Thomas Friedman, The New York Times’ resident imbecile (sorry, Pulitzer Price Award Winning imbecile) wrote an idiotic tome some years back entitled The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, which (to my dismay) met with critical acclaim. As he made the rounds on all the popular public broadcasting outlets, I listened in horror as this charlatan spoke about fuzzy concepts he called "flatiners." Matt Tiabbi, of Rolling Stone Magazine (among others), and author of Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season, soundly panned Friedman's book in this review at New York Press, and vindicated my point of view that TF (aka THAT Fu*ker) has fallen as far over the edge as the cover of his collection of recent, worldly musings would suggest.
In today's online version of Current, the public broadcasting trade magazine, Dana Davis Rehm, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships for National Public Radio gives her pep talk about how NPR and Member Stations will stem the tide of its own media and membership flattening (a Friedman-esque mixed metaphor). Audience numbers have leveled -- have been flattening for some time. Subscriber contributions are down -- have been leveling for some time. Read her prescriptions, and decide for yourself what you think about her solutions and your own local public radio stations. Can you guess what will happen next?
The fact is that NPR and many public radio stations have been privy to this information -- declining audience -- for some time. They saw the trends more than 5 years ago, but most member stations did very little about it -- except buy and observe the data. But, short of another major nation-wide or world-wide disaster, NPR's audience will continue to shrink, as it (quite literally) dies off. Recent cuts and draw-downs at large, financially sound public radio stations and networks are real. Minnesota Public Radio predicts staff cuts, and WBEZ in Chicago recently dropped 2 local shows it produces. And yesterday, NPR announced that it was dropping the Bryant Park Project, a $2-million show (experiment) aimed specifically at a younger audience demographic.
And what is the strategic plan for NPR and its member stations? Rely upon you -- the subscriber. Once again, NPR and Member Stations will continue to balance the books on the backs of individuals, at a time when individuals have fewer dollars to spend. They know that you will feel guilty enough to do the right thing. So, just do it!
Simultaneously, strong member stations and networks will start to "partner" with weaker ones. That means Member Station consolidation; mergers and acquisitions. Non-profit language is so chicken shit. This isn't a "partnership." It is survival of the fittest. The "more public radio is better for everyone" maxim was as horse shit when I first heard it years ago as it is today. More is always better for everyone, so long as the pie is getting bigger. The pie is shrinking. The world is flat. Oh yeah, and guys like Tom Friedman are freakin' geniuses!
Here's a thought, why doesn't someone go on just one public broadcasting outlet -- radio, television, NPR, member station -- I don't care, and tell people, EXPERTS like Tom Friedman, Mara Liasson, Juan Williams, and Cokie Roberts, that they are completely full of shit? Sorry, full of talking points? Full of conventional wisdom? That would be some interesting public radio CONTENT! I bet that would get some listener-subscribers ringing the pledge lines!