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It’s Pledge Time Again

Because of the nature of my various day jobs, I spend most of my day in front of a computer. Sometimes I play music while I work, but most of the day I have various NPR stations going in the background. Between my local station, WNYC, Minnesota Public Radio, and the NPR Program Stream, I can listen to soft, calming voices delivering terrible news for 8 – 9 hours straight.Of course one of the dangers of addiction to NPR is the terrible withdrawl one goes through during pledge time. You’re sitting there listening to the news and then, suddenly!, you’re in the midst of a 15 minute pledge pitch. For every 15 minutes of news there’s an equal amount of begging. Gross.

I understand why they have to do it. NPR is supposedly listener-supported radio. I say supposedly because I hear an awful lot of things that sound like ads on NPR stations. A lot of companies that are “donating” money and getting talked about for 15 – 30 seconds. Still, I know that a large chunk of public radio’s money comes from the public. And, like PBS, they need to ask for that money. I’m sure people wouldn’t donate as much without the constant “Give us money. Give us money. My guilt ray, let me show you it. GIVE US THE DAMN MONEY.”

Last spring I did donate a little to Minnesota Public Radio even though I don’t live there. I do listen to their internet feed and happen to like their DJs better than my local ones. Plus, I enjoy their original programming way more. Leonard Lopate and Brian Lehrer are just about the worst hosts in the history of the afternoon. Makes me long wistfully for the days of David Lee Roth on the radio.

This time around I am not going to give any NPR station any money. Will not give in the future, either. Not until they stop this bullshit with the not having a representative number of black folks on the air.

There are some black folks at NPR, yes. News & Notes has most of them. Every now and then Tony Cox will do something for All Things Considered. Steven Barnes will do commentary sometimes, too. But there is a suspicious lack of black people anchoring the major shows and I suspect that, if one were to check, 90% of the reporters would be not-black. If we include all PoC in the count, then NPR is probably 75% white.

You think I’m wrong? Please provide evidence to the contrary.

News & Notes is a good show, I think, and I love Farai Chideya. But N&N only came about because Tavis Smiley got tired of the fact that NPR wasn’t serious about diversification and left. They had to scramble to replace the “black show” with another black show or else they would look racist. Guess what: it didn’t work.

The problem that Tavis saw still exists: a sea of white people skewing the news to their white world view. But I’m sure the folks at NPR and the various local stations don’t see themselves as part of the problem. They’re self-congratulating white liberals that think they aren’t racist because they don’t belong to the KKK. The same kind of people who listen to NPR and think they’re getting “better” news because it doesn’t come from Fox or CNN or whatever.

What these people don’t understand is that NPR (in general) is just as flawed as those other agencies but in different ways and for different reasons. The thing they have in common is that they paint a fake picture of The Way Things Are and present it to the consumers to make them feel better about themselves, their worldview, and their culture.

By relegating any people who might poke a hole in that prettily painted picture to one show or 5 minutes of commentary every few weeks, they ensure that the listeners won’t have their world shaken. White liberals are naturally disinclined to take a hard look at themselves and how they fit into the sticky quagmire of race, but they’re happy to know that there’s that one show with black people. It makes them feel good.

NPR is going to need to do a lot of changing if they ever want my pledge dollars. I’m not talking about hiring a few extra token PoC, but some real soul-searching needs to be done. They need to encourage local stations to develop shows that reflect the diversity of the local population, not just with the anchors but in subject and tone. They need to start covering the news in a less white-identified way. And they need to cut out this crap where there’s only one show devoted to “black stuff” and maybe have a few shows devoted to PoC stuff from all over the spectrum. And, yes, some more non-white anchors would be good, too.

During pledge time, the on-air talent spends a lot of time telling me how I’m obligated to pledge if I listen every day. Yet somehow, if I pledge, they aren’t obligated to put some more black people on my radio.

61 thoughts on “It’s Pledge Time Again”

  1. Mandolin says:

    I feel like noting the 75% number might lead some people down the wrong track — I was reading Rachel’s Tavern yesterday and saw a note that 30% of the American population is non-white. I thought it was 40%, but given her figure, 75% of NPR being white is close to representative.

    I assume that the problem is not just the fact that PoC voices make up only 25% of the voices on NPR, but that those voices are given less time and weight than white voices (they’re guests rather than anchors; they’re relegated to a single program instead of being distributed throughout the programming; and so on).

    I’m also going to make the assumption that representation is not significan’t higher in areas where it should be. For instance, my Bay Area NPR listening self is pretty sure that 30% of the voices I hear aren’t hispanic, and another 30% asian.

  2. the angry black woman says:

    By representative, I’m thinking not only of the national arm of NPR, but local stations, too. After all, NPR stations flourish in urban areas yet I don’t see any evidence that the local stations serving those areas are diverse in their programming or local anchors.

    Beyond that, most of the stuff NPR covers and most of the “view” NPR promotes is a coastal one (left/right, NY/LA, etc.). This may be viewed as another problem with NPR by those who don’t live on the coasts or in urban areas. From where I’m standing, I find it completely annoying that they have this focus yet don’t want to take everything that goes along with it, including greater representation of PoC.

  3. M. says:

    I assume that the problem is not just the fact that PoC voices make up only 25% of the voices on NPR, but that those voices are given less time and weight than white voices (they’re guests rather than anchors; they’re relegated to a single program instead of being distributed throughout the programming; and so on).

    In television news, it’s the producers who decide what stories to cover and how to cover them. It’s why I’m more worried about the lack of PoC news producers than I am about the relative lack of PoC anchors.

    Does anyone know if radio is the same way? Or do the radio on-air anchors make more of a contribution to the stories?

  4. will shetterly says:

    P.S. Actually, I’m not sure it the numbers are weird because of whites who identify as Hispanics or Hispanics who identify as white–self-identity is quirky by nature. The Census does note, “Percentages for the various race categories add to 100 percent, and should not be combined with the percent Hispanic. Tallies that show race categories for Hispanics and nonHispanics separately are also available.”

  5. will shetterly says:

    Oh! My first message must’ve fallen into a spam filter because I included links: Here’s the important text without the links (so my P.S. will make more sense): “If you include Hispanic whites, whites are 80.2% of the population; if you don’t, they’re 66.9%. Blacks are 12.8%. Hispanic/Latino is 14.4%, which includes “whites” who identify as Hispanic. The complete numbers don’t add up to 100% because “race” and ethnicity aren’t the same thing.”

  6. Delux says:

    I dont even bother listening to NPR, and that lack of real interest in diversity is why.

  7. Mandolin says:

    “Beyond that, most of the stuff NPR covers and most of the “view” NPR promotes is a coastal one (left/right, NY/LA, etc.). This may be viewed as another problem with NPR by those who don’t live on the coasts or in urban areas. From where I’m standing, I find it completely annoying that they have this focus yet don’t want to take everything that goes along with it, including greater representation of PoC.”

    Yep, I hear that.

