May 21, 2014
NPR lays off 28 and cancels “Tell Me More”
by Claire Kelley
UPDATE: As Ron Charles notified us on Twitter and an NPR article on the developments indicates, “eight of the 28 positions being eliminated are already vacant, Senior Vice President for News Margaret Low Smith told staffers.”
Tell Me More—an NPR show focusing on topics including race, religion, parenting, and entertainment—will only remain on the air through July 2014. The news comes in the wake of the departure of CEO Gary Knell last year and NPR’s board of director’s efforts to reduce budget deficits for 2014. In an interview with All Things Considered’s David Folkenflik on Tuesday, host Michele Martin expressed sadness at the news that her show and its programming that addresses diverse populations and African-American issues will end.
“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….We’ve done a lot to show what’s possible here and I want to keep that going…I can’t say to them you need to do better at serving these audiences and then walk away from it. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Both Martin and Tell Me More’s executive producer Carline Watson will stay at NPR to “be part of an initiative to incorporate the kind of coverage of issues of race, identity, gender, and family that appear on the show.” The rest of the laid-off NPR staff will be able to apply for the new jobs with that initiative.
Last year, long-time show Talk of the Nation ended its run too. We did a round up of author interviews here.
Tell Me More hosted a number of literary initiatives on NPR, including Muses and Metaphor, where listeners were encouraged to tweet their original poetry, and Summer Blend Book Club, when the show read books “by and about people — exploring what it means to be mixed race,” and segments on books like coverage about banned book week in 2013.
Host Michele Martin interviewed many authors on the show, including Barbara Ehrenreich and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In 2011, Ilyashah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, walked off the set of an interview with Martin after being asked about controversial passages in Manning Marable‘s biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.
My favorite segments were the Barbershop and the Beauty Shop and I’ll miss the show.
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.