The End of Tell Me More

Friday, June 20, 2014

Transcript

NPR recently announced that Tell Me More would be cancelled due to financial constraints. As journalist Veralyn Williams put it, it's "The End of NPR's Blackest Show." Brooke talks with Williams and Keith Woods, NPR's VP of Diversity in News and Operations, about the loss and what it means for diversity at NPR. 

Guests:

Veralyn Williams and Keith Woods

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [33]

Sarah from Shenandoah Valley from Shenandoah Valley, VA

npr is deconstructing one of the freshest, deepest, hippest, most diverse hours on radio. They are punishing us all by taking away this excellence we cannot find anywhere else on radio or television. I count on Tell Me More for maximum insight per second of my time. I become aware of much broader swaths of thought, music, opinion, fact, heart, advocacy and even sports through this show, which is a mainstay of my day and week and life. There are so many other places they could have cut, but to take this hallmark of inclusion and diversity away is a breech of trust with those of us who count on npr to be the one place we can find such programs in an otherwise biased to majority interests media environment. NPR: please reconsider and SAVE TELL ME MORE. You shoot yourself in the foot by cutting the budget in this way. Trim elsewhere. Do not excise this excellent and vital program!

Jul. 22 2014 06:47 PM
Edward Becker from Fayetteville, NY

I have enjoyed Tell Me More for quite awhile and I am displeased with the end of the show. I am a 68 yr old white guy that found it fascinating that I was, in most cases in agreement with her and the barber shop guys. This program offered much concerning issues that effect all of us through dialogue between blacks and whites. Why would they cancel an important venue like this?

Jul. 21 2014 02:50 PM
Pat Rydberg from Virginia

I did not like Tell Me More. It concentrates too much on racial issues, and I definitely did not like the Barbershop part of the show. I felt like I was listening to a sports program. I listen to NPR for unbiased political views and I enjoy shows like To the Point and On Point where both sides of an issue are presented in a civil and educated manner.

Jul. 11 2014 11:21 PM
Bret

I haven't listened to TMM, however, I thought the discussion on the podcast was bizarre. NPR is cancelling a show that isn't doing well. Okay, that makes financial sense. Then Veralyn Williams and the organization of churches tries to ramp up the emotional rhetoric about NPR turning it's back on African-Americans. The goal being to create a backlash to make NPR continue to produce a failing show. I could understand if TMM was only slightly lowing money, but nobody actually knows how much money it was losing. I think it's absurd to ramp up the emotional appeals to try to force NPR to subsidize a failed show. It really just seemed like a very self-serving perspective for Veralyn Williams and the organization of churches to take. If they really want the show to continue on the air, then they should subsidize the costs, not this 'We aren't giving enough money to keep it on the air, therefore NPR needs to subsidize the show, or else we're going to paint NPR as selling out the African-American community' kind of rhetoric to guilt NPR into propping up a failed show.

Jul. 08 2014 01:18 PM
MARIAN from NEW ORLEANS, LA

TMM was a program that I had only recently found and had grown to love. I’m sad to see it go. The discussion included the hope that many of the staff will stay at NPR and continue to mature there.

That’s fine, however, having a home base is so important! There needs to be a place where the reporter is not there to give the minority view, but just his or her view of an issue. There needs to be a place where you don’t have to footnote your language, a place where everything you say is not filtered and softened so that the majority can hear it.

Jun. 26 2014 04:18 PM
Marc from New York

I find the comments here interesting. I suppose a news show is doing well, when it is simultaneously, boring and interesting, diverse and racist. fair and biased. Tell Me More is one of my favorite shows, but sometimes I didn't like a segment, and I skip it, but others are facinating and listened to it eagerly. Michelle Martin is a rare host who tries to press her guests -most of the time- but sometimes backs off in order to prevent guests from shutting down. This is probably a difficult task to manage, you want to get the most of the interview.

