« TV broadcasters should follow Cord Cutters | Main | Development continuity at NPR (not) | #pubmedia »

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Dennis Haarsager

Posting for Jon Schwartz, GM, Wyoming Public Media...

Thanks Dennis for your insight and background on the situation. I could not agree more. Yesterday I posted on AREPS a clarification of some of Jeff's several errors because they are so egregious and damaging. I post it here because he is well known to news viewers among Pubradio members and it is important not to let his rant go unanswered. Perhaps we should consider a rebuttal in the media? Here was my reaction:

Sadly though, this piece is simply wrong. First and foremost, over 80% percent of NPR's revenues and thus program ability comes via station related audience (station fees for programming and on air underwriting). EIGHTY. Digital revenues are far exceeded by digital expenses. This is not unique to NPR. But the expense and revenue ratio is terrible and no realistic projections show revenues passing expenses any time soon.

Meanwhile NPR station audiences grew to 34 million listeners. Without those "stations" and radio there is no NPR at the scale America enjoys today.

Second , those "stations" that make up ten of the 16 NPR board seats represent the largest group of shared journalistic values in the electronic media in America. NPR is the last and only significant national journalistic broadcast network controlled by broadcasters in America. I would put our track record with whatever flaws we may have up against CBS, Fox, MSNBC etc any time. In terms of corporate governance and responsibility, our financial status and our public impact is far more successful than any number of failed and corrupt entities such as ENRON, World Com, AIG and the many failed Wall Street investment banks.

NPR enjoys its success in large part due to the unique local national partnership that created and sustained it through the many decades, while other news entities without our structure and relationships have foundered and gone or are mere shadows of themselves, and owned by other larger corporations with no allegiance to journalism or the quality of cultural programming that is the hallmark of public radio.


As a daily listener of NPR in the Washington Metro area, I don't understand why the importance of a free public media isn't explained. No one is talking about the value of publicly owned radio or about the value to the public of freedom from corporate sponsorship/agendas. We let the dialogue be controlled by people who do not favor any media that may be critical of them, even when that media is rather timid about being critical, even when that media works conscientiously to educate and do the right thing. In fact, doing the right thing is not, clearly, a common value in today's era of pure self-interest. The value of NPR/CPB is not being well served by the cowering of its executives. They need to be smart, genuine and out front of the issues. Is it just not likely to ever happen? Is NPR/CPB unable to message the mission? How is that possible?!

Dennis Haarsager

Ed -- Sorry, Although I've retired from NPR and this was three years ago, I still feel I need to respect the process that we followed then. I've said publicly that it wasn't a clash or malfeasance or misfeasance. And it definitely wasn't over digital because if that was the case they hired the wrong boy to step in as interim and repeated that with Vivian. The answer was in my post. --Dennis

Ed Shed

If Ken Stern's leaving was not due to clashes with the board over digital media, to what was it due?


Your comments are measured, insightful and intelligent as always, Dennis.

I admit to being fully enraged by this situation, because I'm watching an entity I've loved fall into chaos over comparatively nothing. I feel like I'm watching a dear friend go Charlie Sheen on me.

I agree that Boards and CEOs must be in alignment and there must be trust. But trust is a two-way street and it's primarily built in tough circumstances, not easy ones. The "ballless" comment from Jarvis and Jon Stewart calling NPR (presumably the Board) "pussies" is, I think, driven by the external recognition that the Board is taking the easy way out, throwing multiple executives under the bus rather than facing down the ginned-up Faux News angry mob.

As Robert so eloquently framed his point, there's a deep chasm between the values of public media (that we believe are there, but maybe we're mistaken) and the actions of the Board.

What I believe *should* have happened here is a circling of the wagons, very public support for Vivian Schiller, and a denouncement of the accusers, in a fact-based cordial way. You know... the opposite of what I do. ;-)

If the NPR Board will cut and run in this situation, I'm not sure what fight they would stand up for -- none, I guess.

(For the record, I do think Vivian Schiller died by the same sword she and the Board used on Ellen Weiss. That's the only sense of poetic justice in this whole thing. But it also suggests that anyone could be sacrificed in that way for any mistake, and that's not a healthy corporate culture to foster.)

Kathleen Pavelko

Thanks, Dennis, for sharing your experience and perspective--both from inside NPR's board/staff and from the station perspective.

Jarvis, who is insightful about many things, does not know how important many stations are in their communities--his categorical and dismissive comments ("they're screwed") reveal his ignorance of stations other than WNYC.

Rob Paterson

Thanks Dennis
Could you comment also on what I have been feeling - Pub Media is accused of being liberal and so not deserving of government support. Everyone in pub media denies this. Much of the action at NPR recently shows up these 2 realities.

It seems to me that Pub Media claims to be neutral - maybe it is - but that is not how the nation sees it.

I for one see Pub Media as standing for a set of values about community - If you met a person for the first time and they told you that they were a devoted fan of Pub Media - that would inform you about their values. But Pub Media denies these values in public and claims neutrality.

Is this the internal conflict?

No amount of appeasement of the other side will stop their attacks.

Is it time to align Pub Media formally to its values?

I fear that unless Pub Media does that it will be be killed by the other and it will be hard for many of us who share these values to come to its defence - for by shunning the values - Pub Media also pushes away its support.

All the best to you D in these difficult times

The comments to this entry are closed.


Bookmark and Share

March 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31