"Cyniquian" Level Poster
Post Number: 7769
Votes: 1 (Vote!)
|Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2009 - 11:23 am: ||
Nothing like getting kicked in the butt to give you a little SOUL!
Why didn't YOU come up with this, Yvettep?
>>INTERVIEW: farai chideya
Farai Chideya on Cancellation of NPR's News & Notes
1) Explain what's happening at NPR. Why is "News & Notes," in addition to one other show, targeted for cuts as a result of this recession? Couldn't the powers-that- be have found another way to cut costs rather than ax the one show dedicated to African American issues and perspectives?
Farai) It's been a few weeks since NPR announced the cancellation of News and Notes, but I think like many listeners I'm not convinced that any one of the theories about why our show was cancelled holds up. The company said the issue was economic. But while the company is running in the red, there were other shows that cost more per listener than we did. If they cut based on that basis, I don't know that we would have been cut.
Of course, both of the LA-based shows (us and Day to Day) got the axe. That was very controversial, because America is growing faster in population in the West than the East. You also have a different role of the Latino-American and Asian-American populations in the West. Foundations and individuals poured a lot of money into building the NPR West Facility, and now there is no need for a full-fledged NPR facility. So was the decision geographic? It seems likely that there was a move to consolidate resources in the East. Was that wise? Time will tell.
The show was almost cancelled in July, during the height of the Presidential campaign. Many of us fought back against that decision, and we won. But I believe that by going head to head with management in July, we made it clear that we were willing to fight for the audience and the show.... and that may have cost us politically in the calculus that followed.
With the media in freefall as a business, NPR may not be asked to publicly discuss how it made its decisions. Everyone is in full-on panic mode and a lot of the decisions that are being made today are not getting a lot of scrutiny. When you think about the political and cultural ramifications of us having the first black President, we SHOULD question what NPR lost when it cancelled News and Notes. But more importantly- -especially in this environment- -we should ask how we can make meaningful connections between black communities, institutions, and individuals and the creation and dissemination of news.
I was so thrilled by the incredible reaction of our audience. We had hundreds of thousands of weekly listeners during my time at News and Notes, and they mobilized to let NPR know they wanted our show, and they also wanted content that served black interests.
2) How did you find out about the cancellation of your show, and who was responsible for telling your producers and other staff?
Farai) I got a call the weekend before NPR announced the cuts telling me to brace myself. I was out of town. The employees at NPR West had had their holiday lunch that Friday and rumors were circulating, but the call I got was from someone who heard the final judgment call. I'm glad I got that information, because it allowed me to take some deep breaths and not be blindsided.
I will not go into a blow-by-blow, play-by-play, but I do think NPR made an effort to tell everyone as quickly as it could, which was honorable and important.
3) Provide a little background of your history with NPR. Take us back to the Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon days. How did "News & Notes" evolve into the current format with you as host?
Farai) NPR created the Tavis Smiley Show as a reaction to the need for a more diverse slate of programming AND as a recognition that growing diverse programming grows the future of NPR's audience.
When Tavis left in 2004, he publicly took NPR to task for not spending enough on marketing, and added, 'The most difficult thing that I have had to do is fight a culture at NPR, a culture that is antithetical to the best interests of people of color.''
NPR then brought on former BET and MSNBC host Ed Gordon to helm the show.. I came on as what's called a "host/correspondent "... the backup host when Ed was gone, and the chief correspondent who covered news including traveling to the Gulf for nine days to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
When Ed left in 2006, I took the seat. The show was threatened with cancellation upon his departure but we all fought to save it.
I very much wanted to host News and Notes, but the company constantly changed what it said its expectations were.... what its funding was for the show; what the format would be; whether we were being judged on broadcast numbers, online numbers, or both. In other words, it became like playing football without a goalpost.
Nonetheless, we were able to do some incredibly innovative things. You participated in the Bloggers' Roundtable segments, which were started by our executive producer Nicole Childers. She faced the challenges of dealing with a tight budget and was able to turn a lot of the tough financial decisions into smart journalistic ones.
