5 thoughts on “NPR’s Michael Oreskes: “There probably hasn’t been enough change inside NPR”

  1. Thank you, Mr. Oreskes, for so deftly disabusing the interviewer of his own ill-begotten biases about race/ethnicity and politics. And thanks for having the courage to make substantive changes to the flagship (read: seemingly untouchable) shows.

        • I’m not typecasting, I’m talking about simple probabilities. Ample data show that people of color in the U.S. are much more likely than the general population to lean left, and very, very few identify with the Republican Party. Overlay the fact that we’re talking about journalists, who as a group also tend to lean left (http://www.journalism.org/2006/10/06/the-american-journalist/ ), and NPR’s efforts to bring in more journalists of color are, statistically, very unlikely to also bring more conservative and/or Republican journalists to the organization, which is all I said to Oreskes. You can call it typecasting, I’ll call it math.

          All that said, I still think it’s vitally important for NPR and other public media orgs to foster and recruit far more journalists of color. I rail about it on my show almost every week, and much of the reason I got into higher ed (I teach journalism at Mercer University) was to help fix this problem. We’ve placed an enormous emphasis on minority recruitment and scholarships at our program, and our model is designed to make our graduates hirable straight out of school instead of having to endure a year or more of unpaid internships (a de facto requirement of the industry that effectively excludes anyone who isn’t privileged enough to be able to work for free).

          However, I also think it’s equally important for the people in public media orgs to more closely reflect the political orientation of the county (here’s 6,000 words I wrote about why: https://current.org/2015/06/why-public-media-journalists-should-drop-the-fig-leaf-of-impartiality/ ). And while public media has taken lots of steps to rectify its lack of ethnic diversity, it has done almost nothing to rectify its lack of political diversity. And I think it’s important for us to recognize that our efforts on the former are not likely to help is with the latter. Only then will we start to take substantive steps to deal with the problem of ideological homogeneity on its own terms.

  2. I’m glad Oreskes acknowledges the very, very real “trust gap” between member stations and NPR central. He’s in an unfortunate position, though…required to deal with that trust gap full-frontal yet having limited ability to really fix it since it’s primarily a CEO leadership problem that…IMHO…Jarl Mohn has at least not made any worse (more than can be said for most of Mohn’s predecessors) but he hasn’t really done much to make it better, either.

    That said, there are three things that, again, IMHO, Oreskes could do that would help a great deal with the trust gap:

    1. First and foremost: require NPR.org to eat its own dog food. Instead of a separate web platform, NPR has to use the same system that all member stations get through NPR Digital Services. (note: every member station, whether they use the badly under-resourced and heavily-flawed NPR:DS product or not, still has to pay NPR for the privilege…this particular atrocity needs to end, too.)

    2. Start ATC at 3pm ET, not 4pm. The world has changed, and many, many more people work “flex time” of 7am to 3pm these days. ATC is missing out on a major hunk of afternoon drive by not starting at 3pm.

    3. Push NPR to add to its mission statement that its mission to act for the betterment of its member stations. That there is no formal codification that NPR benefits when its member stations do better is a glaring oversight, and it’s allowed many, many ill-advised “digital first” strategies to be pursued at the expense of member stations that ultimately hurt NPR badly, too. Obvious Oreskes cannot change the mission statement alone, but his would be a powerful voice in that chorus.

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