The show is not perfect, none of them are. Jimmy Isreal grates on the nerves, Mario Loyola sometimes, but I recognize that they are not people I agree with very often, but I think it is great that I get to hear their opinions and others in the Barbershop. TMM is multifaceted, which is why I am surprised that Martin is accused of being race biased or anti Muslim, when I have often heard segments that take an issue from all sides, and many times the only place I have heard positive news stories about things is the Muslim community was on TMM. Over the years the show moderated itself too aware of the types of messages it was sending out, such as the Parenting segments going from moms only to moms and dads, and covering issues of male victimation along with womens issues. It is a difficult balance to strike, and I hope something in the future can take its place. OTM can only do so much being once a week, kinda tongue-in-cheek but still hard hitting.

TMM's biggest problem was being consigned to the Radio desert hours. How to fix it, who knows there are only so many hours in the day, and most of the prime slots are taken up by national magazine shows. So hopefully the best of TMM will show up somewhere else. Keep Michelle Martin, she's brilliant.

Jun. 26 2014 02:39 AM
Janet from Manhattan

They get rid of TMM and they keep Krista Tippit?

Truly, is there any more boring show than Krista Tippit's? On the mornings when I want to hear the beginning of Weekend Edition Sunday, I cringe through the last few minutes of KT. Actually for all I know, she is no longer on then; I stopped listening to the beginning of WES because I didn't want to run into KT. She is without wit, edge, humor, and spark.

Why not get rid of her?

Oh, and while you're at it, bring Bob Edwards back, and get rid of Steve Insky, who has a streak of tense nastiness that makes me glad when I don't have to hear him.

NPR, you're making the wrong decisions.

Jun. 24 2014 11:23 PM
khadija Boyd from Brooklyn

I am so so sorry to see program go. However, to me at least (w/in my innate pseudo arrogance), show was boring. I'd catch it in WashDC, whenever I was there. Our country is multi-dimensional.
kindest regards. k

Jun. 23 2014 11:18 PM
Brandon from Texas

Good riddance. TMM was a racist, liberal mouthpiece. Most of the time, the only reason I would recognize that the show had come on is when I would hear some anti-white nonsense. I'm not surprised it gas a small audience. They aren't quite sure how to 'diversify' their listening base without being hypocritical and pandering to the lowest common denominator. Good luck with that.

Jun. 23 2014 09:34 PM
Trish from Florida

I was surprised to hear a story about NPR not appealing to a diverse audience, yet hear no questions for the ombudsman about the firing of Juan Williams, or about Michele Martin's gender. OTM is usually much more pointed in its questioning, which is a good thing.

I was also disappointed when our local public radio station pulled Tell Me More last year. I thought it was great, and the replacement, alternating reruns of Krista Tippit, etc. leave me using that drive time to listen to podcasts.

I hope Al Letson and State or the Reunion (http://stateofthereunion.com/) will get picked up by more NPR stations.

Jun. 23 2014 04:55 PM
amel from San Francisco, Ca

I have enjoyed the show very much and religiously listened to it! The host is wonderfully amazing facilitator! I hope she will regrow her ideas and be supportedfor that in the near future. Having strong opposing views and guests from different backgrounds as mario loyola & others made it unique & thought-provoking and gave the American listener a chance and an opportunity to hear diverse real opinions from its citizens intellectuals and a taste of free speech from different minds!

Jun. 23 2014 03:28 PM
RJ from brooklyn, NY

I have mixed feelings about TMM--I've liked the show more than I've liked the way Martin interviews, for example--but I do listen from time to time and have found it interesting and learned things. My big question coming out of this segment is: Keith Woods said that the audience was small. Isn't it part of the NPR mission to give a place to programs with small audiences?

Jun. 23 2014 03:05 PM
Megs from NYC

I like others loved TMM. I found that it expanded on conversations in mainstream media in ways most news does not. I didn't like the Barbershop segment ever since one show in which, after Obama was elected, the plight of African Americans was pitted by the boys as more severe than the plight of women. I hate that kind of tit for tat about social justice issues, but even more so when a bunch of men tell a bunch of women how good or bad they have it. So I suppose some editorial decisions were not as progressive as the show as a whole. But I will miss the show so much. I hope Michelle Martin ends up in a great place. She's incredible!