4) How has this transition impacted you, both professionally and personally?
Farai) The silver lining here is that we had all fought so hard for so long that I did a lot of the processing of what was happening to our show in real time. I had to constantly face my emotions and ambitions and deal with them. It was pretty awful at points. For example, on election day, I worked a fully day for my show and then another full eight hours for the elections unit doing special coverage. At the same time, I was involved in a(n ultimately pretty silly) political firefight over the show. It was hard to work a double day, bite my tongue, act like a Western lady (an inside joke you will get Eisa), and still live up to my values. I had to do a lot of ego-checking during the last two years and try to make sense of whether, at each stage, I was acting out of ego or out of wanting to benefit the show.
5) What happens next? When exactly is the show scheduled to end, and what is your next plan of action?
Farai) The show ends on March 20. I left right before the inauguration. The timing was right because I did want to go and cover the inauguration, and NPR wouldn't let me or us as a show do that. I thought that was supremely ironic. We as a show had had Senator Obama on twice during the election, in addition to other great coverage of the primaries, conventions, and election. Still, we were not deemed important enough to cover the inauguration for our audience. In the end, by leaving, I was able to provide a bit of spot coverage for News and Notes as a guest on Inauguration Day. It was great, if bittersweet.
The main reason I left when I did was because I felt that it was time to leave with a relative amount of grace as opposed to being in an environment that had become so tense that it put my ability to do my job at risk. When I felt that the politics of the situation had reached a point where I could no longer get any answers from some members of management.. . where I was frozen out to the point that certain people would not return my phone calls or emails... then I decided I need to go not just for my good but the good of the team.
6) Is there a desire on your part to try to save "News & Notes," and, if so, what can listeners who love your program do to support your efforts to remain on NPR?
Farai) Dedicated blogger, activist, and political consultant Jasmyne Cannick launched a "Save News and Notes" campaign. Unfortunately, so many chapters of this story had been written before that point that it it quickly became clear management wasn't coming back to the table under any circumstances.
Jasmyne's drive did provide an INCREDIBLY important focal point for the constructive challenging of NPR's decision to cancel News and Notes. I thank her and the audience for pushing the issue, and there will definitely be opportunities to use that collective wisdom for the good of journalism. Stay tuned: there will be more on that score.
7) In the years you've been hosting "News & Notes" you've covered some of the most stunning and important aspects of American life, and you have analyzed these events by including the diverse voices of the African American community in your broadcast. Of what are you most proud? Which accomplishments at NPR mean the most to you?
Farai) Covering the 2008 election has to be the crowning glory of this period of my journalistic career and of this period in News and Notes' history. We took the show to South Carolina for that states' important primary (the first one Sen. Obama was EXPECTED to win, instead of being a long shot); covered the conventions; and the election. We also did the Bloggers' Roundtable and brought some of the most thoughtful cultural voices on the air.
8) What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
Farai) I've got my novel coming out (see below) and I'm also pitching new projects. I have gotten hundreds of emails asking if I was going to start a new show. The answer is: I'm going to try my best to launch one! Going into pitch mode is humbling and exciting. These are tough times but there is always opportunity.
9) Finally, tell us a bit about your new book, Kiss the Sky. What's the pub date? Is this novel, like your three books of nonfiction, Don't Believe the Hype, The Color of Our Future, and Trust, political in terms of content and tone?
Farai) Ohhhhh nooo! This is an entirely different animal. It's political in the sense of cultural politics, but it's about the world of black rock; about women, men, and sexuality; about loyalty, family, faith, and friendship. Kiss the Sky is now the Essence Magazine Book Club selection for May! I am so excited! (I want to sell the film rights so keep your fingers and toes crossed on that one.)
You can read more about the book and my journey to write it here:
http://www.faraichi deya.com/ fiction.htm