    I was thinking about this a lot yesterday, and I noticed that while I notice intellectually when there’s a lack of black people in a show or (you know, in Iowa City) on the street, the thing I notice most emotionally is the lack of Hispanic and Asian representation, because where I grew up, there weren’t a lot of black people, but there were as many hispanic and Asian people as white people. We were flipping TV channels the other day, and a Filipina girl was on TV, and I had this shock of “Wow, someone who looks normal,” which I then had to stop and think about. I think my default set for “what’s normal” is stuck on when I was in high school.

    There’s a show that focuses on Asian needs that airs in the SF/bay area — Pacific Time — and I enjoy listening to it, but it’s like News & Notes. It’s othering, not integration.

    I suspect that what NPR represents is the middle class. Now, I grew up on the high end of middle class (or low end of upper class), but I lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t affluent, and in my bay area high school district, it was a very marked trend that the higher income the area was, the more white kids there were. We were about in the middle with 30% white population; the school my mom taught at was on the very low end, with a population that was over 90% non-white (about 75% hispanic, if I remember correctly).

    With its 75% white voices, and its solidly middle class, coastal perspective, I think NPR is representing some ugly truths about class in the US.

  8. shannonclark says:

    I mostly listen to “radio” these days via podcast feeds – a few of the ones I subscribe to are from NPR (or affiliates). Of these, one, “The Treatment” is a nationally syndicated show with a PoC host (Elvis Mitchell, who is also a visiting lecturer on African and African American studies at Harvard).

    It is a great show btw – good conversations with media professionals – and a wide range of those professionals. I don’t listen to every show but enjoy enough that I remain subscribed.


  9. funambulator says:

    I work for the NPR affiliate in Louisville, KY, directing a local daily, one-hour, call-in talk show. I hope you call your local station and tell them exactly why you aren’t pledging. If they’re anything like my station, they do read and pay attention to comments.

    I agree with you about NPR. On the show I work on, we try to not only cover race-related topics often, but also to make sure our *every day* panels are representative of our diverse communities. What I mean is, we don’t just have POC on for POC-specific topics. We make sure that if we’re doing a show on, say, wedding planning, or running a home-based business, that not all of the wedding planners or business owners are white.

    I’m not saying this to ask for a cookie, but to say that it can and should be done. If we can do it here, with a show staff of three and a teeny budget, NPR should be able to do it, for god’s sake – both with their guests *and* their staff.

    I’m a long-time lurker who loves your blog, and I hope I haven’t sounded too stupid here – I’ve been begging for 5 days now, 7 hours a day, and my brain is starting to go!

  10. Omari says:

    Michele Norris?

    Michel Martin?

    My local station, WAMU, has Kojo Nnamdi every day. On Fridays he hosts “The DC Politics Hour” with Jonetta Rose-Barras.

    I’ve always thought NPR does an okay job of getting different perspectives. Not a great job, but I wouldn’t be this hard on them. Affiliates pick the programs they air, so maybe WAMU is better than the stations you listen to.

  11. Original Lee says:

    I’m totally with you on not supporting NPR. Every now and then, I flip my local on for a while, and I always end up turning it off in annoyance because the approach always seems to be from the same narrow set of concerns. Being in an urban area with white skin in a marked minority, I would expect more stories about things that concern me and my neighbors, not just the latest liberal take on MSM issues. But maybe that’s just my affiliate.

  12. camille says:

    Thank you for writing this! I spent too much time turning NPR off in annoyance, so I finally just stopped listening. The only time I listen now is when someone sends me a link to a specific segment. I can’t just do freestyle listening, it always goes awry.

  13. bob says:

    Angry at white people …. Wow how do you and so many of your guests get away with being such blatant out right simple racist and bigots … well you seem to put much emphasise on the color of one’s skin … so you call your self a feminist eh.. where do you think feminism started… any clue to what it’s like to be a black women in Africa ? Asia ? middle east ? any where else in the world … besides Honkyland ,
    I can not think of any where in the world but Europe and north America that has developed views, tolerance, and society that allows peoples of different cultures to coexist together.. I can not think of anywhere in the world that has done more over time to acknowledge, and very much criticize there history .. sorry but there has comparatively been no thriving press let alone freedom of press in Asia or Africa, anywhere ! there have been more genocides, slavery prejudice in Africa, slavery and caste systems still exists there.. …Asia think you could immigrate to china ? anyone want to challenge this .. you tell me all the horrible things people with white skin have done and I’ll agree, and then show you 2 as bad that people who have a different pigment coloration have committed then I’ll show you a positive from whitey, such as in comparison to the rest of the world such lofty ideas such as equal rights regardless of race creed and heritage.

  14. the angry black woman says:

    Dear bob,

    That’s not what this post is about. Try to stay on topic, k? Also, please read The Rules (big link to them at the top of the page there). The Rules will help you.

  15. bob says:

    Dr slly “ngry” (ths s nly pntng t y mst hv stntd vws “ “blck” srry t s tht y nsst n ncldng yr skn clr” hv rd y rls nd fnd thm t b cnvltd nd jvnl nd ’ m rlly nly ntrstd n th ndrlnng mmntm f ny nd ll sch rltd “tpcs” ’ m srry tht y sm t b lmtd t sch n nrrw prspctv, ll th vdntly s thngs n blck n wht nd wll mst lkly lt yr sbjctv g stntd rsnng prvl nd wllw n ndgnty nd njy yr slf-rghtsnss.. ’ m nly ntrstd n ndrstndng …….

  16. the angry black woman says:

    kids, have you ever wondered “what’s the quickest way to get banned from the abw blog?” one such way is to say in so many words “i don’t plan on following your rules.” That’s right, such talk is a one-way ticket to oblivion around here. bye, bob.

  17. Blanky says:

    Wait, don’t whites make up just about that much of the U.S. population anyway?
    If the show’s 25% non-whites are representative of about the 25% non-white population, isn’t that the American Diversity Ideal for the current population?

    Or do you want misrepresentation and not diversity? I’m confused.

  18. Mandolin says:

    Blanky, check out my first comment in this thread.

  19. Blanky says:

    Oh, I see. Well said.

    But, I have to wonder–what is the American Diversity Ideal?
    I wonder if such a thing will ever actually exist.

  20. Hattie says:

    I give to NPR, because I’m a classical music fan and that’s what my local station has mostly. We don’t get the A.M. here.
    Mostly, what little non-music content they provide here either bores or annoys me. I like Daniel Shore and that’s about it. We get wheezers like those guys on Car Talk and Keillor’s boring old Priarie Home Companion, but we don’t get This American Life.
    I listen to All Things Considered when I’m on my Nordic Trac, just to help beat the boredom of exercise. But stlll I was really bored by an interview with Eric Clapton, a has been ex-heroin addict who stole all his good stuff from Black artists. This sort of thing is supposed to appeal that ever so important white boomer demographic, I suppose.
    We get some superficial reporting on Pacific Island news (this is Hawaii).
    My daughter’s NPR outlet is good, however, with lots of local news coverage. It’s hardly diverse, however.
    Matter of what the affiliate can afford, to some extent.
    I’ve used “boring” three times. That tells the tale, doesn’t it.