Jun. 23 2014 12:26 PM
Rachel Bernu from Colombo

I was so disappointed to hear Tell Me More was going. I listen to it religiously but not on the radio, I listen to it through the iphone app and am wondering if/ how people like me are included in counting its listenership?

Jun. 23 2014 08:55 AM
Ralph Smith

I wish Keith would have brought up the issue that if more black people would have joined/listen to Tell Me More, then the show would have never been canceled.
I didn't like it, I thought it was racist, and I'm sad that Keith had to get on an apologize for removing a poor radio show.
TV shows and radio shows get canceled all the time, its simple, if enough people watch and/or listen and support a show, then it'll stay on.

I wish more of the NPR shows would get rid of the fluff pieces at the 50 min mark.. just expand the real news/information instead of putting on filler

Jun. 22 2014 09:16 PM
GQ Lewis from Atlanta, GA

I'm very saddened to hear that NPR is canceling Tell Me More. While I once loved listening to NPR, many of the editorial decisions made over the past decade has dismayed me to the point that I can no longer listen or support its programming. Michele Martin is one of the best host in all of media and I will miss hearing her mediate conversations across a wide range of topics.

Jun. 22 2014 09:13 PM
desertzinnia from Texas

I agree with Portia Adams, particularly about not taking NPR seriously since the early 2000s. I also shared John Gurney's opinion about "Tell Me More" just being an interesting show. I missed listening to it after moving to an area where NPR is nonexistent, other than online.

I wondered if the show had problems because it was on so late, at least where I used to live. I also wondered if the real problem was that its listeners, regardless of color, were non- or low-donors like me, not the high dollar donors NPR seeks. NPR does seem to have moved more toward the "latte liberal" audience over the last decade. Granted, they need money to operate, but surely there are upper income donors who are interested in more than fine wines and overseas conflicts, who would maybe even be interested in the "unexotic underclass" (http://miter.mit.edu/the-unexotic-underclass/).

Jun. 22 2014 03:59 PM
huston from Atlanta

The finances finally pushed NPR to do the right thing. When WABE started airing it, every weekday I protested to no avail. Michel Martin is smart & occasionally had interesting guests, but took airtime from them phrasing & re-phrasing her questions to promote her viewpoint instead of letting us hear theirs. In trying to Tell Me More about a topic, she mostly Beat It To Death ( a better title for her show. It caused me to switch to Pandora, Spotify or TV. That's why the show didn't make it. Too many listeners like me didn't want it. Hopefully On the Media will take the hint & cut back on some of the same tendencies. At least you're only once/wk., so it's somewhat tolerable.

Jun. 22 2014 03:09 PM
Cathy Etheridge from Massachusetts

Michel Martin's downfall was her own virulent anti-Muslim attitude and that of her frequent "Barber Shop" guest Mario Loyola. The 80% of her audience who are white apparently favor diversity and were turned off by her anti-Muslim rants and those of Mario Loyola.

Jun. 22 2014 12:21 PM
Lauren from Iowa

Thanks for doing this show. I've been thinking about this a lot ever since I heard Tell Me More was going to be cancelled.

Peter Sagal made a joke on Wait Wait Don't Tell me recently about how their audience is ENTIRELY white and Brian Babylon in the same episode commented on how he could see he was going to be in charge of responding to/interpreting everything about a story dealing with black people (I think it was the LA NAACP's plan to give an award to Don Sterling). Brian Babylon is on your show and you say that the only people who listen are white??? Ever since that book/blog "What White People Like" came out, there's been this desire to make white a race and a culture, but without letting go of privilege. It's like "Oh, white people are so nerdy and black people are so cool! Let's make fun of our nerdiness, and thus make it seem like black people cannot be nerdy and also that we are somehow oppressed by black people's coolness and that white people do not actually have almost all the CEOs and all the politicians tied up." I had an aunt give me a copy of "What White People Like" (maybe the calendar or maybe the book) and say, "You need to spend some time with your own culture" ... was it a joke? The book was so horribly, subtly racist and in denial of white privilege. I read it a bit as a way to think through this cultural phenomenon, but couldn't stomach it pretty quickly. Peter Sagal's joke reminded me of that episode.

