Privation: pain for public radio

Privation: n. : the state of being deprived ; especially, lack of what is needed for existence

Pain: n. acute mental, physical or emotional discomfort or distress

National Public Radio, my constant companion, is feeling the pain of recession as well. Because their corporate funders are feeling down, their contributions have dropped. Interest payments on the big endowment gift from McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc (the only good ever to come out of McDonalds IMHO) have pretty much disappeared as stock values plummeted.  Regular listeners don’t pledge or reduce their pledges – which I did last month with great anguish.

This is how the trickle-down theory really works.  When profits are high at the top, the little people stay afloat (some only just) down below. But when the big guys crumble, everyone all the way down feels the pain – some acutely.

There is so much to treasure about public radio. No commercials! Intelligent reporters, thought-provoking and (usually, relatively) fair reporting, a wide variety of subject matter, weekend shows to make the chores go fast (Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me) because I’m laughing so hard. No commercials!  I invite these folks into my home every day, so they feel like old friends.

NPR will be shutting down two shows in March, and with them letting go of 34 journalists and 30 others. According to their report:

NPR has grown mightily in the past dozen years, thanks to the Kroc bequest but also to sharp rises in listening audiences and corporate underwriting. NPR has expanded beats and added domestic and foreign bureaus at a time when many of its peers and competitors have scaled back their journalistic ambitions. It has been among the few American news organizations to have correspondents based both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This is a hard day for NPR,” said Ellen Weiss, NPR’s senior vice president for news. Despite the bad news on the revenue front, the on-air and online audience for NPR is up significantly, she said. “At many levels, NPR’s best resources are its people. There isn’t a single individual person who isn’t going to feel pain today,” Weiss said.


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