  21. Elaine Vigneault says:

    Well, I think you’re probably right that NPR could do better. However, I think they’re a far more worthy charity to give to than many others.
    Here’s the NPR page on diversity:
    At the bottom is an email address you could write to and tell them why you’re not donating. (I’m going to email them)

  22. Aa says:

    First-time poster here. ABW, I have just the solution for the problem you decry at NPR: march right down to your local NPR station and state precisely your beef with their lack of Black/PoC voices and perspectives (as you see it). Then SIGN RIGHT UP to become their next show host, writer, or producer.

    Or, you could do something drastically radical and different: you could march to the nearest high school, community college, or town hall meeting and ask participants why more isn’t being done to encourage Blacks/PoC to immerse themselves in media studies so that they might contribute to greater representation at NPR. Better even, take that ten/twenty/hundred quid you were going to spare NPR this year and invest in scholarships/funds dedicated exclusively to this purpose. If none are available, start one.

    I can only conclude from your argument that you think higher numbers of Black/PoC voices would necessarily change the world view represented on NPR. If I sound presumptuous, excuse me. But there seems to be a lot of high-falutin’ presumption going on here. You said, “White liberals are NATURALLY disinclined to take a hard look at themselves…but they’re happy to know that there’s that one show with black people. It makes them feel good”?? Really, please. I’ve never given much of a flip about percentages (“Oh goodie, he/she sounds BLACK!”), as long as what’s being said on air is accurate. I’m not sure how having MORE Blacks/Asians/Latinos/Whites/Simians would change the accuracy or world view of on-air content; if NPR is as narrow in their view as you’ve insinuated, presumably they’d hire Blacks/PoC who are representative of their upper-middle-class, coastal demographic. In other words, numbers would mean little to actual broadcast content.

    Funambulator, I commend the efforts being made in Louisville. But please, don’t grovel, not here, not anywhere, on threads as potentially lame as these. As you are the only commentator to this thread thus far who actually WORKS for an NPR affiliate, and who has personally accounted for good efforts being made at the local level, I would have hoped for a less snivelly defense on your part (ABW, is this the kind of apology we liberal whites should be aiming for in order to distance ourselves from our natural disinclination to avoid a mirror?)

    Finally, ABW, if the racial percentage of NPR staff and hosts irks you so, you can engage in the most radical solution of them all: tune your dang radio to another station. If they don’t deserve your bucks, they don’t deserve your ears, now do they? Certainly not with all the “suspicion” surrounding the lack of Black voices at NPR. And continuing to refer to Black voices as a group will do little to elevate the topic of race issues beyond drivel such as this.

  23. Mandolin says:

    Aa, I have an idea. If you have a problem with Tempest running her blog and talking about what she finds important, you can MARCH RIGHT UP to the nearest website and fuck off.

    If your solution for her is that she can’t criticize NPR without DOING SOMETHING MORE ACTIVE THAN TALKING, then my solution for you is that you can’t criticize her while sitting on your lily-white ass at a keyboard.

  24. nojojojo says:


    Isn’t it interesting how, while deriding ABW’s assertion that white liberals don’t deal well with their problems with race… you engage in a classic defensive, hostile example of exactly that!! Wow. We’ve got the ad hominem attack against Funambulator’s “groveling”, a straw man argument (this isn’t about NPR’s diversity! It’s about teens of color not going into the media as a career! …except they are.), deflecting attention (e.g., black voices aren’t that different from white voices! How dare you argue this!!), and the equally classic, why don’t you stop talking about this and go do something (like quit your existing career, and go sign up for NPR yourself!) argument. Hell — I think you even invent a few new ones in your tap-dancing to avoid the core issue: that NPR purports to show a “different” and more diverse worldview than the mainstream media, yet it isn’t that different or diverse at all.

    Maybe you can actually address this point, instead of bitching at ABW for daring to make it?

  25. Susan Francis says:

    We’re in different time zones and I just got to that comment by Aa, and I’m asking myself: noob who hasn’t bothered to read the ground rules, or wilfully ignorant? At “tune your dang radio to another station”, I’m coming down on the side of wilfully ignorant. I can guess who’s spent more time looking for another station that represents the real diversity in its area, and that’s not Aa. Plus, what everybody else said.

  26. Aa says:

    Folks, these responses have absolutely made my day, especially the predictable token one referring to my lily posterior (which I always assume means “a nice shade of weak and effeminate” when it’s uttered). Mandolin, yawn.

    As far as the rules (which I did read) are concerned, I believe I’m within boundaries. If ABW first posts sweeping judgments about what she views are “natural” inclinations (um, hello, ATTACHED TO SKIN COLOR and political beliefs), and then invites people to comment on such objective observations, I feel it is perfectly within the realm of civilized, challenging debate to call her on what I feel is a flimsy statement. After all, I think ABW would feel bored and unchallenged were she surrounded by comments that did nothing but show various flattering shades of agreement. After awhile, everyone tires of sycophants.

    So what if I postulated part of the problem might be that there aren’t enough PoC in the field? In what way exactly is that “tap-dancing” around the topic of diversity at NPR? I could also postulate that perhaps fewer PoC are interested in working for NPR, which falls in line with ABW’s statements about NPR not appealling to her tastes. And in fact, if you’re looking for tap-dancing, go right back to ABW’s original post: nowhere in there does she actually offer her specific ideas as to WHY there are fewer Black voices at NPR, other than it’s “suspicious”, “they wouldn’t fit the whitey image”, and “NPR wants to have this image of being diverse, but it’s not”. As a regular NPR listener, I’ve never discerned any hint of “we aim for more listeners of X background” in their program message other than “we try to explore a wider variety of topics at varying depths.” If this programming’s aim- like any other station’s programming- doesn’t suit your tastes of what should be reported, then the most logical solution is to turn the dial- after all, she’s apparently not paying for it!

    Reponses here have certainly prompted me to take action: I plan on donating to NPR during the next pledge campaign. Perhaps if more people donated, the programming would change; it’s a wonder what money can do. Here in Houston, listeners who actually donate account for a whopping 10% of the NPR affiliate’s audience (as reported dfuring the pledge campaign here). Now that’s what I’d call lily.

  27. Aa says:

    Oh and Nojojojo: as for my “classic” (uh, a link to one blog?), “defensive” and “hostile” example of my liberal white tendencies, fah. I prefer terms like “fat-headed offense”, myself. I fail to see how anything I’ve written indicates my “problem with race”- if you read clearly, it deals with nothing more than my feelings on certain statements. Nothing more, nothing less- no extrapolation necessary.

  28. Mandolin says:

    “wilfully ignorant?”

    Willfully ignorant — he showed up on Alas with stereotypical racist stuff on the How not to be insane when accused of racism post.

  29. the angry black woman says:

    Been swamped with work, else I would have had the energy to respond to some of this earlier. I’ll start with Aas first comment, then move forward later.

    Aa, I won’t bother pointing yout the failings of your argument since nojojojo has already done so (quite elegantly).

