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NPR: A New Chapter

December 18, 2009 5 comments

I have, today, been named Executive Producer of the Newscast division of National Public Radio. I start February 16th and will be moving back to my home town of Washington, D.C. while keeping one foot in New York which I have come to love.

I am so honored and delighted to be joining one of the premier news organizations in the world. NPR is a very special institution. With 19 domestic and 19 foreign bureaus, there is no match for its resources. With nearly 800 member stations, it is a force in American culture.

With commercial radio news departments virtually disappearing, NPR stations may be the last best hope for maintaining any delivery system of news on the radio to the residents of the nation’s cities, small towns, and rural communities. I hope to have a hand in building and strengthening these local news departments which are also hugely important contributors to the national network newscasts that I will be in charge of. Those newscasts, by the way, are the single most listened-to programming at NPR.

I love that NPR’s audience not only includes up-scale, well-educated Americans, but just about every cab driver in the country. How could it be that this one network touches such a broad swath of Americans? Because NPR is about substance. Americans are hungry for news about their country and their world. They don’t always want it in canned 30-second increments. They want length. They want detail. They want nuance. They want texture. NPR never talks down to its audience and never tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Folks who program the largest commercial radio stations in America understand what a force NPR is. Talk to commercial programmers in Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Austin and dozens of other cities, and they will tell you that though not ordinarily considered a part of the ratings landscape- NPR stations in those regions of the country are often #1 with the largest audiences and really long periods of time spent listening (TSL).

It is an amazing and humbling experience to have an opportunity to go work for a place where you feel you are on a mission. And when that mission is simply to do good journalism, make radio important in people’s lives, and give people the content and substance they crave- it is all the better.

Somebody pinch me, please, because at this moment, it is just possible I have died and gone to heaven.

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The Week in Review: Dec. 14- Dec. 18/2009

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment


Remembering the week’s events so you don’t have to!

Monday 12/14/09

♦ The week starts off with a bang that quickly becomes a whimper. President Obama invites the heads of American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo to the White House for a stern lecture on how those who have received so much from the taxpayers might want to start thinking about actually giving back a little. Three of the executives miss the meeting because the NY-DC Shuttle is fogged in at La Guardia. So much for respect for the Presidency. Couldn’t they have spent the night before in Washington? I understand Amtrak has a fine train service from Penn Station to Union Station. They did call in, though. How considerate.

♦ The Climate Change conference in Copenhagen gets crazy as developing nations quarrel with developed nations, protestors get rowdy and consensus on much of anything begins to melt like the polar ice cap.

♦ The global consulting firm, Accenture, ends its six-year relationship with Tiger Woods saying he’s no longer “the right representative” for them after the events of the past couple of weeks. Gillette begins backing away too.

♦ Something’s fishy at the Waterbury and Wallingford, Connecticut Post offices; seems managers there are so overwhelmed by the amount of holiday mail they’re being inundated with- that they’ve taken to hiding it. Workers get caught stuffing letters, cards and packages into closets and unused rooms. The problem has now been corrected.

♥ The Sun newspaper publishes an exclusive photo of Elin Nordegren (Mrs. Tiger Woods) filling up an SUV at a gas station. There’s something missing. The wedding ring on her left hand.

Tuesday 12/15/09

♦ The Medicare buy-in dies an ignominious death. Independent Connecticut Senator, Joe Lieberman, says he won’t support it even though just three months earlier he had been taped by a local news organization in his state as saying it was a reasonable alternative to a public option. He tells the New York Times he began to get suspicious of the plan when liberal, Democratic NY Congressman, Anthony Weiner, said he loved it. Note to liberals: next time there’s legislation you need passed through the Senate, pretend you hate it.

♥ President Obama, campaigning for tax credits people can get for weatherizing their homes, declares that insulation is “sexy.” I suppose that can be true depending on who’s doing the insulating and what they’re wearing.

♦ Uh-oh. Can it possibly get any worse for Tiger Woods? The New York Times reports the doctor who treated his bum knee last year is under investigation for giving human growth hormone to some of his patients. Tiger’s agent tells people to back off- he’s never used performance enhancing drugs. Apparently, the doc visited Tiger’s home on four different occasions to perform a procedure in which a patient’s own blood is put through a centrifuge to separate out the platelets that are then injected to an area of injury to promote faster healing. The PGA backs Tiger and releases a statement saying that they’ve seen nothing in the reporting that would indicate he’s been in violation of their anti-doping policies.

♥ Considering the consensus that Tiger really would be finished if it turns out he used PED’s, finally, some welcome news for Woods. He is now tied to mistress #14. Yawn.

