NPR launching new diversity initiative with $1.5 million from CPB

NPR
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has granted NPR $1.5 million to help launch a “major journalism initiative to deepen coverage of race, ethnicity and culture, and to capture the issues that define an increasingly diverse America.” The team will be assembled this autumn, NPR and CPB announced at UNITY’s annual convention Thursday.

The project will be overseen by Ellen McDonnell, NPR’s executive editor of news programming. An NPR spokesperson says the project team will be comprised of six people, including correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates (already on the diversity beat at NPR) and an editor, Luis Clemens. On Thursday, NPR posted four job openings related to the new project, advertising for a correspondent/blogger, a news reporter, an apprentice reporter and an apprentice journalist. Matt Thompson, a former member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board and the project manager for NPR’s Project Argo, will manage the buildout of the digital platform for this project, too.

The $1.5 million is to be spent over two years. After covering the cost of six people, I asked, what would the news org do with the rest of the budget. NPR senior vice president Dana Davis Rehm said, “I think the budget is fairly lean, really,” with salaries and travel expenses eating up the grant fairly quickly.

This past April, NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos wrote about diversity on NPR’s staff, which he judged to be “significantly better than the industry averages in radio, television and newspapers.” The press release for this diversity initiative says it’s “part of a multi-year strategic imperative: to ensure that NPR ‘looks and sounds like America on air and online.’ ”

In Schumacher-Matos’ post, he wrote about NPR’s audience, too, and noted 45 percent of its listeners have household incomes over $100,000. Among that group, racial differences weren’t all that stark:

Asians in this category actually out-index whites. Nine percent of these wealthier college educated Asians listen to NPR, compared to less than 8 percent of whites. The percentage among Latinos is close behind at slightly more than 6 percent, followed by African-Americans at 5 percent.

Rehm points out that “30 percent of public radio listeners don’t have a job at all.” She says that the network does “index high” on income, but “it’d be wrong to conclude that’s the composition of the public radio audience.”

In the release, Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for diversity and Poynter’s former dean, said the organization is “tackling diversity across a large swath of differences that include class, gender, ideology, sexual orientation, faith and, with this effort, race, ethnicity and culture.”

Asked whether class would be a focus of this project, Rehm said “It’d be fair to say it’s not a specific target that we’ve laid out, but the whole effort here is about inclusion.”

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  • Anonymous

    Here is a tip NPR…hire Niggggerss who speak Ebonics….that will widen your audience, lets hear the lastest awful rap tunes…talkin bout mi nigggazzs.

    NPR is for the 1% anyway…

  • Anonymous

    Any chance of asking what will happen to the “initiative” once the $1.5 million runs out? Is NPR committed to the initiative beyond the life span of the grant? Will they have a line item for this department in future budgets? How big will the budget be? 

    NPR’s release says:
    “CPB intends to provide initial support for the project with a two-year, $1.5 million grant, as part of its mission to strengthen and advance public media’s service, particularly to those who are un-served or underserved by commercial media.”

    Let’s see how NPR fulfills this. I am already concerned because the release says that:
    “With this work, NPR hopes to grow on-going efforts to expand its audience with coverage that is welcoming and relevant to more people – reaching those who are more racially, geographically and ideologically diverse.”

    I would have felt better if NPR wanted to serve its audience better, rather than just expand it.

  • Anonymous

    Any chance of asking what will happen to the “initiative” once the $1.5 million runs out? Is NPR committed to the initiative beyond the life span of the grant? Will they have a line item for this department in future budgets? How big will the budget be? 

    NPR’s release says:
    “CPB intends to provide initial support for the project with a two-year, $1.5 million grant, as part of its mission to strengthen and advance public media’s service, particularly to those who are un-served or underserved by commercial media.”

    Let’s see how NPR fulfills this. I am already concerned because the release says that:
    “With this work, NPR hopes to grow on-going efforts to expand its audience with coverage that is welcoming and relevant to more people – reaching those who are more racially, geographically and ideologically diverse.”

    I would have felt better if NPR wanted to serve its audience better, rather than just expand it.

  • Anonymous

    At its inception (and for many years after), NPR covered diversity AND class issues better than most media outlets. This changed over time as NPR chose to depend more and more on corporate funding and consequently became more and more corporatist itself. At this point, they are so far removed from their earlier incarnation that the ombudsman is relegated to defending NPR’s diversity by the content of their newsroom rather than the content of their coverage.

    And, of course, their corporatist outlook prevents them from making thir commitment to covering class issues any more firm than a vague “the whole effort here is about inclusion”.

  • Anonymous

    I’d hope a professional writer would know that a team is not comprised of six people but that a team comprises six people.