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The Tally Ho

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tavis Smiley Leaves NPR

Many of you may listen to the Tavis Smiley Show sometime during the week. As of mid-December he will be off the air. The Washington Posts's Richard Leiby writes
Former Black Entertainment Television personality Tavis Smiley, who joined National Public Radio a few years ago, bailed out of his NPR gig yesterday. He said he'll give up his show, heard on 60 stations, in mid-December. Though NPR says the show successfully reached out to African Americans, his departure letter challenged NPR to do a better job of appealing to "the most multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial America ever."

Mr. Smiley's letter can be found here, at Reclaim the Media dot org. NPR writes on the shows website
Tavis Smiley informed us today that he will not renew his contract and that his last day will be December 16. We wish him well. Tavis is a remarkable talent and holds an important place in public radio history. We applaud Tavis for his energy and drive, which contributed greatly to the success of this historic show. NPR and the African American Consortium intend to continue this program with a new host and to expand and build upon its successes.

Four years ago, the African American Consortium and NPR together conceived of a public affairs show for public radio that would build diverse audiences and reflect the interests and perspective of the African American community. Tavis helped us to jumpstart this effort -- and for this we will always be grateful.

This partnership has been very successful. According to the Arbitron Spring 2004 research, the show reaches nearly 900,000 listeners each week on 87 stations, including 18 stations serving predominantly African American communities and stations that serve general audiences in nine of the top ten markets. It attracts one of the most diverse audiences to public radio: 29 percent of the listeners are African American, and 40 percent are listeners aged 44 or younger. Each of these measures is the highest of any NPR program...

Yet as Mr. Smiley wrote in his email
I wanted to contact you personally and immediately to express my gratitude to you and your staff for giving me the chance to be heard by your listeners. I know the ridicule many of you had to endure when you decided to take this journey with me by adding my program to your line-up. I will always be appreciative of your confidence and trust.

With your support, I have come to care even more for public radio and its social, cultural and intellectual potential. Yet, after all that we've accomplished towards our goal of seeking a broader, more diverse and younger audience for public radio, NPR's own research has confirmed that NPR has simply failed to meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio, but simply don't know it exists or what it offers.

In the most multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial America ever --- I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future.


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