Monday, December 13, 2010

This is NPR: The First Forty Years

If only we had NPR trading cards, I would trade you a Scott Simon and a Carl Kasell for a Cokie Roberts and a Nina Totenberg. Throw in a Melissa Block, and I'd give you Bob Boilen and the Car Talk guys. Under no circumstances would I part with Ira Flatow or Robert Krulwich. They would stay in protective cases with my prized Susan Stamberg and Noah Adams cards.

I mention this because there is a great new book, This is NPR: The First Forty Years, and reading this book is a bit like reading a by-the-decades history of a baseball team. The editors have collected stories by and about NPR staff, and I hold the reporters and program hosts from public radio in as much (or maybe more) esteem as my favorite baseball players Craig Biggio, Luis Gonzales, and Jeff Bagwell. Anyone who has listened to NPR for several decades will know their names and voices well. This book reveals their seldom-seen faces. (Trading cards with their photos and details of their assignments would still be appreciated.)

Like any sports team, NPR has had its ups and downs. The franchise has weathered its share of financial troubles and come out stronger by turning to subscribers and foundations for help instead of relying on the federal government. Once considered an "alternative news source," it now has more foreign correspondents than many of the newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks once considered mainstream. It has also been a leader in developing online news programming. NPR is now a powerhouse, and like all sports dynasties, it has attracted anti-fans.

In addition to learning about the network, readers get reviews of major news stories, including Watergate, the Iranian Revolution, AIDs, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 attacks, and the war in Afghanistan. For every serious story, there is also something lighter - David Sedaris telling his Christmas elf stories, Melisaa Block in a tundra pit, Paula Poundstone as a Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me panelist, and Stephen Thompson starting the Tiny Desk Concert podcasts. NPR fans have to read This is NPR.

This is NPR: The First Forty Years. Chronicle Books, 2010. ISBN 9780811872539. Includes audio CD.


Anonymous said...

I was once a listner of NPR - then I grew up had kids, bought a house and started paying taxes- I may find this a nice sentimental read - it likely will remind me of a time I had no resposibilties and the freedom to be liberal. Currenly I can't take more than a few moments of NPR - way to biased

ricklibrarian said...

This comes from the Frequently asked questions on NPR website: How many of my tax dollars go to NPR?
NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government. Less than two percent of the budget is derived from competitive grants from federally funded organizations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts.

Approximately half of NPR's funding comes from NPR member stations. In an average year, NPR funds about 45 percent of its operations with membership dues and program fees from member stations. The balance of NPR's annual revenue is derived from private foundations, individuals and corporations, in the form of grants, gifts, investment proceeds, and corporate sponsorships. NPR receives some revenue from distribution fees and fees from tapes and transcripts. Financial statements, based on annual audits, are available in NPR's most recent Annual Report.

Anonymous said...

OK I get it most funding comes from donors - having said that see below and you will likely realize that we are still talking about a huge federal outlay. My point is that since NPR has no need to compete with other for profit radio ventures - the editorial content of NPR is easily biased by a select group. They even admit their bias ( "Last week, NPR's own official ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, admitted a liberal bias in NPR's talk programming. The daily program "Fresh Air with Terry Gross"-a 60-minute talk show about the arts, literature and also politics-airs on 378 public-radio stations".

My over-all point is that if we librarians are true believers in intellectual freedom - why do we need a homage to an institution that fails that litmus test ?

CPB's annual budget is composed almost entirely of an annual appropriation from Congress plus interest on those funds.[3] For fiscal year 2010, its appropriation was $422 million . The distribution of these funds were as follows:[4]

* $21.0 million (a maximum of 5 percent of the total budget) for CPB administrative costs
* $25.2 million (a maximum of 6 percent of the total budget) for funds to support the Public Broadcasting Service generally, as opposed to specific stations.

* $93.94 million (22.3 percent of total budget) for public radio, distributed as:


ricklibrarian said...

The amount spent on NPR seems tiny compared with the amount spent on each missile or fighter jet. Hardly worth mentioning.

I will examine your other thought. My own perception is that NPR reports from the center letting everyone have their say.