Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just investigated this. If you're like me, and dislike NPR news, but like PRI programs, you can give directly to PRI and not have the money go to ATC or ME or NPR News more generally.

Porter Melmoth said...

In the gathering recession - or worse - we'll probably see more cleaving of uNPR's corporate/cooperative structure. I'm wondering when their next round of layoffs will occur (i.e. WHO'S NEXT??), and how many days fabled NPR West has before it goes the route of MGM's backlot in Culver City.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

NPR announced layoffs last fall. I have been told that they already had their second round (from a pretty reliable insider), but I didn't find any corroborating information to support the claim. I have been told that they (NPR) has laid off 13% of staff so far.

In member station news, the station at Miami of Ohio University closed completely, and laid off all the staff. The transferred the least from the state school to a community entity for $1 (limited use lease) just so that the university could lay off it's employees.

Expect more of this, along with member station consolidation across the US in the coming months.

-JET

Porter Melmoth said...

Wow, thanks JET.

So, I'm wondering how the corporate endowments fit into this reduction scheme. Is there any source that is following that angle, I wonder?

With newsprint going the way of railroad hegemony, I would nevertheless think that the comparatively low overhead of a radio network might still not suffer too much on account of its access to the masses.

So, NPR might morph into more of an AM radio version: much more automation, drastically reduced bureaus, more patches into BBC (itself surely due for big downsizing), and more time filler product from independent suppliers (quantity, not necessarily quality). A satellite radio thing. Plus, maybe more music on local stations (good!). Maybe this is just the ticket to bust the corporate stranglehold on the media in general.

A recession with unexpected benefits.

miranda said...

Does anyone else here listen to the talk shows?

Today's "Diane Rehm Show" was fascinating. The guest was Con Coughlin, British journalist and editor and accused purveyor of "Black Propaganda." He was discussing Iran's evil designs, the subject of his latest book. The most amazing thing happened when the phones were opened -- a succession of callers called out this dubious right-wing "expert," talked about the US/CIA role in the 1953 coup, and other true things "Con" denies.

Rehm always seems open-minded and progressively oriented; one wonders what goes on with the booking.

I won't even mention the pro-life programming on "Talk of the Nation" -- is that a Neil Conan obsession?

Porter Melmoth said...

Miranda, my schedule doesn't allow for the daytime talk shows, though I get reports that Rehm is at least a showcase for a wider variety of guests than the hardcore uNPR 'News' shows.

'Some critics' (as NPR would say) have problems with Tom Ashbrook and 'On Point', but I find it to be the only NPR-associated show I care to follow with any regularity. That is, I don't encounter so many stumbling blocks in it, as is the case with the usual suspects. Ashbrook may have been sort of gamey with Chomsky when he was on once, but he let him speak pretty satisfactorily. He also let Tommy the Fried Brain Man speak, and in the process Friedman continued to reveal what a bizarre, WRONG, and bitterly maddening personality he is. I found this segment useful.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

All,

I listen to Diane Rehm quite a lot, because my work situation allows me to do so. Also, using a podcast receiver, like "Juice," it is easy to download the podcasts, move them to a portable media player and take them with you.

My opinion of Diane Rehm's show is mixed; at best. Setting aside the sound quality of her voice, which many people don't like because her voice quivers and quakes and "sound old," Diane is a pretty fair reporter. However, like many other news hosts she does, from time to time, fall prey to the guest who will do nothing but read the talking points. Sometimes Diane challenges them. Sometimes she doesn't. That's really a shame, because when Diane challenges a guest, she's very straight-forward with her questions and polite with her retorts. Other times, however, she is just too darn pleasant and not terribly forceful. I guess that makes her perfect for NPR (WAMU).

That said, a BIG problem with Diane is her (a) guest selection and (b) substitute host selection. Because WAMU is in the heart of DC, Diane gets a list of the usual suspects -- mostly from the right -- to interview. However, on occasion, she gets a true liberal; someone like David Corn (formerly of The Nation, and now writing for Mother Jones). But The DR Show NEVER gets enough of the opposing viewpoints. Her Friday news roundups are especially replete with chattering class regulars from USA Today, NPR, Politico, The American Heritage Foundation, et al.

