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NPR’s Demise Long Overdue

Newsmax – “Trump is a racist,” tweeted former Wikimedia Foundation president Katherine Maher in 2018. Maher further posted “white silence is complicity,” excused Los Angeles looters for reacting against America’s “system of oppression,” confessed culpability for her own “whiteness,” and denounced her home state of Connecticut for, she claims, having amassed wealth through slavery.

As investigative journalists have revealed, these posts were scrubbed from Maher’s feed sometime before it was announced that she will become the new CEO of National Public Radio, which touts “fact-based reporting” in an environment where “opinion and commentary are secondary.”

Maher, 40, will succeed John Lansing, 66, a white male who led the radical leftist, government-subsidized news source from October 2019 under the end of 2023.

Lansing’s contract was scheduled to conclude in September 2024, but he announced his departure a year earlier, claiming that he wants to spend time with his college-age daughter during a study-abroad program.

If you really want your Boomer parents around while you’re studying abroad, there is probably a good chance they listen to NPR.

But as Lansing found during his troubled tenure, the overall number of Americans tuning in is in a tailspin.

According to Nielsen Audio ratings, from June 2021 to June 2023, even urban markets with overwhelmingly leftist publics registered significant declines in NPR’s listenership:

  • New York’s flagship WNYC member station lost 20% of its market share in those 24 months.
  • In Chicago, WBEZ’s audience declined by 19%.
  • Listeners of San Francisco’s KQED fell by 24%.
  • Los Angeles’s KPCC (now LAist) lost 25% of its audience, while that city’s alternate NPR member station, KCRW, tanked by 42%.

It’s true that Nina Totenberg’s ageing phalanx of fans is rapidly dying off — some 41% of NPR’s national audience is over 55, while less than 6% is under 25 — but another and less rarified culprit raised its head during Lansing’s tenure: diversity.

Even before the George Floyd mess, Lansing pioneered an initiative to make diversity “our number one goal,” presumably ahead of reporting the news or producing high-quality content.

Long before DEI conquered other American institutions, NPR went full bore (pun intended), boasting of workshops on unconscious bias, tracking racial data on content and reception, and mandating that hiring committees and job finalist pools included women and minorities.

By the time Lansing announced his departure, employees of color accounted for 46% of NPR executives, compared to 9% when he came along.

Obviously, this hasn’t helped NPR remain competitive in the free marketplace of ideas – despite benefiting from your tax dollars while competing radio networks do not.

Nor has it much broadened NPR’s appeal to underrepresented communities.

As of 2022, NPR estimated that only about 25% of its audience were listeners of color and that its audience’s median annual income was a comfortable $115,000.

If that disconcerts listeners like you, recall that in 2020, NPR’s number one song of the year was Cardi B’s “W.A.P.,” a hip-hop tune listing material favors a young woman of color hopes to gain from sexually beguiling men.

NPR contributor Briana Younger claimed to find the song “fun and infinitely quotable,” but the audience of “Morning Edition” probably doesn’t groove to it while dropping off the kids at school.

By contrast, in 2023 NPR denounced Oliver Anthony’s hit country song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” featuring complaints of working-class white males, as “extremist and conspiratorial.”

Lansing also bet heavily on podcasts in the hope of drawing younger audiences, doubling NPR’s production division.

It was a bad wager.

According to Listen Notes, which monitors the podcast industry, the overall number of new podcasts fell by 80% in 2022.

By late that year, NPR was in serious trouble as Lansing’s initiatives crumbled and corporate advertisers, who had come to fund as much as 40% of NPR’s budget, melted away.

Lansing announced a $10 million budget cut, which by February 2023 expanded to cover up to $32 million in losses.

NPR laid off about 10% of its staff, or about 100 employees.

Ironically, some of those who departed were among women and minority staff.

NPR’s plight was not singular in legacy media, in which an estimated 2,500 jobs have disappeared in the last year, but it was one of the heaviest hit outlets.

Gannett’s and Spotify’s layoffs amounted to 6% each, while Vox let go 7% of its employees.

Leaving his job early might be an understandable choice for Lansing in these dire circumstances.

But Maher, who appears to have no experience in broadcast media and may well have been hired because of her gender, will have a tough job when she and her clumsily concealed political and racial biases take the helm at NPR on March 25.

In addition to NPR’s internal tension between progressive ideals and financial viability, Americans distrust legacy media, with Gallup finding in October 2023 that a record 68% rated their level of confidence as “not very much” or “none at all.”

The latter category has soared to an all-time high of nearly 40%. No matter what Katherine Maher does or tries to do, the fate of NPR could soon be a broadcast to nowhere.

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