NPR to end ‘Talk of the Nation,’ keep ‘Science Friday’

March 29, 2013
Category: Uncategorized

NPR | WBUR | The New York Times
“Talk of the Nation,” the Monday through Thursday afternoon staple of NPR hosted by veteran Neal Conan, will end its 21-year run this summer, the organization announced Friday morning.

NPR is pushing its member affiliates to replace the show with an expanded, two-hour version of “Here & Now,” produced by Boston’s WBUR, from 2-4 p.m. Eastern. That show’s Robin Young will gain a co-host, “Marketplace Morning Report”‘s Jeremy Hobson, and “add a total of six people to produce the expanded show,” the Boston public radio station’s Curt Nickisch writes. The switch begins July 1.

WBUR General Manager Charles Kravetz said, “There’s going to be a lot more NPR content and bloggers and reporters and editors who are going to contribute to the program. But at the core, the great program that Here & Now is will still be there and get better and better.”

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter reports NPR has been working for more than two years with larger member stations to produce content more in demand by its audience. “The stations wanted a magazine-style news show at the middle of the day, something along the lines of ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘All Things Considered,’ the two bookends of most stations’ weekday schedules,” Stelter writes.

“Here & Now,” currently airing on 182 member stations in mostly smaller markets vs. “TOTN”‘s 407, will switch from its current distributor, Public Radio International, and will be distributed by NPR starting this summer, the Times says.

The partnership marks the first time that NPR, a national supplier of newscasts and shows, has linked arms with a station in this way. “Together, we’re addressing both what the audience is looking for and what member stations have been looking for,” said Kinsey Wilson, the chief content officer for NPR.

It means the end of Conan’s 35-year career at the radio network, and 11 as host of “Talk of the Nation.” According to a statement, the 63-year old “will step away from the rigors of daily journalism” when the show ends at the end of June. The network praised Conan in its statement:

“Neal brings extraordinary depth and insight to every story he touches,” said Margaret Low Smith, Senior Vice President of News, NPR. “He connects deeply with the audience and will leave a legacy of excellence, having skillfully carried NPR, our Member Stations and the nation through some of the most important news of the last decade, setting the standard for high quality call-in talk programming.”

NPR’s David Folkenflik and Mark Memmott noted on The Two-Way blog that NPR is carrying a $7 million budget deficit, but executives insist that was not a factor in ending “TOTN.” The broadcaster is instead “ensuring that money and personnel are being used in ways that make sense in today’s media environment.”

While Science Friday with Ira Flatow will remain in “TOTN”‘s Friday time slot, Folkenflik says via Twitter it’s “not clear” what will happen to “TOTN”‘s staff.

(Wilson is a Poynter trustee.)

So far, Conan hasn’t offered much reaction to the news, other than to reply to a shoutout from veteran business journalist and Central Michigan University professorMichelle Maynard on Friday morning.

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