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National Public Radio to cut shows, personnel


In a cost-saving move, National Public Radio said today it was canceling its midday newsmagazine “Day to Day,” the marquee show of the network’s NPR West production facility in Culver City.

Hamstrung by a souring economy and the resulting precipitous drop in corporate underwriting, NPR’s second-largest source of income, the network also plans to cut its workforce by 7% and trim other expenses. The cuts mean layoffs for 64 of NPR’s staff of 889, and the elimination of 21 positions that were vacant.

The 5-year-old program, hosted by Madeleine Brand and airing locally on KPCC-FM (89.3) weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m., was supposed to garner midday listeners and act as a bridge between the noncommercial network’s other, more established newsmagazines, “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” It airs on 186 stations but has not garnered the corporate underwriting necessary to remain viable, said Dana Davis Rehm, the network’s senior vice president of strategy and partnerships.
“This is strictly a revenue problem for NPR. It’s not an audience problem,” she said. “Our audience is healthy and growing.”

In fact, NPR said its shows overall garnered a weekly audience of 26.4 million.

But the $2-million deficit for the coming year that the network projected in July has ballooned to $23 million, mainly due to a sharp drop in corporate underwriting. NPR said it would draw down its reserves by up to 30%, but legal restrictions severely constrain what it can withdraw from the separate NPR endowment, which includes a $200-million gift from Joan Kroc, the widow of the McDonald’s founder.

Also getting canceled is the other program based at NPR West, “News & Notes,” an hourlong news show with an African- American perspective currently carried on 64 stations. It does not have a Southern California affiliate. Both will remain on the air through March 20 to allow stations to find alternative programming.

But NPR West — the network’s largest office outside its Washington, D.C., headquarters — will remain open and is still an important part of the network’s strategic future, said Dennis L. Haarsager, NPR’s interim president and chief executive. Renee Montagne will continue to co-host “Morning Edition” from there, and reporters will still work from there.

“This doesn’t signal a diminished support for our operation in Culver City,” he said. “It’s a very important part of our operation, even today.”

When NPR West opened to great fanfare in November 2002, it was supposed to signal a broadening of the network outside its Washington-New York comfort zone. The office would bring perspectives from Los Angeles and the West to programs up and down the NPR schedule. “Day to Day,” which premiered nine months later, was to be the main outlet for those stories.

In just the last week, “Day to Day” has featured stories about Mountain House, Calif., which has the nation’s highest percentage of homes worth less than what their owners owe on their mortgages; Eli Broad’s efforts to save Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art; the legion of homeless living in tunnels underneath Las Vegas,; and a San Diego teacher selling ad space on his tests.

But even though the creation of a midday newsmagazine was important to NPR, the time period has turned into a much more competitive environment in the five years since “Day to Day” launched, Rehm said, with a wider variety of shows, including many produced by local stations,  fighting for audience. “The midday is just tougher overall. It really is a difficult proposition,” Rehm said.

Both “Day to Day” and “News & Notes” were safe as recently as July, during the network’s annual budget review. But NPR executives said the steep drop in funding since then had forced their hand. They said that “Day to Day” cost about $2.5 million per year to produce, while “News & Notes” cost $1.7 million.

“We’re in the business of telling stories,” Haarsager said, but going forward the network will have to move toward a more a la carte way of offering those, instead of packaging them in 30- to 120-minute chunks. “There are other ways too of doing things, of distributing material. Not everything has to have a brand, a title. It wouldn’t have to be a branded show with a cute title and music.”

— Steve Carney

(Photo: Alex Chadwick, former co-host of "Day to Day," courtesy Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Comments () | Archives (11)

What a shame. One of the few sane, non-hyperbolic sources of news and information we have is also in big trouble. Both are excellent programs; sorry to see them go.
Looks like I'll be upping my donation to PBS in the near future.

Hooray for the end of Day To Day, quasi news program for idiots. And, please, please, fire that screeching moron Michelle Singletary. NPR need not be just another contributor to the fog of disinformation.

I'm sorry to hear this news about one of my favorite radio shows. I especially enjoyed the recent "Day to Day" interview with Jennifer Garner, and also the feature story on actor James Garner.

I have enjoyed NPR's news n' interviews for years... another addition that was added, 'Market Place', they can do well without... it won't be missed by me... especially their intro theme song.

So National PUBLIC Radio turns out to be National Corporate Radio. Just call it "NCR" from now on. Corporate "underwriting" translates as Corporate $$$. And all along I thought NPR was publicly supported. But I have noticed many PBS tv stations and other assorted radio stations with their hands out on an almost non-stop basis. Well, I guess when the gravey train has left the station, even PUBLIC this and that is not immune. Not shedding any tears.

I knew the fund raising did not do very well this year. But, i have to ask..where has the gov't funding gone for NPR??

Day to Day gone which means we'll be spared Xeni Jardin's "reporting". And news for black folks only? Why?
I don't see why we need a state-run news network. Pravda closed down, right?

Ho. Ho. Ho.

More Obama Ho's losing their "journalism" credentials.

Yet it is good news for the American taxpayer, who's been financing this nonsense for years. Maybe now they'll get the link to corporations making money, corporate underwriting, and their own continued employment.

How big a conk on the head does it take for them to get it? Does Big Left understand that the demise of Big Right is not in their own best interest?

Another commenter wrote: "Looks like I'll be upping my donation to PBS in the near future."

Remember, though, that PBS and NPR are mostly unrelated. Some markets such as San Francisco and Boston have big joint licensees that broadcast both public radio and public TV, but for the most part they're separate. If you're upset over cuts at NPR, give to your local public radio station, not PBS. Or give to both!

On the News Hour (I think that's a CBS radio show) they were discussing this. NPR is attempting to cut costs without cutting reporting staff. This is in marked contrast to the LA Times cost cutting which has eviscerated the newsroom staff (and was mostly done to temporarily increase profits during a prosperous time.) NPR's goal is to come through these hard times with their core reputation for good reporting intact. I wish them the best possible outcome, and I will donate this year for the first time in many.

"Yet it is good news for the American taxpayer, who's been financing this nonsense for years"

Actually good sir, only about 2% of NPR's budget comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is a non-profit that only gets 20% of ITS budget from Federal sources. A majority of the NPR budget comes from member station fee's and the aforementioned corporate underwriting.


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