Steve Roberts -- husband of Cokie -- often fills in for Rehm, and he's about as partisan as they come. Recently he got busted (over an open microphone) for filtering out "negative" callers to the show. Roberts, like his wife, is a GOPer tool of the highest order. On the other hand, Katy Kay (of the BBC) is outstanding when she fills in. You can tell she's used to the more confrontational British press model, and she's as sharp as they come.

One thing I have noted from The DR Show is that the callers are generally fantastic. They usually don't let the talking-pointer guests off the hook. So Rehm's call screener is doing a great job, in my opinion. Rehm's show is more newsy than Fresh Air, and head and shoulders above TOTN, but that isn't really saying much. As far as I am concerned, "talk shows" really aren't that newsy. But Rehm does a better job than most. And, when she has authors on (one-on-one) usually during her second hour, she has some really great conversations with some really interesting guests -- some people who I have never heard on other NPR shows.

-JET

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Here is a story regarding WMUB at Miami of Ohio.

Porter Melmoth said...

Great review, JET, and most helpful. Thanks.

-PM

Porter Melmoth said...

I would add that Robert Kennedy Jr. has the same speech condition, spasmodic dysphonia, as Diane Rehm. I heard RFK Jr give a brilliant talk once, and it was not a distraction.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

Thanks for the compliments. Diane was off the air for some time, receiving treatments for spasmodic dysphonia. For her, it came on quite suddenly, and for a time, it looked doubtful that she'd ever return. As I have been listening to her for years, I've noticed that her voice has stabilized -- not completely "normal," as it once was, but definitely "listenable." It's really too bad for her because, unfortunately, older folk like me don't need her pipes to be perfect in order to listen to her for 2 hours. But I fear that younger listeners might discriminate against her as one of those old, white NPR fuddy duddies, because she sounds like their grandmother. And, for good and for bad, Rehm is one of those radio hosts who doesn't need to fill the air with his/her own voice. Steve Insqueak and Scott Simon-Says could learn a lot from Diane. Or course, they won't. Those two never seem to miss an opportunity to ST*U!

-JET

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

(1) Automation - Many NPR members stations use quite a bit of automation already. I suspect more automation will be used in the future to replace people -- hosts and reporters. Thus, radio will be more canned and done "almost live." As you listen now, especially when NPR (or your local station) does "Special Coverage," notice how rough it sounds, relative to the pre-recorded product. Many of the younger, non-radio (print) NPR types can't even do live radio, without hemming, ha-ing and hyper-ventalating. Pretty sad.

(2) Layoffs - NPR and member stations are riffing journalists and keeping "digital media professionals," and "technical operations types" to produce "web-ready" and "radio-ready" news. NPR just hired, as their new CEO, a woman from the New York Times who was responsible for their web presence. Many -- if not most -- web producers are NOT journalists. Neither are broadcast engineers and technical operations staff. NPR has NOT laid off any people from their digital delivery units, and they probably won't. Of course, NPR's digital delivery (web distribution) works completely around member station (radio) distribution. And, Member Station relations at NPR has never been worse. Can you imagine why? It's everyone for themselves, and NPR has many stations by the short hairs.

(3) Consolidation - Weaker stations are failing or merging with stronger ones. Stations that have permits to build out recently-acquired, non-commercial frequencies are probably going to have to release licenses they won through FCC auction. In Colorado, for example, Colorado Public Radio bought an AM station (in Denver) several years ago to split its news service from its classical music service. That AM purchase cost over $5 million. Last year, they bought a non-commercial FM station for $8.2 million to replace the AM station that they have not yet paid off. In sum, Colorado Public Radio has over $12 million in debt against assets (like frequencies in Denver and all over the state) that are quickly depreciating! And CPR is one of the stations that is supposed to be in GOOD financial shape! This year, they will probably have to do 5 drives in order to meet their $10 million yearly budget, including an "end of the fiscal year drive" in June 2009. After all of that, they will probably STILL be in a negative cash-flow situation. Speaking of consolidation, I wouldn't be surprised to see some public radio stations merging with public television organizations too; where they don't already exist, of course.

It looks pretty bleak for public radio (and television) to me.

-JET

Anonymous said...

I'm in LA. Supposedly KPCC is (was?) doing quite well. I think KCRW was, too. I like both for different reasons. KCRW has some of the best music in the country (though Internet radio has leveled the playing field somewhat here). KPCC has some good local/state news, which is important given the pitiful state of the LA Times (which has all the journalistic gravitas of 'Morning Edition' by this point).

