Sunday, June 16, 2013

Media: The Continued Self-destruction of NPR

Harry Shearer made a very important film entitled The Big Uneasy.  It's easily one of the most important documentaries of the last decade.  So promoting it should have been a breeze.  Harry accepted an offer to appear on NPR's Talk of the Nation and hoped that other NPR shows -- like Morning Edition and All Things Considered -- would book him as a guest as well.

That didn't happen.

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"Instead," then-NPR ombudsperson Alicia C. Shepard wrote in September of 2010,  "Shearer learned how territorial NPR shows can be. Shearer appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation (TOTN) on Aug. 26. TOTN airs on 328 public radio stations and reaches an audience of 3.2 million a week."

By choosing Talk of the Nation, he wasn't able to go on Morning Edition or All Things Considered due to a "Dibs List" policy which prevents the same entertainment guest from appearing on more than one NPR produced program (unless, of course, they're an NPR on-air hawking a book, then the "Dibs List" 'rule' is tossed aside).

The policy was supposedly about creating a level playing field for all of NPR's shows.

It was a joke when Shepard was explaining it in 2010 and it became more of a joke last week.

At the end of April, we offered "Media: NPR Chatter (Because NPR Can't Do News)" and we noted how NPR's Morning Edition booked faded TV star Jerry Seinfeld and guffawed at his statements -- even the ones that were obvious lies.  There was no reason to book him but how they howled with laughter while he plugged his new series -- a web series because even NBC isn't interested in Seinfeld anymore.

It was one shot for Harry and his important documentary.  But with bad web shows, it's twice the promotional effort which is how Jerry showed up last Thursday on Morning Edition again to promote his bad web series.

As Shepard explained the policy, Harry's one appearance on Talk of the Nation meant nothing else for five months.  Yet Jerry's been given two prime spots on Morning Edition to promote his bad show.  It's a cheap-o series that you wouldn't even indulge a 14-year-old over but there was Linda Wertheimer praising it like it was Bergman and Truffaut:

Now, I have to say though that the thing that I thought was enormously appealing about this program is how much you appear to love doing it. And after all of those sort of years of kind of deadpan comedy that we're used to from you, there you are, you're just laughing your head off at things that people say to you.

Love doing it?

Love tired smut and discrimination passed off as funny, you mean?  Inside the car, Sarah gets excited.

Sarah Silverman:  Ew, these switches!  

Jerry Seinfeld:  Isn't this kind of cool?  James Bondy?

Sarah Silverman:  So old timey!  Oh my God, my nephew, when he was little, would have gone crazy for this.  Does your son like windshield wipers?

Jerry Seinfeld: No.

Sarah Silverman:  Is he gay?

That's funny?  Whether 10-year-old Julian or eight-year-old Shepherd is gay?   That 'joke' is so old that it predates the internet.

As Sarah Silverman demonstrates, lonely gals tend to be obsessed with gay men as an 'oddity' and have to reference them as such.  So when Jerry brings up sense of humor, Silverman naturally has to return to the topic.

Sarah Silverman:  It's almost like homosexuality.  Like, gay men are pretty much born gay.

Jerry Seinfeld:  Mmm-hmm.

Sarah Silverman:  And women too.  But then there are some women that kind of like --

Jerry Seinfeld:  They pick it up.

Sarah Silverman:  Pick it up. 

Jerry Seinfeld:  Mmm-hmm.

Sarah Silverman:  But it's like you're either kind of born that way  --

Jerry Seinfeld:  Men are pretty much born gay.

Sarah Silverman:  Not all men.

Jerry Seinfeld:  The 'pretty much' bothered me.

Sarah Silverman:  Why?

They both laugh.

But the only thing funny is that this episode was the focus of NPR's Morning Edition for over seven minutes.

"The program looks like it's very simple," offers Linda Wertheimer to Jerry Seinfeld.

You ain't just whistling Bruno Mars' "The Lazy Song," Linda!

Sarah Silverman shares of the car she drives, to just picture, "any classic lesbian car."  She then goes on to discuss her friends who do not wipe their bottoms very well -- only in more graphic detail.

This is programming NPR sees fit to plug twice in three months.

Silly Harry Shearer!  Wasting everyone's time with soil and flood-control experts when he should have been talking about fecal matter or how 'strange' gay people are.  That would have led to saturation coverage on NPR.  But making a movie documenting how the government failed a people?  Well that just lacks the infotainment factor NPR now requires.

And it just gets worse.  As if Morning Edition's new 'cooking' segment wasn't bad enough -- it's not a cooking segment, it's an attempt at being cute and clever (an attempt far beyond NPR) -- now comes the news that they're about to start a segment called "the Booze Round. We want to see the strange mystery bottles that are hanging out in your liquor cabinet, so head on over to, shoot a picture and submit it."  It's hard to imagine that they could get any further from their vision statement:

  • NPR, with its network of independent member stations, is America's pre-eminent news institution.
  • We strive to inform our democracy and culture by bringing important stories, insight and delight to audiences everywhere.
  • NPR innovates and leads; we discover and develop new talent and ideas.
  • We seek out new audiences and search for ways to be more essential, using every available platform of communication - across the nation and around the world.

It's hard to imagine that they could get any further from their vision statement but, we're sure, given  a few more months, they'll manage to not only get even further from the statement but to also to become even more useless.

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