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Robin Young. (WBUR)

NPR To Discontinue 'Talk Of The Nation'

Mar 29, 2013

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Reported by

David Folkenflik

NPR announced Friday morning that it will no longer produce the Monday-to-Thursday call-in show Talk of the Nation.

It will be replaced by Here and Now, a show produced in partnership with member station WBUR in Boston. Reported stories will be part of the show's format.

Neal Conan, Talk of the Nation's host, will depart after more than three decades with the network. His past positions include stints as bureau chief in New York and London and as NPR's foreign editor, managing editor and news director.

NPR executives said public radio has a glut of vibrant call-in shows involving national issues — and that they sought a newsmagazine with a mix of interviews and prepared stories to bridge the hours between Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Executives said the move is not budget-related, though the network is running a $7 million deficit this fiscal year. Executives say Conan was welcome to stay with NPR and that they intend to offer jobs to every staffer working for Talk of the Nation.

Here and Now host Robin Young will be joined by Jeremy Hobson of Marketplace Morning Report, and NPR reporters will be contributing work as well.

Here and Now is on far fewer stations than Talk of the Nation — 182 versus 407 — but it has been growing. NPR executives hope stations that previously carried Talk of the Nation will pick up its replacement.

Science Friday, NPR's weekly science talk show that airs at the end of the workweek in the hours that Talk of the Nation broadcasts from Monday to Thursday, is to continue.

Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. Neal Conan:

"I remain profoundly grateful for all the opportunities provided at NPR over the past 35 years," Neal says in a statement sent to the NPR staff. "I especially treasure the time here at Talk of the Nation these past eleven years and more. I'm proud that we go out on top, with record station carriage and the largest audience in the program's history."

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Kinsey Wilson, NPR's Executive Vice President And Chief Content Officer:

On the thinking behind the decision —

"One of the things that Talk of the Nation did incredibly successfully is really set the standard for call-in news talk and in many ways establish a model for the public radio system in how to develop those kinds of shows. In the 20 years that it's been around, and had a very successful run and become the No. 1 one call-in talk show on public radio, there's been a proliferation of other call-in talk shows — some of which we carry — like On Point with Tom Ashbrook, like Diane Rehm. [Those are] very successful in their own right [and] remain a vibrant part of what we do. This is really an opportunity for NPR to pivot a bit and to make sure we're investing in the things that are not as commonly done across the system — and that is providing solid news coverage and strong storytelling across all day parts."

On why it's not just to save money —

"NPR has been addressing the budget deficit in other ways, including cuts in travel and not filling empty jobs. Talk of the Nation has "a very talented staff. Our hope is to find places for everyone to land."

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET. 'Talk' To Go Off The Air At The End Of July; Decision Came After Discussions With Stations:

The New York Times adds that the plan "is the product of discussions that began more than two years ago between NPR and some of its biggest member stations. 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."

"Together, we're addressing both what the audience is looking for and what member stations have been looking for," Kinsey Wilson, NPR's executive vice president and chief content officer, told the Times.

The switch of shows will start July 1, immediately after Talk of the Nation goes off the air, WBUR adds. The Boston station also notes that:

"In 2003, NPR debuted a one-hour mid-day news magazine Day to Day, but canceled the show during the financial crisis three years ago. Today's unusual alliance between NPR and one of its member stations reflects a more pragmatic approach to expanding news coverage. NPR has told staff it expects to run a deficit this year.

" 'Look, it's a tough media economy right now,' said NPR's Wilson. 'And I don't know that anybody can afford to go it alone these days. Collectively, we have much better prospects working together.' "

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Executives Say It's Not About The Deficit:

Network executives say the move is not intended to plug the $7 million deficit, which amounts to less than 4 percent of NPR's annual operating budget. Instead, they say, it's about ensuring that money and personnel are being used in ways that make sense in today's media environment.

(Click here to follow David Folkenflik on Twitter.)

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