So I like some things about each station. But I simply refuse to give money to NPR News anymore, and I told each station this. I wonder if more pressure like this might help. (I doubt it, though; I think many people don't realize how bad NPR News is.) So, yes, as I said at first, I'll be giving to PRI. I'd like to give directly to the BBC, too, though I've not found a way to do that.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought about putting Media Matters up on your list of helpful sights? ( http://mediamatters.org/)

It does some good work on NPR.

Anonymous said...

WHYY in Philly has gone fund-raising full time. They are even asking for corporate "challenges" so that "underwriters" can reach the target audience (which seems to be made up of people with money to manage and "protect", people with all kinds of health conditions, people that want to pay for their kids to get a jump with up-scale private schools). This was never done before. The last fund drive took 11 days.

Many of the new people at WHYY seem to have come from the Philadelphia Inquirer. As such they allow Mayor Nutter unfettered access to their various local yack shows and they have never met an "action plan" or "master plan" they won't spend time with.

I think the entire mind-set of NPR in general and WHYY in particular is summed up in an exchange between Terry Gross (most over-rated yacker) and the ex-chief economist of the IMF. He had said that if the US finacial situation was reviewed by IMF with no identifying name the IMF would order the banks to be "nationalized" immediately. As the iMF has made many countries do. Gross asked why the IMF couldn't/wouldn't come out and say that. The ex-cheif said that it was only the uS position relative to the IMF that made the IMF unable to prescribe the same medicine they impose on others. That double standard and concept of American "exceptionalism" is a cause (maybe the major cause) of many of our problems in the world today. Terry Gross went on without missing a beat. To her, American exceptionalism is as natural as the air (Fresh, I hope) she breathes.

edk

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

All,

Insqueak lives up to his name on Morning Edition today, reaching a falsetto crescendo at 2:15 of the interview (it may make your dogs howl). Thomas Ricks actually carries the entire interview. But, no big surprise there, right?

I break down the first 4 minutes of the interview in the comments section, if anyone is interested. I'll leave the last 4 minutes to anyone else has the time (or the stomach) to listen to Little Stevie get schooled by a real journalist.

-JET

Porter Melmoth said...

'Democracy Now!' will not turn down your contributions either. Their 'headlines' segment is excellent, either in their emails or at the site itself. As a service, DM! is about as non-NPR as you can get.

Porter Melmoth said...

Thanks, JET, for the analysis of the squeaking that goes on 'inside' Inskreep's technique.

Ricks also appeared on 'On Point' recently - an hour well spent.

Porter Melmoth said...

Typo: 'DN!' not 'DM!'

I would add that DN! is the only source I've come across that's covered the story of Connell, Rove vote-fixer, and his (probable bump-off)plane crash death.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

When I worked for a non-Pacifica based, public radio station, from time to time, I'd wear my "Democracy Now" hat to work. The management used to sneer at me because of it. My response was, "Their news and gear are better than our station's or NPR's." As you might imagine, it didn't win me many friends in the upper echelon of my member station, even after I became a manager myself! I still give directly to "Democracy Now: The Exception to The Rulers."

Regarding an earlier post about sending contributions directly to the BBC; public radio and television funding in the UK is significantly different than in the US. I'd suggest for people who want contribute indirectly to BBC shows carried in the US, PRI (distributor) is your best bet -- or give directly to a member station (or network) that co-produces BBC content for US distribution, like WBUR/WGBH does with The World.

-JET

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

I like On Point, so thanks for the info.

-JET

Porter Melmoth said...

Hearing Gwen Thompkins' and S.S. Nelson's reports this morn from E. Africa and the Afghan-Pak border respectively, I couldn't help but detect some classic American earnestness in action. In all their torrent of words (Ms Gwen seemed to use ProTools to morph her voice to squeeze into its allotted slot) I learned much less than a more mature and concise reporter such as Ofebia Quist-Arcton or Philip Reeves would give (both of whom I've praised in the past, and who are 99% BBC and 1% NPR in their journo genetics). It sounds strange to say, but I find that American reporters (not just uNPR-oids) in these and other locales just don't 'get it'. I'd need a thesis to explain, but hell, I've learned more about the Sudan from the film 'Khartoum' and Robert Young Pelton's 'The World's Most Dangerous Places' (various editions - I'd recommend it for any on the ground research of trouble spots), and of the Afghan Pak frontier from Kipling and Olaf Caroe's seminal 'The Pathans', not to mention old National Geographics - than I've ever gotten from US NPR-niks. (Plus, bumbling around Peshawar as a tourist - way before today's troubles - was pretty cool; I've never heard anyone on NPR really capture what an incredible city Peshawar is - or the region, for that matter...)

