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NPR announced this morning that it's asking 10 percent of staff to take a buyout in order to balance the budget. What does this mean for the future of public radio?
National Public Radio announced this morning that they're going to be asking 10 percent of their staff to take a buyout. NPR said it needs to cut its staff of 840 in order to balance their budget, which is operating cash deficit of $6.1 million.
There's also a new acting CEO effective at the end of this month. Southern Californian Paul Haaga, a longtime KPCC supporter and former chairman of Capital Research and Management in Los Angeles will be taking over when current NPR CEO Gary Knell leaves to head the National Geographic Society.
So what does this mean for public radio generally? Does it mean any changes for KPCC?
KPCC 's Vice President of Content, Russ Stanton, offers his insight on this move by NPR, how it might affect KPCC and how public media can sustain itself in an uncertain media landscape.
On the distinction between NPR and KPCC:
"National Public Radio, as its name indicates, is a national news organization. They've got a big staff of informed bureaus around the world and a lot of bureaus in the United States, and they're focused on those two segments. Like us, they're a nonprofit news organization. We focus all of our efforts on Southern California and the state of California, primarily. We are a unit of American Public Media, which is based in St. Paul, Minn."
On whether there are any programming announcements at this time:
"No, we haven't heard any, and, in fact, this move has been well-telegraphed by NPR for months. It's not any secret that they've been having an operating deficit. Today is the first time we've seen a number attached to the staff reduction, and it appears to be across the board, not just in the newsroom. 10 percent, they've got about 800 and some people there, half of those are in the newsroom, so if they spread it out equally, it would be about 40 or so folks.
"They haven't indicated that there will be any cuts to any of the shows right now. We run about eight of them over our programming schedule: 'Morning Edition,' 'All Things Considered' and 'Science Friday during the weekdays, and then on the weekends we run the shows either produced or distributed by NPR: 'The TED Radio Hour,' 'Ask Me Another,' 'Tell Me More,' 'Latino USA' and 'Snap Judgment.'"
On why the $220 million Kroc Endowment doesn't prevent cuts:
"What they're trying to do where is be a very fiscally responsible news organization and not have to tap that. That was, I believe, given by Ms. Kroc for the longterm betterment of news media coverage in America, particularly in the public media space, and they're trying to — like all news organizations that are going through this great disruption that the Internet has brought to out business — figure out how to restructure in such a way that they can accurately and competently cover the news within their financial means."
On having to preside over staff cuts:
"When the reality hits, it's never any fun. Staff reductions are miserable and heartbreaking work in a news organization, as they are with any company. It has an effect in morale, and if not properly managed by the news organization — and I think NPR has done a great job of telegraphing this — you want to not have the audience worry too much about the product that they're going to be consuming."
On how NPR got into this $6 million cash deficit:
"There isn't a news organization in this country that hasn't been affected by the disruption that the Internet has brought to the media business over the past 15 or so years. NPR like most news organizations has seen a decline in advertising, or in public media we call it underwriting spots by sponsors. There's been a lot of talk and handwringing on Capitol Hill about how much the federal government needs to be financing public media. The great recession that began five or six years ago has had an effect on the audience's ability to give, and that's also been a factor for NPR and for us."
On the cuts despite NPR's strong brand and popularity:
"I think the trick for the management team at NPR, which is terrific, as the challenge is for any management team in media today, is to figure out how to make these reductions in the most seamless way possible so that the net effect is — to the degree possible — not noticeable by the audience."
On whether KPCC will end up with programming changes:
"We like to joke around here that the programming job is never done. I think it's important to note that in recent years NPR has only canceled one program, 'Talk of the Nation.' We've replaced it and some other spots on our programming schedule with other shows.
"There is a healthy aspect to this in that there's been a lot of introspective thinking within the public media system about the ability to add new shows and new voices to the programming mix. From that standpoint there is an upside to this, but, again, NPR has done a great job of limiting the headcount damage in terms of how that is noticed or affected programming."