    Though I really can’t say how you get “weak and effeminate” from lily white. How in the world is an ass supposed to be weak? When it doesn’t hold you up? Weird.

    At any rate, while I do encourage dissenting opinions, I take offense on behalf of my regular commenters at the label “sycophants”. You know, I have never understood why people can’t understand that a group of folks who all hold a similar opinion aren’t evidence of a herd mentality. Mostly we all agree because we’re right. It’s just that simple. The commenters who so deftly handled you aren’t sycophants by any stretch. They have minds, opinions, and thoughts of their own. they don’t always agree with me all of the time. But by virtue of being right most of the time, it’s inevitable that we are willing to defend our own words as well as others who are similarly right.


    nowhere in there does she actually offer her specific ideas as to WHY there are fewer Black voices at NPR

    Nope, sure don’t. Wasn’t aware that it was my job to do so. I am not conducting a seminar to the NPR bosses on diversity, I’m just voicing my opinion. I could guess why it seems like there aren’t many black voices, but what point would there be?

    Also, you made some noises about “Why don’t you do X, Y and Z to get more black people on NPR?” and my answer is: that’s not my job. I do not work at NPR. I don’t even work in radio. Therefore, it’s not on me to find ways to encourage more PoC at NPR. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Someone who works in radio would, though. Maybe we should ask the people over at Pacifica.

    However, as a consumer of media, I am perfectly within my rights to say “I see this problem” and leave it to the media to solve that problem. Since it is THEIR problem to begin with.

    As a regular NPR listener, I’ve never discerned any hint of “we aim for more listeners of X background”

    are you white? (You read white, but I don’t want to assume) If so, perhaps you should check out the category link “Things You Need to Understand”. The reason why you have that reaction is contained in that category.

    maybe you need to just go through the entire required reading.

    Perhaps if more people donated, the programming would change

    It takes a bit more than that. If you pledge without taking the time to contact your NPR station, as I did, then they’ll assume you gave money because you’re happy with what you hear. In fact, they say that during the pledge drive – If you like what we do, give us money. How will giving money result in change, then?

  30. the angry black woman says:

    I fail to see how anything I’ve written indicates my “problem with race”

    Of course you do. and yet, you’re acting in a pretty stereotypical way. So I’ll say it more definitively now. Go to the Required Reading and read. Don’t come back until you’ve done so.

  31. Ico says:

    “After all, I think ABW would feel bored and unchallenged were she surrounded by comments that did nothing but show various flattering shades of agreement.”

    Hah. Just the idea of this makes me laugh. Obviously, Aa, you haven’t checked out much of the blog. There’s no shortage of disagreement here, just as there’s no shortage of presumptuous folk who come and spew out opinions without bothering to check the “Required Reading” section first.

    “After awhile, everyone tires of sycophants.”

    Uh huh. Just so you know… anyone who seems like a “sycophant” here is a downright rebel in the “real world.” And y’know, when you spend the day questioning the (white male) professor’s choice of (white male) authors to read, and questioning the racist, sexist views of those authors, and then have to defend these questions alone in a room full of white people and know that in doing so you are marking yourself yet again as the crazy feminist rebel — in other words, when you spend most of your waking life fighting the dominant culture and the people (and authority figures) who uphold it… well it’s sort of funny, being called a sycophant. Being labeled a “servile, abject flatterer.” (OED) Because most servile flatterers would, I don’t know — probably agree with the dominant culture, lick the boots of authority figures, and happily argue against a stranger on one little blog rather than confronting the huge and powerful institutionalized prejudices that would require real courage to change.

  32. Rb says:

    ABW: Legions of supporters doesn’t mean you’re unequivocally right. There’s plenty of people with legions of supporters out there who are just plain wrong. The guy running your country is a prime example.

    Below is a brilliant article about the self-defeating travesty that is “diversity” and affirmative action as you know it in America. They were important movements years ago but they’re tired and draconian now. Best argument I’ve read in years. I’ll get lambasted for posting it, but what the heck. ABW, it’s time for you to think outside the box. Unless you can provide proof that qualified, excellent black people with equal qualifications are being turned down at NPR because they are simply black, I’m going to rest on Mr. Schwartz’s side.

    The Racism of “Diversity” By Peter Schwartz
    (article deleted, but can be found at the link above –abw)

  33. the angry black woman says:


    Legions of supporters doesn’t mean you’re unequivocally right.

    No, indeed. You must be new around here, else you might have caught that I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, being right usually means that intelligent people are in agreement with me. Thus, when 45 smart Helens agree…

    Unless you can provide proof that qualified, excellent black people with equal qualifications are being turned down at NPR because they are simply black

    Um, can you point to a place where I actually said that? because I don’t believe I did. I said that i thought there weren’t enough black folks on air at NPR, I didn’t say anything about NPR not hiring qualified people because they were black. I really have no clue about their hiring practices.

    And after looking at the article you helpfully posted (instead of linking to. yay spam) I can only say: if this is your only view of how things work “over here”, then you’ve been sadly misinformed. Seeing that you’re a person from another country, apparently, and probably white, from your tone, I’m going to suggest you check out this link, which says, in part:

    That which does not affect you, you often do not see or understand

    I’ll leave you to that. Also, I’ll be editing your comment with a link. sheesh….

  34. the angry black woman says:

    You know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of people coming here, getting their panties in a twist because of something I say to them, then inviting their family members to come here and be uselessly argumentative as well. Aa and Rb, what are you, sisters? Cousins? Domestic partners? Either way, quit being silly.

  35. Ico says:


    Read that “brilliant” article on the wonders of color-blindness and how it’s the way to achieve real equality. I used to believe that, actually — and maybe in an ideal world it would be true. The problem is, being “blind” to color also means being blind to privilege.

    Beverly Tatum has a wonderful explanation, which I will excerpt here (from

    “The best response to the colorblind notion I have ever heard came to me from an African American father who I was interviewing for a study I was doing on the experiences of black youth in predominantly white communities.

    “He was talking about his experiences with his children in school. They were often the only black children in a mostly white class. And he talked about the teachers who would say something like, “I’m color blind. I treat all the kids the same, all the children the same.”

    “And his response was, “The same as what? The same as if they were all white? My children, as the only black children in the class, are not having the same experience as the white children in that class. The white children are seeing themselves reflected in the schoolbooks, in the classroom teacher. My children are sometimes called names that white children don’t hear themselves being called. Their experience is not the same. So for you to say you’re colorblind, that you’re treating the children all the same, is to say that you’re not acknowledging the reality of my child’s day-to-day experience, and that feels very invalidating.””

    Colorblindness =/= equality. It just means not seeing the problems that persist in our racist society.

  36. the angry black woman says:

    I got this email a couple of days ago and, with permission of the sender, am posting it complete and uncut. I have a response and will post it tomorrow. –abw

    Dear ABW—
    Your posting about NPR and our African American on-air staff challenges readers: “You think I’m wrong? Please provide evidence to the contrary.” I’d like to do so, in a very big way.

