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NPR Becomes a Player by Funding Journalism Others Won't



The New York Times had a wonderful story Sunday about National Public Radio and how a $230-million donation from the widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc has given the organization its first financial breathing room in a while.

It was an eye-opening account for someone like me, who has only been listening to NPR since it has become a major journalism outlet. Longtime reporters talked about covering news by interviewing reporters who were actually covering the news in the '70s; but for me, NPR was the place where Nina Totenberg broke news about Anita Hill's allegations against Clarence Thomas, Anne Garrels provided amazing coverage of the start of the war in Iraq and a host of reporters offered thought-provoking stories on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

For me, NPR has never been a second-rate news organization.

Still, one dynamic struck me more than any other in this story: the migration of serious journalists from mainstream news outlets to niche players.

I've already written how a host of ABC News expatriates have landed at NPR, including Robert Krulwich, Michel Martin, Cokie Roberts and Ted Koppel. As the NYT story points out, former Baltimore Sun editor Bill Marimow has poached a fair amount of former newspaper folks from his old paper and the Los Angeles Times first as managing editor and now as vice president of news for NPR.

This is a troubling trend: As the drive for profits increase, goals are often met by jettisoning the more experienced reporters, or closing the bureaus where they worked. It's a short term solution to a long term problem -- sacrificing editorial quality and reporting reach for immediate budgetary advantage -- but it is a trend many big newspapers and Tv networks seem stuck on.

The upside is that NPR and Discovery Channel and niche outlets are getting much better talents for their documentary and news programming. The downside is that some of the sharpest, most experienced voices have been excluded from the biggest outlets, just when these places need quality reporting, distinctive voices and exceptional material most.

The phrase, cutting off your nose to spite your face comes to mind...

New Site Features WFLA Video

Groundhog TV, a new web site allowing people to scan through local TV news clips features a whole lot of footage from WFLA-Ch. 8, thanks to an agreement with station owner Media General. Unfortunately, the most popular clips seem to include stuff like anchor banter over Kevin Federline's new record, celebrity couples and weeks old weather reports.

For folks like me, who track local TV reportage, this site is an interesting aid. But given the availability of clips and reports on WFLA's own website, its tough to know why this outlet is needed.

Arianna Apologizes

Following the deluge of criticism from bloggers and media experts, Arianna Huffington has apologized for her reaction to Clooneygate. "I now realize that I made a big mistake in posting a blog without clearly identifying that the material in it didn't originate as a blog post but was pieced together from previous interviews," she admitted Saturday.

This probably won't pacify people who have a hard time with Huffington's liberalism, or her infatuation with celebrity or her cultural opportunism, but it's a great example of the blogosphere rising up to spank one of its own. With luck, HuffPost will learn its lesson; certainly, this incident has proven that its crediblity is most certainly at stake.

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


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