Wednesday 12/16/09

♦ Time magazine names Federal Reserve Chief, Ben Bernanke the Person of the Year for saving the American economy. Millions crowd the streets as the chanting starts out quietly at first, then into a full roar, “Bernanke, Bernanke Bernanke!” Kudos to Time, though. Instead of picking somebody interesting like Sarah Palin or Tiger Woods or Joe Lieberman, folks who might actually sell magazines- they go for the one guy guaranteed to put you to sleep at the mere mention of his name. Readers be damned- who needs ‘em!

♦ Politico.com reports that New York Democratic Senator, Charles Schumer, called a flight attendant a “bitch” as the DC to NY shuttle was about to take off earlier this week. Seems he was delaying the pull-back from the gate by talking on his cell phone. Obviously, the stewardess had no idea who she was dealing with. There is not a human being alive who has ever succeeded in getting Charles Schumer to stop talking.

♦ The Associated Press names Tiger Woods- Athlete of the Decade.

Thursday, December 17, 2009:

♦ New polling is out from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. The basic results- A pox on both their houses. Support for Democrats has plummeted but the numbers are not translating to Republican gains. What an opportunity for a legitimate 3rd party candidate. Lou Dobbs- take out the hair spray and straighten that tie.

♦ And the numbers show Americans aren’t so thrilled about health care reform either. Only 32% say it’s a good idea; 47% think it’s a bad idea.

♥ A new poll also finds 42% of Americans now have a negative view of Tiger Woods. Clearly, we are in need of a new 3rd party golfer of some kind. What’s Ron Paul’s handicap?

♦ The heavyweights begin arriving at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton says the U.S. will participate in the creation of a $100 billion global fund that poor countries can use to adapt to climate change. It’s predicated on China presenting plans on how they will cut carbon emissions. The Chinese agree to a dialogue. The first glimpse of progress. Nations are now talking about talking in the future.

♦ Lots of news from the NFL. Sad, great and weird. Cincinnati Bengal’s wide receiver Chris Henry dies after falling out of the bed of a pick-up truck in an apparent domestic dispute. The Washington Redskins get rid of an inept General Manager and hire the son of the legendary George Allen. The St. Louis Rams cancel practice as numerous players come down with the H1N1, Swine flu virus.

♥ ABC News quotes sources as saying Elin will 100% divorce Tiger.

Friday, December 18, 2009:

♦ President Obama addresses the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. This was the site of the humiliating experience when Chicago was turned down as the choice for the 2016 Olympic games. It is now the site for the humiliating experience of no significant action he is seeking being taken to address global climate change. I confidently predict it will be a long, long time before Obama humiliates himself in Copenhagen again. There is a late update on this story. No legally binding agreement- but some headway made as the President literally burst into a meeting of Chinese and other international leaders and forced them into at least an agreement that recognizes there’s a problem to be dealt with and prompts what amounts to voluntary agreement to reduce carbon emmissions. Not a total humiliation after all. But I still don’t think he’s going to back to Copenhagen any time soon. Too many painful memories.

♦ Avatar hits the theatres; all 2 hours and 40 minutes of it. Good reviews abound. More details emerge on what a ground-breaking film it is; 15 years in the making and involving the invention of new technologies like facial recognition cameras that enable human emotions to be uncannily portrayed by animated characters. A 3-D experience that immerses audiences into a completely foreign and highly textured world instead of the usual stuff-coming-at-you-from-the-screen-making-you-feel-like you-need-to-duck approach. It’s long hyphenated sentences like this that doomed my career as a film critic.

♦ Finally, I completed my Christmas shopping! My son, Charlie Garcia, arrives in New York for the holidays next Tuesday and I have just been named head of the Newscast division for National Public Radio, starting in February. Merry Christmas, Charlie- Daddy has a job.

Goodbye Charlie Gibson!

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

This is Charlie Gibson’s last day at ABC News.  Between World News and Good Morning America, his career has been simply astounding.  For several years, I had the job of producing his live, 5pm network radio newscast.  Charlie is such a pro that he didn’t really need to be produced all that much.  He’d go over the copy, ask a few questions, usually to ensure the facts were right.  You never heard it, but the pre-newscast banter between Charlie and the correspondents ready to go live was always lively and often hilarious.

He’d take out his trusty analog stop-watch and when the trumpets sounded with the ABC News theme, ol’ Charlie would launch into that smooth-as-silk, friendly delivery of his and land it like a pro, hitting the 2-minute break, to-the-second, every time. 

If you’ve ever wondered if these people you see on TV are anything like the image they portray- some of them are real, some of them aren’t.  But with Charlie- always- what you see is what you get.  Humble, gracious, smart, kind, curious.  There will never be another like him.

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