    NPR has numerous terrific African Americans in prominent roles on our nationally-distributed programs – high profile show hosts and correspondents – whom you’re overlooking. Since 2002, former ABC News anchor and reporter Michele Norris has been host of All Things Considered, one of our two flagship daily news magazine programs and, with 11 million weekly listeners, the #4 ranked program Monday-Friday among all U.S. radio. In April, Michel Martin – former correspondent and substitute host of Nightline – launched a new daily talk show, Tell Me More, that examines news, issues and stories for a multicultural audience. This month, NPR introduced our second two-hour morning news program, this one aimed at younger audiences and hosted by Alison Stewart, best known for her reporting at MTV News and hosting at MSNBC-TV. Beyond hosts, you are ignoring such staff as Juan Williams, news analyst; reporters, correspondents and newscasters including Brenda Wilson, Allison Keyes,
    Audie Cornish, Karen Grigsby Bates, Rachel Jones, Korva Coleman and Vertamae Grosvenor; and correspondents Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Gwen Thompkins and Ofeibea Quist Arcton, who staff our Johannesburg, Dakar and Nairobi bureaus respectively and bring the American public more coverage about Africa on a daily basis than perhaps any other broadcast news organization. The African American point of view also comes from such commentators and freelance on-air and online contributors as John Ridley, John Murph, Desiree Cooper and Amy Alexander. Behind the scenes, countless African American men and women in positions throughout NPR News, NPR Music, NPR Digital Media and our corporate departments play critical roles in defining the rich context of our journalism, cultural coverage and public service.

    Your assumptions about our staff diversity are incorrect. In the last seven years, NPR News alone has more than doubled its staff of people of color – by 106%. That includes 118% increase specifically in on-air diversity staff, 116% in editorial and 92% in production. Currently, the combined diversity staffing in these three areas represents 22 percent of our total news positions. Let me put those figures in perspective: that 22 percent surpasses staffing at such organizations as the New York Times (19%), Wall Street Journal (17.7%) , Los Angeles Times (18.6%), Philadelphia Inquirer (18.2% before last year’s 71-person layoff, of which 30% were people of color) and the Baltimore Sun (16.6%). We’re virtually equal to the Washington Post (22.9%). According the Radio and Television News Directors’ Association’s most recent analysis, NPR News diversity staffing is more than four times the overall percentage in radio news overall (6.4%) and identical to the overall TV news workforce (22%).

    Finally, your description of News & Notes does a disservice to both the program and the African American Public Radio Consortium, the dedicated group of stations that co-created it with NPR. The Consortium represents stations primarily licensed to historically black colleges and universities who came together several years ago to work with NPR to create national public radio news and information shows to better reach African American audiences. NPR and the Consortium formed a partnership to develop two kinds of shows: those addressing issues of particular interest to African Americans and those that bring multicultural programming to all listeners. Tavis Smiley’s show for NPR was the first result of the partnership. Unfortunately, during the negotation of Tavis’ contract renewal, he made demands – such as ownership of his program and others – which did not fit with public radio practice and would not be acceptable to listeners who fund programming. He chose to walk away when these demands could not be met. Our decision to replace his show with another was part of our commitment to the Consortium and to the audiences that we serve. As you note, Farai Chideya ably hosts News & Notes, with Tony Cox as the show’s longtime correspondent and substitute host. They have created a program that speaks to both on-air and online audiences and have established signature elements for it, including monthlong series examining such issues as civil rights (the current topic), sex and sexuality and faith. The Consortium also worked with NPR to develop Tell Me More, Michel’s new show, as a extension of that alliance.

    Is there room for improvement? There always is. As we continue to expand our recruitment, promotion and retention efforts internally, we are always seeking more voices to add to the civil dialogue that is NPR programming. And I should note that NPR does not own nor manage any of the 800-plus public radio stations around the country. Each station chooses and programs independently, which is why you might hear “NPR stations” that are mostly music and others that are entirely news and information, and you might find that not all NPR-produced shows air in every market. It also means that local programming is developed and produced by the stations themselves, without NPR’s involvement; working within limited budgets and resources, these stations are committed to serving their diverse audiences as well.

    It’s ironic that as I read your blog today, the AAPRC is conducting its annual gathering here at NPR and holding a reception this evening with the Congressional Black Caucus…with a panel hosted by many of our African American journalists, discussing media issues. NPR does indeed offer a world view – one that is reflected through the talents of many people of color, including African Americans, who are my colleagues. I know how hard they work to bring different perspectives to journalism and I would appreciate them being recognized for their efforts.

    Andi Sporkin
    Vice President for Communications, NPR

  37. Pingback: Official Blog » Blog Archive » On NPR, diversity, and responding to criticism
  38. Trackback: Official Blog » Blog Archive » On NPR, diversity, and responding to criticism
  39. Aa says:


    Well, I’m floored. I was going to write the local NPR affiliate on behalf of the discussion going on in this thread, but I have you to thank for providing the thread with Mr/Ms Sporkin’s much-needed information and perspective. My reasons for wanting to write NPR in the first place had everything to do with your throwaway position, “It’s not my job to contact NPR to find out about their hiring practices.” In light of your attitude (you wouldn’t even send them an email? I thought you were all about rocking things up), I think the fact that the VP Communications actually reached out to you speaks volumes about how deeply they care about diversity. I’ve never more happily parted with the sixty bucks I gave them two mornings ago; I plan to renew that donation for years to come.

    One of the reasons I love engaging in this type of forum- other than to see my comments posted, and especially with crowds that will most certainly label me racist (not afraid of having that moniker thrown my way here, not one bit), silly, stereotypical, etc., is that it DOES make me sit up at night asking myself, “Was I a jerk in writing about not caring much about representative numbers? Was I indeed willfully ignorant in saying those who complain should play a more active role in seeking out root causes (rather than referring, ad nauseum, to the “required readings”- more on that fluff in a second)?” After all, as everyone here has correctly guessed, I’m white, I apparently write white (whatever that means), and yes, I do have centuries of privilege behind my skin color (incidentally, I’m female). I have learned a lot in the last two days.

    But after these ponderings, it’s still something else that irritated me about your original post (and it’s not the puerile comment about white liberals). It was the wishy-washiness of claiming, on the one hand, to “spend most of your waking life fighting the dominant culture and the people (and authority figures) who uphold it…” and then not even deigning to do something like contact NPR (and most of your supporters also agreed this wasn’t your job). It seems you also would rather “happily argue against a stranger on one little blog rather than confront the huge and powerful institutionalized prejudices that would require real courage to change.” Apparently you needn’t worry- they’ll contact you (hey, I’m absolved- I paid them!)

    My point is this: if you choose to hold NPR to a different standard than other radio stations on your dial (I’m guessing because you actually like some of the content), then you should take an active role in voicing your concerns to an audience other than the comfort zone you’ve settled in (you said yourself everyone who agrees with you is right). If not, then I’ll simply say that, while you have the right to complain, it’ll never amount to much more than just being angry in one spot.

