This is terrible news, and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is going on. I first heard from Jasmyne Cannick.

The basics are that NPR is hurting financially (projected $23M budget shortfall this year up from an estimated $2M). This is due to reduced corporate underwriting, reduced contributions from member stations and individuals plus severely depressed investment holdings that drive its endowment. According to its official statements, NPR decided it would do away with two shows, Day to Day and News & Notes because they suffered from poor audience ratings and the weakest underwriting. The shows will run through March 20, 2009

Some more source information is available at:

According to Interim President and CEO Haarsager:

It is important for you to understand why we chose to cancel News & Notes and Day to Day, and the implications for programming strategy and commitments. Neither program was attracting sufficient levels of audience or national underwriting necessary to sustain continued production under these tough financial circumstances.

That’s all very believable in this market, but of all the shows to cancel…

News & Notes has been an absolutely wonderful, intelligent and fun outlet to listen to and be a part of. I’ve been on the show over 10 times since the summer of 2007 (and will be on next Wednesday Dec 17th) , and it has certainly contributed to the audience and credibility of Jack & Jill Politics. We’re like family. In fact, the weekly Blogger Roundtable was a truly innovative segment on a show that already had some of the best coverage of black issues of any major media outlet. Because of News & Notes, our own blogroll has expanded, and I’ve had a chance to meet and work with some impressive voices. So many old school media outlets don’t get how to work with technology, social media and the youngins, but News & Notes pulled it off effectively without exploiting or compromising these emerging voices.

Obviously the media landscape and indeed any entity dependent on funds is suffering right now and will continue to do so. Newspapers have been hurting for a while. NPR, with its heavy dependency on donations and market-based endowment funds, must be hurting as well.

In case you think News & Notes is the only show getting hit, it is not. The Washington Post reports that this is the first company wide layoff in 25 years:

Some of those losing their jobs are veteran NPR voices, such as Ketzel Levine, an NPR reporter since 1977, and Vicky O’Hara, an editor and former diplomatic correspondent with 26 years on the job. Others include “News & Notes” host Farai Chideya, “Day to Day” host Madeleine Brand, Washington reporter Libby Lewis, entertainment-industry correspondent Kim Masters and national reporter John McChesney. About half the 64 people cut are journalists.

Yet I can’t help but think that now, of all times, is not the time to cut any sort of programing that brings intelligent discourse to black issues. Couldn’t they have cut that weird news quiz show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, instead? I mean, really?

In the grand, new age of Obama, this is happening? This past year, we at Jack and Jill Politics and the broader Afrosphere had to work triple time to try to inject some sanity into the media conversation about race. Suddenly Wolf Blitzer and crew had to say something, anything, about race, and they didn’t know where to start because they lacked the lived experience, empathy or education to say anything useful. With Obama headed for the White House, the supply of ignorant racial media discourse will only grow.

We’ve got four years of people picking on the Obama Girls’ Hairstyle or Michelle’s Rear End or Is Obama Really The Black President. We’ve got four years of Is Racism Over or Who’s Gonna Be The President For White Folks and other ignorant questions headed our way. We know it’s coming. Yet it’s at this time that one of our most prized outlets is switched off.

But fear not black people. CNN has hired D.L. Hughley.

Update 1

On of our commenters reminded me that the show Tell Me More, is hosted by Michelle Martin, an African-American. While that’s true, her show can’t be accurately called a black program. This according to the description of News & Notes alternate host Tony Cox:

“People are concerned and they’re hoping for the best,” Cox, who worked with the show in each of its incarnations, told Journal-isms. “If our show goes down, it will be a tragic loss, because we provide a unique voice in the NPR universe, and if we go down, that voice will be lost.”

Martin’s program, while also featuring an African American host, “is more multicultural,” Cox said, “and our show is more Afrocentric and Afro-American-centric. We really focus on the black experience in America and in Africa.”

Looking for something to do? Jasmyne Cannick has posted the numbers and emails of some key NPR execs as well as a petition.

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