The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) today issued its 2014 Thumbs Down Award to National Public Radio (NPR). The Thumbs Down Award is given annually for reporting, commentary or other content found to be racially insensitive, or for practices at odds with the mission of the National Association of Black Journalists.
The 2014 Thumbs Down Award was given to National Public Radio following the decision to cancel the program Tell Me More and to eliminate 28 positions across the NPR newsroom in an effort to cut costs.
Tell Me More was started in 2007 with host Michel Martin and was designed to attract new audiences to public radio, to use new and innovative storytelling methods, and to discuss issues of particular importance to people of color. The shows creation followed the loss of Tavis Smiley’s radio show to Public Radio International and then the cancellation of the program, which succeeded Smiley’s News and Notes.
“The importance of public media to make a concerted effort to be distinctive in its storytelling methods, to offer its audiences depth by featuring untold stories, and to as an end result diversify and expand audiences was best exemplified by a show like Tell Me More and how the program sought to operate,” said NABJ President Bob Butler. “NPR’s has as two of it’s stated goals in its strategic to ‘expand, diversify and engage our audiences’ and ‘grow net revenues.’ One however cannot supercede the other and greater care should have been taken to preserve Tell Me More as an example of what NPR’s new core should be and as as a representation of a truly superb way in which public media can embrace diversity.”
NABJ is mindful of NPR’s other initiative such as the Peabody award-winning “Race Card Project” and “CodeSwitch.” These programs are worthy of praise and should be supported. Still the opportunity cannot be loss to encourage National Public Radio to live up to the companies full potential and be standard bearers and to be the company which in everything it does show others in public media and media at large how to make sure journalism and media are inclusive and really do provide a service to the public.
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