    Finally, plenty of respondents here have assumed I eschewed your “required readings” in favor of simply clacking away ignorantly at my keyboard. False- I read them, and have only this to say: We know. Got anything else? Call me a willfully ignorant optimist, but I’ve always believed most decent folks acknowledge the existence of the privileged and the non-, the conditions which brought privilege about and continue fueling that privilege, and engage in a manner of civil open-mindedness to learn more about how to bring privilege to all (for better inspiration, check out To be constantly redirected to a grab list of stuff I’ve always known is simply under-stimulating.

    Oh, you assumed correctly (from checking our email addresses?): Aa and Rb are related. Go figure.

  40. the angry black woman says:

    Dear Aa,

    Who says I didn’t contact NPR?

  41. Meredith E. says:

    other than to see my comments posted, and especially with crowds that will most certainly label me racist (not afraid of having that moniker thrown my way here, not one bit),

    Of course not — you’re hiding behind the veil of anonymity. I wonder how thrilled you’d be if you were forced to use your real name. (Or if someone figured it out.)

    It was the wishy-washiness of claiming, on the one hand, to “spend most of your waking life fighting the dominant culture and the people (and authority figures) who uphold it…” and then not even deigning to do something like contact NPR (and most of your supporters also agreed this wasn’t your job).

    What’s the point of contacting NPR? When you’re a woman and/or a minority, customer service reps tend to tune you out. They’re far more likely to listen to you if you write an angry post on a popular blog. (Not coincidentially, I’ve noticed the East Coast Democratic Party machine does the same thing.)

    To be constantly redirected to a grab list of stuff I’ve always known is simply under-stimulating.

    Known =/= Understand. The fact that you haven’t altered your behavior and broke most (if not all) of the rules demonstrates that you don’t understand what you’re reading.

  42. Aa says:


    My bad for assuming. I was only speculating from your comments.

  43. the angry black woman says:

    I find that incredibly funny, especially considering all your whining about MY assumptions. This is probably key to why we seem to regard you as someone who hasn’t read the Required Reading stuff, you make so many rookie mistakes. You don’t come off as someone who’s deeply considered anything. You certainly haven’t deeply considered what I may or may not have done as regards this issue. yet you’re full of all the things I could be doing. It’s a typical white liberal response to PoC pointing out issues that need addressing “Well then, why don’t you spend all of your time immersed in jumping 20,000 hurdles to get it done! You blacks are so lazy…”

  44. Aa says:


    Then we’re both looking at each other’s writing, it appears, the same way- and such is the pitfall of the written realm.

    But I do think you’re last statement is, frankly, unfair. Never, ever did I say, or would I ever say or even think, that any group, colour, or ethnicity, is lazy, not in the least because of a discussion I’m maintaining with ONE person, or for ANYother reason. For better or for worse, I am sorry that you’d conclude that any of my thoughts have anything to do with your race; they absolutely don’t. This is why I said I’m not scared of being called a racist- I’ve been corresponding with you and your thoughts as an individual; I don’t care, I honestly don’t, what face is behind them.

    I admit, my first post was rife with snark. Several of your readers have suggested I’ve flipped off the rules; I’ve read them several times and weighed each post against them. Any flippancy thereafter is what I’d consider in keeping with the banter of lots of posters here. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from posting on different blogs, it’s that most posters- me, you, and most everyone else- comes in with a set of assumptions and statements that they hold onto and guard dearly.

    What I respect most about your musings- even though I may disagree with your allegations in this thread- is the fearlessness that’s behind them (even without a real name). Passion and wit are two champions of the individual, rising above whatever groups they associate with.

    Best of luck.

  45. tekanji says:

    Never, ever did I say, or would I ever say or even think,

    See, there’s your problem. You think that if you don’t say something outright that you can’t be counted as saying it. But when everything you say are accusations that basically amount to “there’s something wrong with you not doing things exactly as I think you should” then you are saying it, even if that’s not what you want to be saying.

    If you really want to show ABW how much you respect her, then take some responsibility for the messages that your arguments send. Think about why commenters keep directing you to the Racism 101 threads, and really listen to what they’re saying to you. Instead of taking the high and mighty, “I already know this stuff,” attitude, do whatever you can to understand why — when you think you already have a solid grasp on issues such as privilege — the anti-oppression activists on this thread think of you as someone who Just Doesn’t Get It.

    Being an ally isn’t easy. I know, because it’s a struggle that I, too, have to go through. But I don’t strike any blows for racial equality by coming into POC’s spaces and acting if I know better than they do. I don’t make any progress by reacting defensively when I get called out for saying something privileged.

    But I do make progress by listening. I do make progress by thinking about why some things that I read here, or elsewhere, make me angry. Because it is my issue, not an issue with the bloggers who speak out about issues that directly affect them.

    If you realize nothing else, you need to realize that sometimes you don’t have all the answers. And that it’s okay, and good, to give someone like ABW the benefit of the doubt on issues such as the ones that were brought up in this thread.

  46. Aa says:


    You wrote,

    “See, there’s your problem. You think that if you don’t say something outright that you can’t be counted as saying it. But when everything you say are accusations that basically amount to “there’s something wrong with you not doing things exactly as I think you should” then you are saying it, even if that’s not what you want to be saying.”

    You’re 100% right- I don’t believe in putting words into someone’s mouth (or computer screen), and I certainly don’t believe in extrapolating to the Nth degree that my suggestion of getting in touch with NPR (snarky as it was) was representative in any form of prejudice, and I never will. Am I to conclude that it was taboo for me to do so because ABW is black? Would my suggestion have seemed any less abrasive had people somehow detected I was Asian? I’ll never know- that’s for you to answer.

    Whether it was her intention to do so before or after my first post (or Funambulator’s, which was the only other post to suggest contacting NPR) is immaterial- the fact is that (I am assuming from her response) ABW did indeed get in touch with NPR, and she did get a very detailed response exposing NPR’s efforts towards diversity. It was the act of getting in touch with NPR- and, in my opinion, that alone- that made this thread mean so much more. Call it sounding/seeming/writing like a know-it-all whitey to have suggested “doing something”- I was right.

    Sounding off for good now.

  47. Ico says:

    Aa, I would appreciate if you would attribute MY words (“It seems you also would rather ‘happily argue against a stranger on one little blog …’”) to *me* and not put them in ABW’s mouth, since she and I are coming from VERY different places. For one thing, my comment was a response to your snark — particularly that “sycophant” nonsense — and had nothing to do with ABW’s original claims about NPR.

    I’m going to assume you just mixed us up in some weird way, but please pay attention to names.

  48. Katie says:

    So you surmised that NPR was 75% white, ABW. And they wrote back and said, “Yes, in fact we’re 78% white. Which is why you’re wrong.”

    Is someone, somewhere, laughing as hard as I am?

  49. Rb says:


    First: Yes, Aa and I are siblings. And that’s an irritant because?… If there’s blogging etiquette posted somewhere about siblings writing on the same thread, kindly point me to it. Otherwise, I don’t see how we’re being silly. The fact that you opened the blog up to responses and posted stuff that can be read by anyone, anywhere, anytime, suggests (to me, anyway) that you shouldn’t be surprised. Honestly, it’s the Internet, people are bound to talk about what they find on it to their family and friends. If it’s bothersome that we’re both writing, fret not: this’ll be my last post since I’m taking up more than my fair share of space.

