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NPR To End Production Of 'Talk Of The Nation'


From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH HOST: And I'm Audie Cornish.

NPR announced today it will stop producing its call-in program TALK OF THE NATION. The end will come this summer after more than two decades on the air. The show's host Neal Conan has decided to leave the network.

As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, the network will offer instead a news magazine in partnership with Boston Public Radio station WBUR.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: TALK OF THE NATION is heard by more than 3.5 million people each week on more than 400 public radio stations. NPR chief content officer Kinsey Wilson said the show inspired many others around the public radio system and noted that NPR distributes several of them nationally, including WBUR's ON POINT with Tom Ashbrook and WAMU's THE DIANE REHM SHOW.

KINSEY WILSON: Those remain a vibrant part of what we do. This is really an opportunity for NPR to pivot a bit and to make sure that 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.

FOLKENFLIK: Wilson said many public radio station officials had been seeking a mid-day show that would knit together the four hours between the end of MORNING EDITION's final cycle at 12:00 noon Eastern with a 4:00 pm eastern start of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. It should have the ability to move more nimbly, to fold in new developments when major news breaks. The new show to accomplish that will be an expanded two-hour week-day version of WBUR HERE AND NOW, previously distributed by Public Radio International.

Host Robin Young will be joined by former NPR producer and current Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson. They'll be on call for another two hours to update the show. HERE AND NOW is expected to rely heavily on public radio member station reporters as well as NPR's journalists. WBUR will share both the costs and the rewards of the show's expansion.

CHARLIE KRAVETZ: It is a perilous time for journalism in America. Great journalistic institutions are falling away, the business models it supported. Journalism in America has been disrupted dramatically by the digital age. And it's time that public radio, which is generally in good health, think about new ways to work together to unleash the power of the journalism that exists across the public radio system.

FOLKENFLIK: That WBUR General Manager Charlie Kravetz.

KRAVETZ: Public radio news and NPR News has gone from being an alternative source of news to being a primary source of news for millions of Americans.

FOLKENFLIK: HERE AND NOW is currently heard by 1.35 million listeners each week on 182 stations, less than half the audience of TALK OF THE NATION. But the Boston-based show has seen its audience grow by roughly 20 percent over the last two years. HERE AND NOW will expand to two hours and add six staffers as it seeks to win over those stations now broadcasting TALK OF THE NATION. NPR faces a $7 million deficit on projected revenues of about $173 million this year, leading to a slowdown in permanent hires and cuts in travel spending.

NPR's Wilson said, he hopes to offer newsroom jobs to all TALK OF THE NATION staffers within 90 days and that Neal Conan would have been welcome to stay despite his decision to leave. While savings will result from the cancellation of the show, Wilson said, that was not the primary reason for doing this.

WILSON: The board has made strategic decisions that we're going to make sure that we're investing smartly in the future so we're here for another 40 years and don't find ourselves being overtaken by changes in technology and people's media consumption habits.

FOLKENFLIK: Wilson acknowledged it would've been tough to launch the new version of HERE AND NOW and to expect to gain traction when TALK OF THE NATION has cast such a big shadow for so many years. SCIENCE FRIDAY will continue production. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.