Then, I am behind on "Orange is the New Black" and was watching Season 1 Episode 6 in which two black inmates were masterfully mimicking white people. This, because it attacked rather than masked white privilege, was so funny and so awesome. And then they rolled "I heard something on NPR today" into the mimicry and I had to pause and think.

I love public radio. I also love black history and African American contemporary culture. I spend a lot of my free time with public radio podcasts. My favorites are This American Life, Snap Judgment, Studio 360, The Moth Radio Hour, On the Media, Backstory, Planet Money, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. It pains me deeply to think that one of my very favorite ways to spend my time (actually above TV watching)--doing stuff like painting, walking, the dishes while listening to podcasts--is actually undermining rather than supporting my study of black history (which is what I do for my profession).

I dunno that this episode helped allay my fears. I feel deeply for Mr. Woods' dilemma. I think mostly he engaged in corporate double speak, though he tried to say meaningful things through that language. Thank you, at least, for discussing the issue.

Jun. 22 2014 11:06 AM
john gurney from Brattleboro, VT

Was it a case of bad publicity? Bad naming? "Tell Me More" is kind of a generic title. I would listen to Tell Me More if it was on when I was listening to my npr station. I enjoyed it, but it never occurred to me that it was a "minority voice" show. It was just another of one of the interesting news/human interest shows. Sometimes the npr shows all blend together, but not in a bad way. Maybe they should consider renaming it, promoting it, and giving it another shot.

Jun. 22 2014 10:59 AM
carolita from nyc

Shame on NPR for pulling TMM. It's a great show, and I love hearing MIchelle Martin. I'm not black, or white. I'm a typical american hybrid person. I wasn't wild about the barber shop men, but that was mainly because they were must a bunch of dudes. However, Michelle moderating them made it okay for me.
You really shouldn't pull TMM. I know that whatever was on the other band (can't remember if it's AM or FM) was what always made me tune into TMM. If you don't keep that difference, I'll just use my radio app and listen to French radio.

Jun. 22 2014 10:47 AM
Jean Grosser from Hartsville, SC

My frustration with media coverage has to do with "experts" who have no interest in conversation but rather talk past one another to express their opinion. The reason I do I stopped listening to Tell Me More was the divisive nature of the political commentary. I wish this aspect of the show had been discussed. The only reference to the show's content focused on interviews and features. The old Talk of the Nation, with Juan Williams, had rich informative political commentary where "experts" listened to one another and responded thoughtfully. These were the kinds of conversations that allowed me to see both sides of the issue.

Jun. 22 2014 08:04 AM
Racism for Sale from NYC

Tell Me More is a great show. I love Michelle Martin, she is a true journalist and a great host. At first, I didn't like Jimmy Israel, but he grew on me over time and I enjoy his Barbershop rants every Fridays.

Now, this talk about "diversity" at NPR is pure bs. You can not reasonably expect NPR programming to be 50% black when the black population is only 12.6% (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States). It makes zero business sense, and it's against NPR's mission; "to sound like America". America is not diverse as one would think.

If people like Veralyn Williams wants diversity, no one is stopping them from producing their own shows, on their own dimes.

Jun. 22 2014 12:23 AM
Charles

"Longstanding concerns about diversity at NPR..."

The concern over diversity at NPR is simply a matter of racial and gender diversity.

If NPR really wanted to "sound like America," wouldn't you sound like Fox News about 20% of the time? There's no diversity of opinion at NPR; merely the superficial diversity of racial and gender identities. So you have black leftists, white leftists, women leftists, asian leftists; all kinds of leftists.

