Vermont listener questions Schiller on NPR’s online expansion

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When listeners can find NPR programming on the Internet and via so many different mobile devices, what does the future portend for NPR member stations? The question has been increasingly on the minds of station execs this year as NPR rolled out its new iPad and iPhone apps; yesterday Vermont Public Radio’s Jane Lindholm put the question, which came from a listener, to NPR President Vivian Schiller. “No matter what we do, the audience is going to find media in the way that best suits their needs,” Schiller said during an Aug. 12 appearance on Vermont Edition. To provide NPR content exclusively for radio broadcast would be a mistake, the NPR chief added. “Others would step in and provide what I would like to think is inferior coverage” on digital platforms. “It’s really our responsibility to serve the audience however they want.”

Schiller remains “wildly optimistic” about the viability of public radio stations, she said. As local newspapers and TV stations cut their reporting staffs and provide less original news reporting “local public radio stations like VPR are really the only place people can turn to get full spectrum of national and international news, and–more importantly– a local connection to the community, local news, local information.”

Later in the interview, Schiller revealed that one of NPR’s highest newsroom priorities is beefing up foreign coverage by assigning a full-time reporter to South America. And, in all the kerfuffle over Helen Thomas’s seat in the White House pressroom, Schiller said NPR is quite happy that its correspondents are moving into a second-row seat. “Never has there been so much written about a chair!” she said.

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