    Back to your original post and subsequent replies: You’re right, nowhere in your orginal post did you say you had any proof or knowledge of how things work at NPR, other than a superficial impression that there aren’t enough black faces or voices there. Who knows – maybe there aren’t as many PoC applying for jobs there, or maybe the voice you’re hearing on the radio is that of a PoC, without the race-identifying accent. You choose to complain without having a clue. I read only reactionary emotion here. Don’t get me wrong; your experiential knowledge of racism is probably far deeper than mine. If you’ve been subjected to it your whole life, there’s cause for anger. But there’s a fine line between useful, enlightened anger, and loud bangs and smoke.

    I’ll borrow from your excellent comparison of racism to sexism. As a woman I’m acutely aware of the sexism that permeates the media, the workplace, and social settings of my life. Some of it is blatant, some of it is hazier and harder to categorize. I wore my feminism on my sleeve during my naive, inexperienced university years. I was loud, I waved the placards (sometimes without knowing what I was waving them at). I sometimes dismissed the guys around me with “You’re a man, you’ll never understand” contempt. In retrospect, I think most of it was pointless (though I learned from my mistakes). In fact, it only served to alienate guys from me; guys who could’ve been part of the solution but who withdrew from engaging in any women’s issues because they were constantly made to feel that their maleness – something they could not change – was a source of inherent ineptitude. We women get nowhere by brow-beating men into thinking they’ll never have anything useful to contribute to the struggle, just because they’re men. It’s a flaw within the feminist movement and I think there’s a similar flaw withint the civil rights movement. Want to know something else? Some of the most observant insights I ever heard about how we women can sometimes defeat ourselves and be silly, came from honest, well-spoken men. Go figure.

    I can’t apologize for being white, just like I can’t expect the men in my life to feel like they were born in sin because they exist in the half of society where their gender is privileged.

    “That which does not affect you, you often do not see or understand.”

    You know, I don’t disagree with that one bit. But I think the difference lies in our approach to dealing with that segment of society that is oppressive. You can either alienate yourself from it through “us vs. them” combativeness (comments like “you read white” contribute to that atmosphere on your blog); or you can approach it in an analytical, less emotional way. Perhaps that means enquire first, provide real facts to back up your point (like Andi Sporkin did), then sound the horn. The blow you deliver will be all the more devastating for it. I thank Andi Sporkin for providing the information he did.

    I don’t deny for one second that there’s a part of me that could be racist, whether I’m conscious of it or not. I’m not uncomfortable with the idea because I accept it as an inherently human flaw – as opposed to an inherently “white” flaw – one which I’ll spend mylife trying to improve on. I also acknowledge that my contribution here is influenced by privileges I had growing up and continue to enjoy. That being said, I can’t submit to the wholesale dismissal of my point of view because my being white inherently makes me wrong. Though I’ll say right here that lots of the other posters here have written responses that give me lots of pause.

    Just so I don’t get accused of hiding behind a veil of anonymity, and because it’s good to own up to your comments: My name is Rebekah Chassé, I live in Canada.

  50. the angry black woman says:

    My promised response to Ms. Sorkin:

    First, I want to thank her and also funambulator, who gave a local perspective, for taking the time to respond to my post. I’m glad to see that this issue is being addressed and is on NPR’s radar enough that someone even paid attention to my little blog.

    On to specific responses.

    Someone else mentioned Michelle Norris upthread, but it wasn’t until Ms. Sorkin mentioned her again that I realized that Michelle is black. A while ago, I went looking for pictures of NPR folks I heard regularly because I was pondering this very issue. I either found a picture of a white woman incorrectly captioned or misremembered who the picture belonged to, because ever since then I’ve had it in my mind that she was white. Nice to know I was wrong on that count.

    Tekanji has already talked a bit about the tone of this letter, which she finds lacking. I’m not one to wag my finger at anyone due to tone. But then, I’m not representing any organization but myself, so perhaps that’s different. The thing I want to address is the numbers Ms. Sorkin provided.

    Katie already pointed this out, but I’ll say it again. My guess as to the percentage of PoC at NPR was 25%, according to NPR, they have 22%. So yeah, my assumption was wrong — I overestimated. I think it’s great that NPR has increased its PoC staff by 106% and that there are more PoC on-air staff. But I am missing the part where this disproves my original statement that the majority of reporters are non-PoC. Ms. Sorkin says that I’m ignoring the PoC on-air staff, I don’t see where I’m doing so. Though I can’t list them by name — which I’m glad she did, because it’ll help me listen for them in the future — I didn’t say “There aren’t any,” I said “There aren’t many.” There’s a difference.

    If NPR is working hard to increase the diversity of their national programming, I’m really glad. Time will tell if the fruits of that labor are apparent to the listening public. As of now, I still stand by what I said about the worldview of NPR. I do believe I also said that just getting more PoC on air won’t help, it’s the perspective that needs an adjustment. Having more shows like the one funambulator describes on a national level will help. And though all of the local stations are not required to carry every show, I still wonder what, if anything, NPR nation can or will do to encourage a diversity of views in the local affiliates.

    Ms. Sorkin said “Finally, your description of News & Notes does a disservice to both the program and the African American Public Radio Consortium, the dedicated group of stations that co-created it with NPR.”

    The description of it being a really great show, or the description of it being “the black show” that replaced “Tavis Smiley’s black show”? I’m going to assume she means the latter. My perception of News & Notes of being “the black show” replacement actually came from NPR itself. A little while after Tavis ended his relationship with NPR, I wrote a letter to whatever email contact is on I expressed my extreme displeasure that Tavis was gone and, citing the reasons he gave, in public, about why he left, directly questioned NPR’s commitment to diversity. The response was something like, “We are committed to diversity, and because Tavis isn’t on the air, anymore, we put up this other show.” The show they meant, at the time, was “NPR News with Tony Cox” which then morphed into News & Notes. The Tony Cox show was created as a direct result of losing Tavis, according to NPR. How else am I supposed to characterize that?

    As to her paragraph about Tavis’ reasons for leaving NPR, she may be correct. Tavis told a different story to the press at the time, which I mentioned in my original post. Perhaps both things are true, but each party chooses to emphasize one reason above the other.

    More important than which side is correct in that particular instance, I don’t think NPR can avoid the perceptions that led me to make the post in the first place and for folks to come along and say “Hey, I feel that way, too.” Though anecdotal evidence doesn’t count for much, I’ve often had conversations with people who are surprised I even bother with NPR because of that perception of token diversity and whitewashed and upper-class-washed world view. Tavis only articulated in public what other people have articulated in private.

    Though I want everyone to note that I am not down on News & Notes in and of itself. Like I said, it’s a great show. I wish there were more like it. I think the AAPRC is a great thing to have in existence. I look forward to this “Tell Me More” show. But the very fact that the AAPRC exists tells me that I’m not the only one to notice NPR’s failings in this area. That someone is doing something to address it pleases me immensely, but that this group hasn’t disbanded with a hearty “Job well done!” says a lot, too.

