The Marketing of NPR

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 12, 2011

Whatever the “core audience” that NPR has cultivated, here’s one vote in favor of ensuring that the organization doesn’t change all that much. I doubt that there are only a few right-of-center types like me who enjoy NPR, but however few like me there may be, I am perfectly willing to cop to liking the programs on NPR in general, and on my local NPR station in particular. Part of the reason I like NPR is that it allows me to find out what is important to its “predominately white, liberal, highly educated, elite” audience, so that as a highly educated, libertarian-conservative elite individual, I can understand what the other side is thinking, what their arguments are on the issues of the day, what the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments are, and how those arguments may challenge my thinking. I suppose that it would be easy to be like Paul Krugman, and pay attention only to those who agree with me. But there is no possibility of substantial intellectual growth if one goes that route.

If NPR chooses to try to reach out to highly educated, libertarian-conservative elites like me, I would not be entirely displeased. But I can find really smart right-of-center news outlets elsewhere. I rely on NPR to be what it is, so that I can get a sense of what issues are important to the other side of the partisan divide. Thus, if NPR changes its personality, I will lose out on the type of news and information that it is uniquely equipped to give me.

  • Anonymous

    And don’t forget about Car Talk.

    I don’t disagree that NPR’s a good source for such opinion, but I question whether it remains a leading indicator. Would your time be better spent reviewing a small collection of newspapers and center-left blogs? (Despite feeling strongly that this is true for the center-right, I ask this with no particular bias. Perhaps NPR began dosing their tote bags with a mildly addictive compound in recent years; I don’t know.)

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      I suppose that I should add that part of the reason I listen is nostalgia; I have been listening since I was a kid. And programs like Car Talk and Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me are funny and informative. I review newspapers and lefty blogs as well (I am an omnivore when it comes to information), but find that NPR reflects the interests and concerns of many on the left rather well. It has become much better about reflecting the interests and concerns of those on the right too, but it has a long way to go on that front. Overall, it is a very good information source in general, and a particularly good information source when it comes to finding out what the other side is thinking.

      • T. K. Tortch

        Car Talk could probably find private sponsorship, if it came down to it.

  • Caius

    “Part of the reason I like NPR is that it allows me to…understand what the other side is thinking…”

    Can’t find the exact quote, but GK Chesterton wrote something to the effect that the true partisan listens to his opponent’s arguments as eagerly as a spy listens to his enemy’s battle plans.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      I like that quote.

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