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Black Journalists Group Gives NPR Thumbs Down Award

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The National Association of Black Journalists gave its 2014 Thumbs Down Award to National Public Radio (NPR) for canceling the Tell Me More program and eliminating 28 positions in the NPR newsroom.

The NABJ issues the Thumbs Down Award annually for reporting, commentary or other content found to be racially insensitive, or for practices that it determines are at odds with its mission.

Tell Me More was created in 2007 to replace Tavis Smiley’s show—which decamped to Public Radio International after Smiley clashed with NPR management about budgetary issues—as the network struggled to rein in its expenses.

NABJ President Bob Butler issued the following statement:

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.

NPR has as two of its stated goals in its strategy 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.

While criticizing NPR for its lack of commitment to diversity, NABJ acknowledged the network’s Peabody award-winning  “Race Card Project,” and diversity-oriented “CodeSwitch” programs. But they failed to mention that Tell Me More’s host, Michel Martin, and executive producer Carline Watson were not fired, and are working on an initiative to incorporate the kind of coverage of issues of race, identity, faith, gender and family that appeared on the show.

I’m no fan of NPR and their liberal programming, but the NABJ’s assertion that the network isn’t diverse enough or sensitive to racial diversity is laughable to anyone who has listened to the network for any length of time.

Thumbs down to the NABJ for trying to use the race card.