Open thread: NPR cancels Talk of the Nation

Recall when Bob Collins wrote about whether public radio can still take risks? In June of 2012, when we learned Car Talk was going to stop producing new shows, Bob said, “This has been an interesting time in public radio of late, and the next few years are going to test whether it’s capable of taking a risk enough to give an outlet to new ways of doing things.”

Are we seeing another one of those tests now that NPR is canceling Talk of the Nation?

conan.jpgNeal Conan, Talk of the Nation. (NPR photo)


  • Raoul

    I think NPR has become incredibly risk-averse. They cling to the aging totebag crowd and will fire anyone who so much as dares to step outside some pretty narrow margins.

    Besides that, Neal Conan has been a pretty insipid interviewer. And Ken Rudin and that awful Wednesday political junkie schtick? Ugh.

    I just seriously doubt that yet another newsmagazine type show is the answer. Good gracious, Morning Edition, A.T.C, The World, and so on. How much packaged reporting interspersed with ‘live’ chat about those packages do we need in a day?

  • Greg W

    I agree with Raoul on his points about TOTN and the replacement program.

    I don’t think Conan’s that great of an interviewer now. He’s almost Larry King-like in his questions and follow-ups.

    Plus, the topics covered are pretty much the same as those on All Things Considered, etc. At least with TOTN there was a bit of participation/discussion with the audience. Now it’s cut back, again.

    If they hadn’t burned the bridge, maybe they could have had Tavis Smiley host TOTN.

    Two Questions:

    1. I wonder why Robin Young posted the NY Times article about the announcement instead of the NPR one?

    2. How about a little diversity among the hosts for the national daily programs?

  • Karen Johnson

    After yesterday’s interview with a circus performer, the end cannot come soon enough.

    I used to like TOTN, but the quality has really deteriorated over the years. I used to enjoy it for its in depth pieces, but now the segments all seem to be less than an hour.

    Sometime I think TOTN is trying to stir up controversy and then avoid it by the selection of callers.

    I’d like to see something other than a news program in that time slot.

  • Aaron

    what about the political junkie with Ken Rudin?

  • Diane Raff

    What about Science Friday?!!? Will that spin off and survive?

  • Marie

    TOTN lost me years ago when they gave up the long form interview format for something that seemed like a watered down All Things Considered. There are some good PRI shows out there, like To The Best Of Our Knowledge, but I’m guessing MPR has a preference for American Public Media produced shows when possible. I wish they would go back to carrying both hours of Science Friday again. I love that show.

  • Craig

    I would love to hear a locally produced program in the afternoon; one that worries less about leaving an audience behind with difficult material. I get the feeling there is a practice in journalism of assuming a certain level of knowledge in the audience, and if someone uses a term or concept beyond that set point the reporter must halt the flow of the person speaking and establish the definition. I also get the sense that some experts are voluntarily keeping things a bit simple. As a kid I remember the thrill of eavesdropping on conversations between my father and his colleagues as they passed over the agreed points and moved right into acronym-laced discussions of open questions. It was heady. If I had had google in my pocket back then it may have advanced my education by 10 years. I would like to hear such conversations in many fields (economics, psychology, biomed engineering, law, marketing, etc …). Perhaps you could give the listeners a fellow eavesdropper who would post or tweet elaborations on what is passing between the experts instead of interrupting the flow. There would be some risk since not everyone in the audience would have a data device capable of displaying the supporting information.

  • tboom

    “Newsmagazines with a mix of interviews and prepared stories” are a dime a dozen, so apparently NPR thinks that is the content we all want. As part of the “tote bag” crowd to which Raoul refers, what attracted me to MPR all those years ago was the thing that set it apart from commercial radio. The long format interview (which broke briefly on the half hour for a station ID) was what appealed. Now that MPR/NPR sounds less and less unique, I listen less and less often.

    My advice: go in-depth (long interviews) with knowledgeable guests, have smart hosts who can/will ask tough questions (forget about call-in questions from listeners with lots of opinion and little knowledge), and stop worrying about two guests for balance (if you insist on balance, put those guests on at different times). Not that NPR cares about my opinion, I’m only a listener outside their demographic target.

  • Bob Collins

    Science Friday will remain in production.

    I, too, like the long form interview, but whatever takes it’s place, my hope would be it doesn’t feature the usual suspects saying the usual predictable things about the stories someone else determined is “news.”

    A show without pointyheads and politicians.

  • Shaun

    Hate hate hate. Like Neal Conan, like TOTN — wide variety of topics, not as much of a talking heads feel. “New” shows like Dinner Party Download and RadioLab have interesting content but overly self-conscious hosts and a production style that makes production itself the focus.

    Call-in shows get their share of idiots, but they also put the public in public radio.

  • xopher

    This is OK news. That show was one of NPR’s best when Ray Suarez was host, and they had one topic per hour, and they got deep into issues. It’s a far less interesting or compelling show in it’s present, final configuration.

  • Jeff

    TOTN is a bit long in the tooth, butI’d rather have an hour of TOTN than an hour of BBC rebroadcasts in the afternoons. Or the canned CarTalk episodes every week. There is plenty of room in the schedule that could be used for trying experimental things.

  • Morris Woodberry

    I live over the Atlantic in Cardiff WALES, I was very surprised to hear that TOTN was going to be axed by NPR, is there any reason I have missed haring …. Apart from Diane Ryme I have been quietly listening and learning about America for over twenty years thanks to NPR.. I truly hope it’s not a dumbing down of the facts of daily life that’s important to us all where ever we live on this little plant… I will miss Neal Conan & Ken Rudin or is there going to be a new formula in the making? I really hope so, if not my 7pm to 8pm most evening slot will be ?????

  • bill t

    MPR should most definitely bring back the second hour of Science Friday. There is not enough good science reporting as it is.

    The BBC in the second half of the TOTN/Science Friday is far from an inspired choice. It is largely just the same news delivered with a British accent.

    TOTN is not as interesting as it once was. Perhaps it was Ray Suarez. I have really felt the show has slid over the past few years. Perhaps it was the long format interview (this is what I believe).

    I am ambivalent about Radio Lab. Dinner Party Download is a waste of my time. But the worst thing on is the insipid waste of time, repeated twice over the weekend, Prairie Home Companion.

    Can NPR/MPR make an exciting choice? One that would deliver international content with a different twist would be to broadcast RT content. Or, perhaps Amy Goodman. I am sure there others.

  • Webb

    Tragically stupid decision. Sacrifice the best talk show on radio and the most intelligent host in broadcasting to give us another new summary show? Nonsense.
    No money from me anymore.