There sure wasn't any racial angst that I recall from NPR when it was time to fire Juan Williams.

Jun. 21 2014 10:23 PM
David Ezell from New York City

I am sorry to see this program go. I am a white man and really enjoyed hearing a different voice and point of view. I hope Michelle Martin continues her good work somewhere else.

Jun. 21 2014 02:17 PM
Douglas from El Paso

Perhaps PRI will pick up "Tell Me More." (That network also carries Tavis Smiley.) Then XM channel 121 could replace one of their Bob Edwards segments with "Tell Me More."

Jun. 21 2014 01:11 PM
Mark Andrews from Texas

I for one was happy to hear that "Tell Me More" - aka the "White Guilt Hour" had been cancelled. The program was overly political - the Travon Martin coverage was abysmal - and the "barbershop" section sounded like an outtake from a 40's radio caricature program. The program plays at 8am - 9am on the Sirius radio channel too - so the excuse it was shuffled to a "bad time" does not wash.

The reason given for the cancellation was budget issues - seems to me that NRP has larger budget issues if they need to pay a "diversity coordinator" to look at a spreadsheet and tell them to hire more "deserving" people.

Jun. 21 2014 11:48 AM

I loved that show and couldn't understand why WNYC killed it last year from its broadcast.

Jun. 21 2014 09:44 AM
Saree from Memphis

As I listened this morning, I was talking back to the radio saying, "I wonder how many people in the congregations of those 34k churches are members of their local stations?". I am also frustrated that local stations choose when a particular program will air. My guess is that if a show like Tell Me More were aired in a prime time slot, it could have raised the listener audience thereby raising the funding.

Jun. 21 2014 08:39 AM
de Grene from Fairborn, Ohio

What this segment says to me is something I've known all along: the conservative detractors of a true public broadcasting system have been winning and are one step closer to victory. My reasoning for this is that more and more, NPR decisions about what stays and what goes is based not on quality and significance of programming but on listener demographics and revenue generation. If that is not commercial broadcasting, I don't know what is.

Public broadcasting was begun specifically so that there would be a source of news, information, education and even entertainment that was NOT beholding to either government nor business. It was felt that this would give it the independence needed to maintain a level of objectivity that would permit it to be an effective watchdog against the biases and prejudices of commercial media. But over the years, beginning in the early 1970s, there have been those who, under the guise of "fiscal conservatism" or "financial responsibility" have very deliberately whittled away at the support made by government that hid what I believe was the purpose of never again allowing the influence of a free media that ended the Vietnam War and caused the downfall of Richard Nixon. I have never seen it as coincidental that the campaign to eliminate funding for public broadcasting came at the same time as these events were culminating. (There was even Congressional hearings on the issue that the face on the "P" of PBS was facing left instead of to the right!)

We the listeners also have a responsibility in this as well. We could demand fair and full support for a truly free media, but we don't. As far back as the 1980s one Congressman (I forget his name but it may have been Ted Kennedy) proposed that Congress set up a one-time endowment for public media amounting to one percent of the annual budget of Congress. This, he said, would ensure the continued financial security of public media forever. I don't know if that was true then nor do I know if it is true now, but I do know that, if the people make it an issue, public broadcasting can -- and would -- be refunded at a level that it no longer be required to have the "non-commercial commercials" and the clumsy product placement that many shows now have. It would also ensure that we have a truly independent media -- something that does not exist in commercial broadcasting anymore, period.

Jun. 21 2014 08:23 AM

Don't the local stations have some responsibility for the success of diverse programming? I used to listen to Tell Me More regularly, until it was taken off the FM schedule and moved to a time slot when I'm rarely available to listen. Meanwhile, other shows are repeated 2 or 3 times during the week. I don't get it.

Jun. 21 2014 08:04 AM
buzz from Philly PA

I wish "diversity" at NPR meant variety.

That aside, if NPR really wants to save money they should cancel Here & Now next. Or at least cut it down to a once a week program after all it's 80 to 87% filler.

Jun. 20 2014 10:41 PM

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