Backlash, Boycott Call Follow NPR Cancellation of ‘Tell Me More’

Doby Photography/NPR
Doby Photography/NPR

Wow, sad news: National Public Radio recently announced it will pull the plug on Tell Me More, one of its few news programs focusing on minority voices.

The network announced this week that the show will die and 28 journalists and staffers will lose their jobs. Host Michel Martin, pictured at right, and executive producer Carline Watson will continue on to cover “issues of race, ethnicity, identity, faith and family” as part of other NPR programs.

Money, of course, is the issue: The show was popular, having more than a million listeners, but apparently not too few of them ponied up enough to support this smart, lively, challenging, engaging, necessary program.  The same death knell came for the minority-focused Tavis Smiley Show and News and Notes, too. It’s a shame and it’s sad. But Tell Me More is one I especially will miss. (And frankly, I am wondering where my monthly sustaining member payments to WNYC, New Jersey Public Radio and WPLN are being directed. Nothing against GAME SHOWS, but come on.)

I’m not alone.

The National Black Church Initiative, a group representing 34,000 churches covering 15 denominations is calling on African Americans to withhold contributions to NPR, charging the corporate public radio network with silencing minority voices. In a letter NCBI’s president, the Rev. Anthony Evans, wrote to NPR CEO Jarl Mohn, he made it clear that the loss of the show is a huge one.

Tell me More is a brilliantly formatted radio program that showcases a multitude of viewpoints. Michel Martin is a wonderful host, whose interview skills unquestionably represent some of the best in the nation. The show represents some a shining light for African American broadcasters, and serves a much-needed role of minority voices in the media. NPR has abandoned the African American community, and we must turn a deaf ear to you.

I love NPR as much as the next brainy human (though of course I prefer nonmainstream, noncorporate public radio, which truly embraces diversity), but gotta wonder: Why stop at those labeled as African-American? The show in question featured more than so-called “black” voices and made a point of doing so. I don’t identify as African-American, and I’ll bet there are a swath of diverse listeners who found much to value in the afternoon show.

So we say, if you are an NPR supporter of any hue and mad enough to boycott, perhaps it’s time to let your affiliate know that you find the loss unacceptable and that, if necessary, sustaining memberships can be stopped.

If you are disinclined to boycott, that doesn’t mean you cannot share your disappointment with your local NPR station and find out specifically what it is doing on a local level to ensure that it regularly presents a diverse group of voices. And hold it accountable.

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