Richard Prince, one of my favorite journalists who writes about journalists, broke my heart the other day when he posted on his Journalisms blog that Tell Me More, an NPR staple since 2007, was being canceled. Tell Me More, which is hosted by Michel Martin, was one of the best shows on NPR and was the only show targeting a diverse audience.
Also, Martin is my friend and I don’t know if I’m fully prepared to “accept” that this show is being sacrificed for NPR’s financial bottom line. And I don’t think we, as fellow writers, journalists, friends of Michel and listeners should simply “accept” it either.
You can send NPR an email here.
You can send NPR a few choice tweets here.
You can post some strongly worded posts on NPR’s Facebook page here.
You can call the staff directory and ask for Paul G. Haaga, Jr., NPR’s acting CEO: (202) 513-2000
Or you can try emailing Haaga at email@example.com.
And you can send NPR some strongly worded mail here:
1111 North Capitol St., NE
Washington, DC 20002
I don’t think we should let NPR off-the-hook for axing a show that never got the proper support it deserved. NPR has changed leadership multiple times in the seven years Tell Me More has been on the air. And under each new administration, the news program — while well liked — was not necessarily a “priority.”
Said Martin in response to her cancellation:
“To be honest with you, I think we’ve been casualties of executive churn,” Martin said. “Every CEO who has been at this network since I’ve been here — and how many are there now? Six? Seven? — all of them have supported this program, but none of them have stayed around long enough to institutionalize that support.”
She said NPR’s record with shows intended to appeal to African-American listeners speaks for itself.
But, Martin said, “clearly, it’s not enough in this environment to fulfill an editorial mission. You’ve got to be supported across the board by every element of the organization. … And I don’t think that’s always happened.”
To say I’m upset is a bit of an understatement. I’ve met some great people by being on her show. I’ve made friends of the people who work on her show. And Michel was one of the first people to put me on the radio after I moved on D.C.
My regular, sometimes bi-monthly spot in the Tell Me More Beauty Shop segment was often the highlight of my month. Not because I got to be on the radio, but because I got to see Michel, and her wonderful staff. I would often show up for my call time an hour or 40 minutes early, just to mill around the office and talk to all of them. They are all such bright and dynamic journalists and producers. And Martin is an incredible journalist, one of the best voices I’ve ever heard and had the privilege of working with in radio. So when I heard the show was being shelved due to “financial issues,” I was surprised, but not surprised. NPR, despite being a favorite of progressives, has always struggled with being progressive when it comes to diversity.
With Michel’s show being canceled — just as Farai Chideya and Tavis Smiley before — the public radio network will soon have no regular programming geared towards African American listeners.
NPR still has Code Switch, its blog highlighting race, but that is a blog and not a radio show. Blogs have a dramatically lower overhead and Code Switch is funded through a separate grant, meaning NPR doesn’t have to spend the same money, time and energy as they would for a full radio program. And when Code Switch’s funding runs out, will NPR support it? Or will that be sacrificed for their budget too?
According to NPR, Tell Me More will cease to air in August, which means we have less than three months to make our feelings known. NPR can’t keep promoting “diversity” just to give up on it the moment poor money management gets in the way. You have to hold a line at some point and my line is Tell Me More.