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NPR Cuts Jobs, Cancels Programs

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Like many industries, the news business is struggling in these tough economic times. There have been layoffs at Gannett's newspapers, and even a bankruptcy filing at the Tribune Company. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, NPR is not immune.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: NPR announced today it is canceling two daily national shows, "Day to Day" and "News & Notes," as part of a sweeping effort to close a projected $23 million budget gap. NPR is reducing its workforce by 7 percent. Dana Davis Rehm is NPR's senior vice president for strategy and partnership. She says it is hard to lose valued, capable colleagues.

Ms. DANA DAVIS REHM (Senior Vice President for Strategy and Partnership, National Public Radio): This is driven entirely by the economic crisis that's sprawling around us and every other organization and company in America and maybe the world.

FOLKENFLIK: The two California shows will air their final broadcasts in March. In all, 64 NPR employees will be laid off, including 34 from the news division. Another 21 empty jobs will be eliminated. For all that, a newsroom of roughly 300 journalists will remain. Interim CEO and President Dennis Haarsager says NPR sought to tailor these cuts to do the least harm to the core mission of news gathering, and that officials haven't given up their ambitions for NPR.

Mr. DAVID HAARSAGER (Interim CEO and President, National Public Radio): I think once this recession has passed, we'll be able to revisit those aspirations and move forward in a very positive way. Unfortunately, we don't know how long that's going to be.

FOLKENFLIK: Some notable NPR hosts and correspondents were among those that were laid off today. They included Madeleine Brand [and] Jacki Lyden. The ironic thing is that the audience for NPR shows is growing. Ratings estimates show that NPR news programs attracted record levels of listenership last spring. Dana Rehm.

Ms. REHM: There is significant evidence that NPR is more important to audiences on air and online than ever as people seek to understand the extraordinary events that are occurring around us.

FOLKENFLIK: Corporations sought to reach those listeners with increased underwriting in recent years, and that helped to spur growth. NPR added new beats, new bureaus, and kept up one of the most expansive foreign operations of any American news outlet. But now, much of that underwriting has withered along with the fortunes of the financial companies and car manufacturers that paid for it. Expected revenue from investments evaporated as the value of publicly traded stocks tanked. NPR's board has authorized a $15 million drawdown from the company's operating reserves, much of which came from a bequest from the late Joan Kroc. The larger endowment created from her gift remains untouched. David Folkenflik, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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