Early last week at around the same time that my neighbor fell asleep at the wheel, taking out my mailbox in the process (about 1:30am), I got an email from a friend in Europe.
News and Notes had been cancelled.
I’ve been a fan of NPR now going back over twenty years. To say I believe in public radio is an understatement. When “smooth jazz” took over the airwaves in Detroit, stifling Miles Davis and John Coltrane in favor of Najee and Kenny G., the only place I could hear bebop, cool, and big band was NPR. When I wanted to hear hard-hitting interviews I’d either listen to Diane Rehm or to Terry Gross. And when I entered the ranks of the gainfully employed, my drive home was always accompanied by All Things Considered.
But there was still something missing. An entire series of voices I felt I wasn’t hearing.
Fast forward. Tavis Smiley creates the black equivalent of a media juggernaut (sad commentary on the state of black media when we think of what Smiley accomplished in those terms). And he comes up with the brilliant idea of expanding NPR’s audience.
News and Notes was born. Because he felt NPR wasn’t willing to give him the support needed to grow NPR as a brand in black urban communities, he left and was replaced by Ed Gordon.
And this is when they put me on. No. When Farai put me on. I met Farai through her (equally powerful, equally compassionate) sister. And in talking with Farai she told me that she was working on something that she wanted me to be down with.
I’d gotten wise enough at that point to smile and graciously say “thanks for thinking of me”, while not putting much stock in it.
Next thing I know I’m getting a phone call from NPR. And then regularly doing bits on News and Notes, and then later, Tell Me More. Not only was I finally hearing the voices I was missing, I was one of the voices. There are more people who have the integrity to actually speak the truth and WORK the truth they speak…but I only know a few. Farai is one of them.
In writing about the change, NPR execs focused on the dollars and cents. Whereas a couple of years ago they were 2 million in the red, that figure has jumped to 23 million. And given that a significant chunk of their money comes from corporate donors and philanthropists who have their money in the stock market, it should come as no surprise that they’ve got to make very difficult programming decisions in order to stay on the air. (As an aside this is an important reason why public radio should be PUBLIC radio rather than privately funded radio but I digress.)
But it’s unfortunate (to say the least) that a show like News and Notes became a casualty. Sounds a bit like the “last hired first fired” line that many of us are used to.
We’ll see Farai, and though they work behind the scenes, her staff again soon. Here’s hoping it will be VERY soon.
Thank you Farai.