In my opinion, Americans make pretty poor hearts-and-minds imperialists, while they obviously excel in the military/industrial version (at least ostensibly - recent evidence shows 'Fiasco'-level flops there, too.)

In WWII, my recently late dad fought for a Marshall Plan-innovating, UN-assisting, peacemaking USA. I still foster that ideal.

nunya said...

The coverage on prop 8 this morning was missing information on whether or not the Mormon church was in violation of separation of church and state.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

All,

NPR takes on the always controversial subject of "snoring" today, by running two stories during Morning Edition; here and here.

I really had to fight the urge to post (on the NPR blog) that "turning NPR OFF DURING Morning Edition" successfully cured my own breathing problems -- including BOTH intermittent hyper-ventalating and, yes excessive SNORING!

-JET

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

All,

Mara Liarrson is at it again, this time returing to a familiar subject -- healthcare reform. It allows her (a) to use cronies she hasn't spoken with in more than 15 years, and (b) to ignore opposing viewpoints in her most "fair and balanced" way.

-JET

PS See "hyper-ventalating" above.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

All,

I break down the Uncle Yawn Williams interview in the comments section of the NPR site today.


-JET

Porter Melmoth said...

S.S. Nelson reports from the Afghan frontier again. Like all good earnest uNPR-oids at large in the world's hard-to-understand places, she tries to link the region with something 'American'. Today she revisits the officer from Laramie, WY, who attempts to equate Afghan operations with Wyomingness, or something. Reminded me of the 1960s film, 'Africa, Texas Style'.

The piece ended though, with a statement from someone (American) who felt that American techniques weren't ever going to work in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Military recruiting interview by Terry Gross with ultra sensitive Marine, Donavan Campbell, author of 'JOKER ONE: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood.'

Lots of mention of "honor."
Lots of him choking up and Terry speaking praise for him.
Makes the Marines sound like social workers in a Dickensian novel.

Totally supporting the meme that 'things get messy and aren't explainable so don't look back'... just when Sen Leahy is looking back.

Dig the subliminal tie-in to Batman-
'Joker Won.'

NPR-Voice of America at your service!

Anonymous said...

Glad I found your blog. NPR is just another corporate media shill. They never ask any of their guests hard questions and pretty much tow the government line.

artes moriendi said...

Karen Grigsby Bates was right on the money about the gays and the Prop 8 thing, wasn't she. I mean, how do you like those queers getting all screechy and raucous and uncivil just because some business owners gave boatloads of cash to a ballot initiative that wiped out gay marriage? Sheesh. And those business owners were so nice to them--showed their movies and stuff. How ungrateful. Why don't the dykes and queers just learn to be quiet and content and nice? Like, go decorate something. Go put some ruffles or some sequins on some fabric or something. NPR and Mrs. Karen Grigsby Bates, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son and her "impossibly stubborn terrier," will like you so much better.

Anonymous said...

Some critics' (as NPR would say) have problems with Tom Ashbrook and 'On Point', but I find it to be the only NPR-associated show I care to follow with any regularity. That is, I don't encounter so many stumbling blocks in it, as is the case with the usual suspects.

Might i suggest you listen to some of Ashbrook's pre-war and (just)post invasion programs?

The guy was so "shocked and Awed" that he sounded like he had wet his pants on the air (one of the many advantages of radio over TV). Either that or had a wargasm.

Porter Melmoth said...

Yup, I know, Anon, very few in the media world are exempt from such behavior. But part of the compromise in partaking of said media is to keep things like Ashbrook's past in mind, but I can't carry his baggage for him. I just listen to the show to hear what the guests and callers say. To me, Ashbrook is about the least offensive in a poor selection, and his show, even at its worst, is head and shoulders about the other talkie swill NPR churns out. Even if my good buddies Wolfie (remember him?) or Richard (The Third) Perle were on the show, you bet I'd be listening.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

As you suggested, I listened to Ashbrook's interview with Ricks of a few weeks ago. Well worth the 40 minutes. While listening, I noticed that Inscreep lifted one of Ashbrook's questions; almost verbatim. So, I guess Little Stevie DID prepare for his interview with Ricks. You just gotta love the incestuousness of UnPR!

