NPR

NPR: The Trials and Triumphs of National Public Radio

Michael P. McCauley
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/mcca12160
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  • Book Info
    NPR
    Book Description:

    The people who shaped America's public broadcasting system thought it should be "a civilized voice in a civilized community" -- a clear alternative to commercial broadcasting. This book tells the story of how NPR has tried to embody this idea. Michael P. McCauley describes NPR's evolution from virtual obscurity in the early 1970s, when it was riddled with difficulties -- political battles, unseasoned leadership, funding problems -- to a first-rate broadcast organization.

    The book draws on a wealth of primary evidence, including fifty-seven interviews with people who have been central to the NPR story, and it places the network within the historical context of the wider U.S. radio industry. Since the late 1970s, NPR has worked hard to understand the characteristics of its audience. Because of this, its content is now targeted toward its most loyal listeners -- highly educated baby-boomers, for the most part -- who help support their local stations through pledges and fund drives.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50995-4
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 A LYCEUM OF THE AIRWAVES
    (pp. 1-12)

    When I first began to study the history of National Public Radio, I did not expect very much in the way of adventure. Given the civilized tone of the stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, I had no reason to think these shows would inspire the same level of passion as a playoff series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Over time, though, I came to realize that NPR’s news programs often did stimulate passionate discussions later in the day, whether at home, in the supermarket, at the gym, or in the lobby of a...

  5. 2 THE VERY FIRST BRUSH STROKES
    (pp. 13-36)

    Noncommercial stations have been part of American broadcasting from the very beginning. There is no literal connection between educational radio and Justin Morrill’s effort to create land-grant colleges in the Civil War era, but for some observers, America’s pioneer educational stations seemed a natural extension of Morrill’s imperative to expand the reach of a modern university to every corner of its home state. The extent of early educational broadcasting is surprising, as more than seventy colleges and other institutions secured radio licenses by the end of 1922. In 1930, a group of forward-thinking broadcasters envisioned “a network of educational stations...

  6. 3 THE PRICE OF FAME
    (pp. 37-68)

    The people who worked at NPR in the summer of 1973 had every right to wonder what their network might actually become when it grew up. This chapter charts the transition from the network Don Quayle bequeathed to his top assistant in 1973 to a completely revamped organization that emerged less than four years later. The corporate makeover became necessary, in part, because of a lack of leadership skills on the part of NPR’s second president, Lee Frischknecht, but even more important was the growing influence of another force in public broadcasting—Bill Kling of Minnesota Public Radio. Kling was...

  7. 4 PHOENIX RISING
    (pp. 69-90)

    National Public Radio badly needed a dose of stability after the debt crisis, and it came in the form of a new president. Douglas Bennet was a career civil servant who, like his predecessor, knew little about the business of public broadcasting. However, he did have a doctorate from Harvard, excellent political connections, a hard-nosed business sense, and a conviction, heretofore lacking at NPR, that member stations were important clients. This chapter begins with the ways in which Bennet worked to right the network’s financial ship and to ensure that it developed compelling new programs for the audience. During his...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 5 A CIVILIZED VOICE IN A NEW MEDIA ENVIRONMENT
    (pp. 91-130)

    In surveying the history of National Public Radio, one gets the sense that something has always been missing. From the very beginning, the U.S. public radio system had no unitary sense of mission; it is small wonder, then, that the two most important figures in NPR’s early years struggled so hard to find their place in the broadcasting food chain. A vacuum in leadership developed following this period, prompting a hostile takeover at first and, later on, bringing the threat of financial ruin. In time, the network made amends with people who felt burned by its performance, whether funders, lawmakers,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 131-160)
  11. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 161-176)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 177-186)