Day to Day’s Last Day

[Today is the final broadcast of NPR Day to Day. The show, which has aired so much HV stuff and been a pleasure to work with, has been canceled.]

Much of our news today is like much of our food today.  Heavily processed.  Raised in cages, fed hormones and antibiotics.  It makes us sick, maybe causes cancer.  At least it doesn’t seem unreasonable that you could get cancer from the news.

But we need news, just like we need food.  In order to maintain a civil society we need to stay well informed of the issues at hand, and the news is how we do this.  So what we need is news that isn’t processed, we need more organic news.

In my opinion as a news connoisseur and critic, Day to Day was the cleanest, most ‘wild caught’ program produced by NPR.  Sometimes after listening to the program I actually felt better.  I had more energy and eagerness to go about my life.  I wondered what would be on the show tomorrow. More than anything Day to Day gave me hope of hearing something really fresh and true.  If anything suffers in processing, it’s the truth.

Faced with alleged budget shortfalls last Fall, some of NPR’s 17 vice presidents decided to cut Day to Day from it’s schedule and fire everyone who worked there.  Personally, I would have erased all vice presidents.  When was the last time you heard of a vice president in a news room?  There are people called editors and producers and engineers in a news room but nobody goes by vice president, let alone 17 people who go by vice president all making around a quarter million a year.  Not to mention their secretaries and assistants.  Maybe some country club memberships.

This class of NPR employee apparently doesn’t mind producing and consuming processed news.  They’ve done tests and conducted studies that show the news they produce is made from the best ingredients, assembled by trained professionals, all approved by the Columbia School of Journalism, and brought to you at a surprisingly inexpensive price.  They are marketers and lawyers, and I say they should be gathered together and marched out onto the downtown Washington street on a snowy day and made strip down to their underwear, and then every single one of them should be fired and forced to eat nothing but Big Macs for the rest of their lives.

What a Kroc of shit!

–Scott Carrier

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Comments (6)

Here, here Scott! I’m with you! Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been feeling… my best to you and Barrett and everyone at HV!

Take care, Dmae

Comment added by Dmae on 03.20.09

I am very disappointed by the decision to cut Day to Day. It was alive, crisp, often amusing, and sometimes heart-wrenching program. It is sad to see it go, but I am sure the creative people behind it will be back in our lives. It obviously is their calling.

Comment added by Naseem Rakha on 03.20.09

I write as a former VP, though not at NPR.

Taking down a program (e.g., killing it) is incredibly hard and painful. I know — I was the guy who decided to kill Savvy Traveler and more recently, the show I created, Weekend America, was terminated. Incredibly talented and very hard-working people … my friends and colleagues … were affected. My hopes and theirs were crushed. With Savvy, I will never forget that a show that had 166 stations carrying it and 500,000+ listeners … still couldn’t make it. After 5 years, it had not raised a cent of underwriting! It was a beautiful and literate travel show but … it could not be financed. Weekend America had enormous potential and talent but it too could not catch a wave to adequate funding, even after millions from CPB and Target had been invested.

I have also fought tooth and nail to preserve programs. For years, the network folks tried to kill the Marketplace Morning Report. It now has an audience larger than its parent, the PM-version of Marketplace.

The reason programs get killed is to save other programs. When there is inadequate money, somebody has to perform triage and decide what gets to live and what has to be allowed to die. Many, many stations attempt egalitarianism in making cuts — EVERY show has to cut 10% or more. That’s a good way to ruin every program.

I don’t know the answer. Should we stop creating programs and admit the bankruptcy of our funding mechanisms for public radio? After all, there has only been one Joan Kroc. Foundations, whose earnings have been murdered by the economy, have slowed their giving to a trickle, corporations aren’t underwriting, even members are slowing their subscriptions. How the hell are we supposed to pay for this
“national treasure?”

So, bottom line, not only do I feel your pain, Scott, but believe me — I have plenty of my own. NOBODY enjoys killing shows.

Final comment. Believe me, having looked at myself in the mirror this morning, you do not want me and my kind to be stripped to our underwear publicly. As for being fired, I am now on my own, trying to make a living as an indie (or worse, as an indie consultant) just like you are. Peace, brother.

Jim Russell
The Program Doctor

Comment added by Jim Russell on 03.21.09

Thank you, Scott, for expressing my own anger at the worst decision NPR management has ever made. The official explanation for this – the show doesn’t earn enough after five years to support itself – would have taken both Morning Edition and All Thins Considered off the air. And as to your VP point, three were given promotions and another new VP position was created on the day our show was canceled. It’s a really disheartening event for public radio.

Comment added by Alex Chadwick on 03.21.09

Under Bush, NPR became like a cow at a feed lot. The vice presidents are marbling.

Now they can’t change. The cow can’t stop eating.

And the audience, bored into stupidity, no longer cares.

Comment added by scott carrier on 03.22.09

Wow, Scott Carrier, Alex Chadwick, Jim Russell and Dmae Roberts…

These are big names dropping sound criticism, and on the record, no less. It’s about damn time!

Perhaps if there were more big names publicly sounding the alarm from inside the mothership, the chorus might actually reach the mythical “you, our listeners”, who at present amount to oblivious NPR groupies, or worse, junkies, who are too busy blithely soaking up another food pantry feature to know their beloved news source is selling out!

Perhaps, if people like Steve Inskeep, Renee Montagne, Robert Siegel, Michele Norris, Melissa Block, Neal Conan, Tom Ashbrook, Jason, Audie, Tom, Noah, Linda, Tovia, Chris, Jamie, et. al. were to lend their voices to the chorus, then what’s wrong with the system might actually get fixed. Until that happens I’m convinced nothing about the way NPR is run is going to change.

And the status quo seems endemic in the public radio system. I grew up as a reporter inside one of the “best and brightest” member stations (also one of the biggest) which is overrun with old, white, ex-TV execs who make bad managers, staffed by apathetic reporters turning out de-clawed stories, and “casual” employees who are systemically over-worked and taken for granted. The public radio community is full of refugees who have run screaming from this building, some crying foul, but most choosing instead to spend their energy where they might actually be able to affect change without fear of getting fired.

I wish I could formally join the chorus here, but it would probably threaten what little livelihood I can still eek out as a reporter in the system these days.

But here’s what I have to say to those of you who actually have some power and influence at NPR, and I think I speak for a lot of people who work in and love public radio:

It’s time to rock the boat. If you don’t, it’s going to sink.

Comment added by A lowly freelancer on 03.23.09

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