-JET

Porter Melmoth said...

A big fat plug for DN!:

"Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman Share Inaugural Izzy Award for Independent Media


ITHACA, NY - The Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College has announced that its first annual Izzy Award for special achievement in independent media will be shared this year by two pillars of independent journalism: blogger Glenn Greenwald and "Democracy Now!" host/executive producer Amy Goodman.

The award ceremony - featuring Goodman and Greenwald - will take place at Ithaca's State Theatre on Tuesday, March 31. More details on the event, which is free and open to the public, will be announced at a later date.

The Izzy Award is named after the legendary dissident journalist Isidor Feinstein "Izzy" Stone, who launched his muckraking newsletter "I.F. Stone's Weekly" in 1953 during the height of the McCarthy witch hunts. Stone, who died in 1989, exposed government deceit and corruption while championing civil liberties, racial justice and international diplomacy.

Citing their "pathbreaking journalistic courage and persistence in confronting conventional wisdom, official deception and controversial issues," the judges chose the two winners because "the intrepid spirit of Izzy Stone is alive and thriving in the tireless daily efforts of Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald."

Glenn Greenwald is a former constitutional lawyer who started blogging in 2005, acting as his own editor/publisher in the I.F. Stone tradition. In 2007 he moved his popular blog to Salon.com, retaining full editorial freedom. Week after week, in meticulously documented and detailed blog posts, he skewers hypocrisy, deception and revisionism on the part of the powers that be in government and the media. His 2008 reporting on a false claim about 9/11 by then-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey led to a retraction. With devastatingly crisp arguments, Greenwald has inveighed against torture and defended constitutional rights for all, whether they be "enemy combatants" or American protesters. He has toughly criticized both Republicans and Democrats, and his blogging frequently sparks debate in major media and on Capitol Hill.

Over the past 12 years, Amy Goodman has built "Democracy Now!" into the largest public media collaboration - it can be found on television, radio and the Internet - in the country. Independent of any party or sponsor in the I.F. Stone tradition, "Democracy Now!" offers a daily cutting-edge broadcast featuring issues, experts and debates rarely heard in corporate media, including the voices of both policymakers and those affected by policy. Through timely interviews with heads of state, opposition leaders, artists and organizers, Goodman in 2008 maintained an ongoing, tenacious focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. violations of the Geneva conventions, racial justice issues such as the still-displaced poor of New Orleans, and political repression overseas. "Democracy Now!" has become a daily stop for journalists, scholars, officials and activists seeking not just to get behind the news, but to stay ahead of the news.

Based in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, the Park Center for Independent Media (http://www.ithaca.edu/indy) was launched in 2008 as a national center for the study of media outlets that create and distribute content outside traditional corporate systems and news organizations.

Judges of the inaugural Izzy Award were PCIM director Jeff Cohen; University of Illinois communications professor and author Robert W. McChesney; and Linda Jue, director and executive editor of the San Francisco-based G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism.

"The judges were impressed by the daunting number of outstanding candidates for this new award," said Cohen. "It reflects the growing clout and diversity of independent media."

For more information, visit http://www.ithaca.edu/indy/izzy or contact Jeff Cohen at Jcohen@ithaca.edu or (607) 274-1330.
= = = = = = = = =
ABOUT DEMOCRACY NOW!
Democracy Now! airs on over 750 radio and TV stations, including
Pacifica, NPR(!!!), community, and college radio stations; on public
access, PBS, satellite TV stations (DISH network: Free Speech TV
ch. 9415 and Link TV ch. 9410; DIRECTV: Link TV ch. 375); on the World
Radio Network's European Service and on the Community Broacasting
Association of Australia service; as a "podcast", automatically
downloaded to your computer or portable audio player; and streams live
M-F at 8am EST at www.democracynow.org"

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Porter,

Thanks for the information regarding The Izzy's. By the way, I have read several of McChesney's books and listened to his radio show -- broadcast from Illinois -- MTW's home state.

-JET