With credits gone, NPR’s off-mike staffers get silent treatment

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NPR ended the practice Aug. 30 of crediting the off-mike staff behind the scenes of its newsmagazines, citing evidence that the lists of names cue listeners to tune away.

The network had been considering the change for some time, said Margaret Low Smith, senior v.p. of news. In addition, credits could not accommodate all staffers, so those named “ended up being a select slice of people,” Smith said. And stations aren’t always consistent in crediting their own staffs during the newsmagazines.

“It was evolutionary, and it was clear,” she said of the decision.

Morning Edition made a nod to the change that day by ending the show with credits in which editors and producers said their own names, á la Public Radio International’s Studio 360. “I say this sincerely, we could not ask for a better team,” said host David Greene.

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal mentioned the change on Twitter Sept. 3, commenting that listeners’ dislike of the credits didn’t justify NPR’s decision to cut them. He received dozens of replies from listeners who agreed with him and said they liked the credits. Ryssdal pointed out that Marketplace would continue to include credits.

“I guess Kee Malesky will now return to toiling in obscurity,” said tweeter Tom Cronin, referring to the NPR librarian whose name appeared in credits.

Another avid listener who will regret the change is Zippy the Pinhead, the polka-dot-muumuu-wearing, nonsense-spouting comic-strip character created by Bill Griffith. Over his decades in comic form, Zippy has often spouted random names of NPR staffers. Though he favors hosts, in one strip he name-dropped NPR editor Sara Sarasohn and editor and producer Laura Lorson.

Griffith lives in East Haddam, Conn., and works while listening to public radio in Fairfield. He includes the names of NPR staffers in his strips because they have “a mantra-like quality,” and he absorbs them while working. “Whatever captures Zippy’s ear, he regurgitates,” Griffith said.

“If those names are no longer going to be broadcast, Zippy will be bereft,” the cartoonist said. “He’ll have to depend solely on [NPR West Africa correspondent] Ofeibia Quist-Arcton for his name mantras.”

Weekend listeners shouldn’t fear: The signature credits on Car Talk will remain untouched.

This article was first published in Current, Sept. 9, 2013.

2 thoughts on “With credits gone, NPR’s off-mike staffers get silent treatment

  1. Why is Mike Janssen’s name missing from this article? He looked up Zippy the Pinhead’s phone number before, and asked him questions for an interview? How dare you, NPR!

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