaps if you can’t find it on your local station, you can check it out there as well.

  • horac jackson

    This is where4 support and moneny is needed.

    rather than to Mr. Tavis Smiley and all his JIVE