    Ms. Sorkin acknowledges that there’s room for improvement — you betcha. Which is, I think, the very point of my original post. Seems we’re in agreement, and I’m very glad.

  51. the angry black woman says:

    And on another note – it would be really helpful if Aa and Rb could stop hijacking the topic. Thanks!

  52. bellatrys says:

    Clueless privilege – and indignation at being called on it – is, alas, par for the course both with NPR and with a certain sort of bourgie liberal blogger. (I’m leaving aside the much-documented increasingly right-leaning slant of NPR’s political reporting, such as the whole affair of the religion reporter whose personal right-wing conservative Church affiliation was left out of all her reporting, as chronicled by Atrios a couple years ago.)

    I’m torn because I used to be an NPR supporter, back when I could (barely) afford it, and our local affiliate *is* better than anything else in the area when it comes to international and national news, and they have a number of good local-interest programs that are often relevant to my concerns as a resident of this state. (Some of them are, to be sure, Canadian broadcasting programs.)

    But overall, and particularly the national programming, the tone is directed at people who make a hell of a lot more money than I ever will see (unless I win Powerball, yeah right) and who literally can’t imagine living paycheck to paycheck – neither the NPR staff nor their listeners. They only talk about poor working class white people like me, when they do a feature on “Unfortunate Wretches of the Appalachians” or the like, and it’s always full of the Clueless Outsider take that you get when a Kevin Drum blogs on poverty, or Matthew Yglesias blogs on women’s rights, or, well, certain prominent SF writers talk about race. The kind of talk that makes you want to smash the dashboard, if you belong to the group under discussion, because the talkers-about act like you’re not even present and couldn’t possibly be overhearing let alone have an opinion.

    At this point, I can barely afford to eat, let alone give money away to any causes however worthy. But I’m not inclined to give money to NPR, because of their tone – that “only people who make at least $60K per year are worth talking to,” despite the fact that most of us in this country, let alone the world, aren’t up anywhere near the top 10% US economic bracket. It’s like, “way to make yourselves irrelevant, people!”

    And I’m not surprised at the “We’re not doing anything wrong!” attitude, not just because of how many fandom media outlets I’ve seen taking the same tack, but also because when our local NPR affiliate, many years ago, canceled all their daytime music shows to much outcry from citizens who had no other broadcast options at the time for anything that wasn’t hard rock or cheezy pop, someone I know who was a longtime supporter who wrote in to complain, got back a snotty form letter about how Everybody who was anybody preferred the new all-talk format.

    It may have worked for them – perhaps they made enough new converts to make up for the loss of frustrated former supporters with the format change (a commercial classical station in the region came into existence to fill the now-empty niche, although it was out of range for a lot of listeners, and now of course there is internet radio.)

    But in terms of responsiveness to actual listeners trying to give them feedback, they seem to be more interested in listening to themselves and patting themselves on the back (I am also referring to replacing a show I, and many others liked, with that awful (shallow, trite) show) for how wonderful they are, instead of wondering how they actually look to outsiders.

    –Which is the kind of thing that leads to obsolescence, and avoidable obsolescence at that. But as we’ve seen in fandom, the PTB would so often rather shout down criticism of privilege and exclusive behavior, than ask themselves if it might not have a point…

  53. Elaine Vigneault says:

    I emailed NPR and I’m sure others emailed too.
    Did you?

  54. Jay Smooth says:

    As a WBAI producer I actually find NPR’s fundraising refreshingly mild and restrained. :) Although i’m usually irked by (i.e. jealous of) how laid-back and confident they sound, lol

    Have to agree, though, that they remain in dire need of expanding their horizons. (I had some experience with NPR through my work with StoryCorps and the Griot Initiative).

  55. littlem says:

    “…you can approach it in an analytical, less emotional way.”

    That’s the biggest, cultural, Puritan, Calvinist, WASPy marker yet.

    And clearly totally subconsciously so.

    Amazing how ingrained the “us v. them” perspective is that “we’re” supposed to be fighting against.

    Oh, wait …

  56. the angry black woman says:


    I must admit, I also hear more of an edge to the voices asking for donation money on ‘BAI. It makes me feel like you all need it more ;) I was actually listening to your station when I wrote this post!

  57. funambulator says:

    First I feel like I should go on the record and say I in no way speak on behalf of my station, blah blah blah.

    I have the feeling – and this thread reinforces it – that your experience of NPR is largely determined by where you live and how your local station is run. Here’s what I find funny – the (correct I’m sure) perception of NPR as being run by and for rich folks, and how that differs from the stereotype of local public radio, broadcasting from a couple dingy rooms in the basement of the library (which was literally the case with us seven or so years ago).

    Also, I find I lot of people assume that my station’s workers are all volunteers (we’re not). I went to a conference a few years ago and met someone whose station actually IS run by all volunteers – even the news director was a volunteer. While there will be people who will choose to be really broke so they can volunteer more at the station, for the most part, you have to be able to afford to volunteer, which can result in a skewed demographic.

    And Jay, I love StoryCorps and the Griot Initiative – Amazing stuff. Here is a link if anyone wants to hear some:
    And here’s an explanation of what it is:

    There’s something that still bothering me about this topic, concerning not being able to tell someone’s race on the radio, but I haven’t really formulated it and I don’t know what to say. I do know that in the case of talk show guests, unless they’re kind of famous, the show doesn’t usually put pictures of each of its guests online.

  58. the angry black woman says:

    No, you can’t always tell race from a voice on the radio. Which is why, back when, I went looking for the faces to attach to said voices. Which is why, for me, it’s more about the tone/tenor of the show/station in question. And I honestly wouldn’t find NPR so distressing if I felt like the perspective wasn’t so heavily skewed.

    Maybe because I listen to so much Pacifica radio, the difference there is so vast!

  59. profacero says:

    It’s very white and very mainstream in a lot of ways. I like Pacifica Radio much better. But when I really got definitively turned off to NPR was when they were about as enthusiastic about the Iraq invasion as Fox.

  60. April says:

    You are so right about News and Notes. I was pissed off last year when Tavis Smiley had to go. My sentiments *exactly*.

  61. funambulator says:

    “Funambulator, I commend the efforts being made in Louisville. But please, don’t grovel, not here, not anywhere, on threads as potentially lame as these. As you are the only commentator to this thread thus far who actually WORKS for an NPR affiliate, and who has personally accounted for good efforts being made at the local level, I would have hoped for a less snivelly defense on your part (ABW, is this the kind of apology we liberal whites should be aiming for in order to distance ourselves from our natural disinclination to avoid a mirror?)”

    Wow, I just now noticed this comment! Keep your commendation, thanks. I’m not groveling or snivelly – I’m proud of my show. I just know enough not to come in here and act like I’m some kind of freedom fighter because we’re doing what everyone should be doing in the first place …the minimum of what everyone should be doing in the first place.

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