NPR cancels ‘Tell Me More,’ will eliminate 28 positions

NPR

NPR will cancel “Tell Me More” and eliminate 28 positions, David Folkenflik reports. Eight of the positions are unfilled, NPR tells Poynter in an email. “Ultimately, NPR’s total headcount will be seven percent lower than the level it stood at last year,” he writes. Eleven positions are going at “Tell Me More,” Folkenflik reports on Twitter.

“Tell Me More” is the third program “expressly designed to have a primary appeal for African-American listeners and other people of color” to get the ax at NPR, Folkenflik writes. Host Michel Martin will stay with the network and will “will begin an ambitious roster of live events in the Fall in partnership with Member Stations,” Senior Vice President for News Margaret Low Smith says in a memo. She’ll “be part of an initiative to incorporate the kind of coverage of issues of race, identity, faith, gender and family that appear on the show,” Folkenflik writes.

“I’m so very proud of the work we’ve all done here at Tell Me More for the past seven years,” Martin said in a statement emailed to Poynter. The statement continues:

This outstanding team has reached out to people who would never have had a place on public radio otherwise. We’ve brought new voices, new ideas and a fresh take on things and we’ve proven that this can be done without sacrificing excellence. We’ve also had a lot of fun doing it.

As you imagine, I’m very disappointed with today’s news.

I hoped we could have found a way to save the show, but NPR news management has assured me that the mission that we’ve undertaken will continue in new ways and I’m sticking around be a part of making that happen.

Last March NPR said it would end “Talk of the Nation,” a decision the show’s host, Neal Conan, told Poynter “was not mine.”

Here’s the memo:

Dear All,

Today we are announcing changes in the newsroom to ensure we remain a leader in a dynamic and intensely competitive news environment, while living within NPR’s budget.

To that end, we made the difficult decision to end production of Tell Me More on August 1st. In addition we are eliminating other filled and unfilled positions across the News Division and in the Library. All told today, 28 positions will be eliminated. Eight of those positions are vacant. These hard choices are part of a plan that restructures the newsroom for the future. As we move forward, our guiding principles are a newsroom that unites our audio and digital storytelling capabilities; sharpens our editorial focus; allows us to create journalism of distinction across multiple platforms; and reflects the diversity of American life. Though we have cut positions, we are also creating new ones and have a number of open jobs.

While the economics of producing Tell Me More as a daily show have been challenging, we recognize the enormous talents on this team. Members of the Tell Me More staff have been catalysts for change within NPR. They have cultivated impressive sources, introduced new and vital voices to our audiences and have advanced NPR’s mission with skill and creativity.

Michel will remain with NPR and the issues and perspectives that she and the show team have brought to public radio will be infused into every aspect of our journalism. To do that, we are creating a new editorial team led by Carline Watson. This plan means that Michel will reach an even larger audience with an expansive portfolio on air, online and in communities across the country.

There will be five new positions to support this and other editorial efforts in the newsroom. Michel will begin an ambitious roster of live events in the Fall in partnership with Member Stations. She will also produce regular segments for our news magazines and be incorporated broadly into our daily news coverage in ways that draw on her deep reporting and interviewing experience. This cross-platform effort will extend Michel’s voice to new and existing audiences and will add her depth and sensibility to our coverage of relevant topics, including education, families, faith, race and social issues.

This approach will complement the efforts of the Code Switch team and Michele Norris’s The Race Card Project. We will build close collaboration between the members of these teams and space for their work across our shows and platforms. All these teams will play a pivotal role in crafting our approach.

Lynette Clemetson will step into a new role as Director of Editorial Initiatives to oversee this transition and tackle other major projects as they emerge. She will work closely with Madhulika Sikka, Scott Montgomery and Chris Turpin to embed this work in the newsroom and to ensure its success.

These changes align with others we are making throughout the newsroom. Our aim is to build editorial hubs that combine the digital and audio skills of reporters, editors, producers and bloggers around specific areas of focus. Through this approach, we believe we can better serve our audiences, whether that means a deeply reported, sound-rich story for Morning Edition or a post for one of our increasingly successful blogs.

The other changes you will see:

–We are creating a new News Desk to serve as the hub for breaking news and quick turn-around stories. This will bring together two units that already coordinate naturally: our Two Way news bloggers and our newscasters. In addition, we will assign two reporters to respond in fast and interesting ways to news of the day. Deputy Managing Editors Chuck Holmes and Gerry Holmes will oversee the Two Way team as well as the reporters. Robert Garcia will continue to oversee Newscast.

 –We will turn our Washington Desk into another multiplatform hub committed to original and enterprise reporting on politics and policy. After 15 years, Ron Elving is looking forward to stepping away from the desk leadership role. As senior editor/correspondent, he will continue to bring his deep knowledge to air, edit reporters and contribute to our blog. Beth Donovan is stepping up to lead the team. Charlie Mahtesian will be her deputy.

–In the same way, we will combine the radio and digital teams covering the arts into a hub for Arts and Culture. Ellen Silva will lead that team.

These new hubs will join those that are already up and running, such as our newly launched Education team and our Global Health and Development hub.

– As the editors and reporters in Digital News move into the larger newsroom desk and hub structure, the remaining digital teams — homepage, web production and Visuals — will gain new focus and a new mandate to lead our understanding of digital audiences and how to serve them in the most meaningful way.

This plan is driven by both an ambitious vision for our newsroom and by budget realities.  In a fast-changing environment, we can never rule out other staff changes, but we have no plans for further cuts to get to break even in FY15. 

Today’s news is especially hard on those who are losing their jobs. It is important to know that these cuts are based on the nature of the positions, not a judgment on the contributions of individual staff. All of the people whose positions are being eliminated have been notified and we will take great care to support them through this difficult transition.  Lists of openings have been provided to all those affected and will be posted internally in short order.

While this is a difficult moment, it is important to remember the millions of people who rely on us for the quality of our reporting and the power of our storytelling. That is not changing. Our audience chooses us because of the extraordinary work that each and every one of you do every day. For that I remain eternally grateful.

We will be holding a series of News All Staff meetings today and over the course of this week to talk about these changes in greater detail. Meetings will be held at the times outlined below and we will circulate remote listening details in advance. There is also an all-staff meeting tomorrow.

All the best,

Margaret

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  • Ronald Chris Schmidt

    NPR has such a good rep when it comes to Non-White staff and programming. Not really.

    Sure, I’m a white man in my fifties who lives in rural Oregon and probably not the targeted audience, but I will miss this show, especially Friday’s Barbershop roundtable segment.

    This show programs news and views I never get in my small part of the universe, and for me and others I resemble, whether left-wing, right-wing or just middle-of-the-bird, this show is priceless in value and importance. Please reconsider; we’ll forgive the misstep.

  • ronmacreid

    I always catch ‘Tell me More’ in the car and often have to wait till the segment is over before I can go about my business. Michel Martin is always on top of the story: informative, thought-provocative and well-researched. I’m a fan. NPR’s loss.

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  • ljatlanta

    “Tell Me More” was an enjoyable and informative show. I’m sorry to hear that it’s being canceled.

    Larry Felton Johnson

  • MissSuccess

    I loved ‘Tell Me More.’ Sad.