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Can National Public Radio Reach all of the Public?



On Wednesday, i'll be heading to the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Indiana for four days of discussion on how to amp up diversity in the nation's news media. Topic one: how to deal with the diversity fatigue which seems to plague newsrooms today -- weary from the never-ending struggle to create a newsroom diverse as the communities they cover.

Ed_gordon So it was a good time to drop my story yesterday on National Public Radio's struggle to make a go of its only black-focused program, News & Notes with Ed Gordon.

If you live in the Tampa Bay area, you probably haven't heard the show because it's only available on WUSF-FM's secondary digital channel. But Ed had the daunting task of taking over for black media icon Tavis Smiley, when he decided to leave NPR, and his reward has been a loss of more than 186,000 listeners a week and no presence or reduced presence in major markets such as Chicago, New York City and here.

It's an enduring irony that NPR, long considered a liberal institution, has struggled mightily with a lack of diversity for decades. It was sued three times for race and gender discrimintion in the 1990s and still only has four black program hosts on its roster -- including the two people who host News & Notes.

I wrote about this issue from the content side last year, and I heard from a fair number of earnest Tavis_smiley_suit3 peopel at NPR who said they were working on the issue -- mostly by developing Ed's show. Now that he's got one foot out the door -- about to announce this week a new TV show he's hosting in partnership with Black Enterprise magaizne -- I hear my story Monday is now making the rounds among some at NPR who still hope to do better.

Frankly, I think everything from Dave Chapelle's show to Tavis' current PBS radio and TV programs prove you can create shows rooted in black culture that appeal to everyone. Wonder why NPR is having such a tough time doing it?

Can Jerry Springer and Tucker Carlson Save Network TV?

Well, the roster for ABC's Dancing with the Stars is out, and its a typically star-studded bunch.

News already broke days ago that MSNBC political nerd Tuker Carlson was on tap to show off his white guy overbite (even his friends say he dances "like he's just been tasered"; see the evidence here). But the alphabet network dropped the full roster yesterday for the show, which debuts sept. 12, and it's positively horrifying.

Faded L.A. Law star Harry Hamlin (see him as a star -- and now on the D-list; click to enlarge). Hhamlinnow Hamlinnow


Well-past-his-prime ex-teen star Joey (now going by the much more grownup sobriquet, Joe) Lawrence (then -- and now). Joeylawrence



And this guy. (can they work a chair-slinging brawl into a tango routine?)

D-listers everywhere have been clamoring to get on the show after seeing its impact on the careers of towering talents like Stacy Kiebler, Lisa Rinna and John O'Hurley. But if this is what it takes to save network TV from the onslaught of digital downloads and viewar apathy, maybe we're better off without it.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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