The past week or so I have tracked and lamented NPR's decision to move Bob Edwards from his role as "Morning Edition" host. The announcement was poorly handled as if NPR were merely announcing a change in its programming schedule.
Well, after nearly 25 years at the helm of "Morning Edition," Edwards has developed a following that became pretty vocal once it learned of his new role.
A friend that shares my "Edwardian-preference" participated in the grassroots campaign to keep Edwards at the "Morning Edition" helm. NPR's response is below. They get high marks for responding quickly and thoroughly. Engaging the listeners most vocal about their angst over Edwards ousting was the right thing to do for all involved. They clearly underestimated the issue this change would create, but they are addressing it.
> From: NPR Communications
> Reply To: email@example.com
> Sent: Thursday, April 1, 2004 6:15 PM
> Subject: Morning Edition FAQs
> April 1, 2004
> Dear Morning Edition listener:
> I have heard from many of you over the past few days about our decision to
> reassign Bob Edwards to a new role as senior correspondent for NPR News. By
> the responses we are receiving, it is clear many questions remain-we didn't
> do a very good job of explaining something so important. For that reason,
> we've compiled the most frequently asked questions and I've tried to answer
> them below.
> I am also hoping that you will join me in a live online web chat on Monday, April
> 5 at 1 PM (EDT), when I'll be talking with listeners about Morning Edition and any
> other part of our programming that you'd like to discuss. This will be the first of
> several opportunities to talk about these issues directly with us. For more
> information about how to join the discussion, go to www.npr.org/morningeditionchat.
> We've seen references by NPR management that the decision to move Bob
> Edwards to a senior correspondent position was about the need to "evolve,"
> and "refresh" Morning Edition. What does that mean?
> Over the past three years we've been engaged in an intensive process of
> reviewing all of our programming with three questions in mind: How can we
> continue to improve and deepen our coverage of the critical stories of the
> day? How can we better tell powerful stories from around the world and from
> all over the U.S. in the way only NPR can? And how can we enhance our on-air
> diversity? The changes we're making in Morning Edition - and the changes
> we've made in many other areas - are part of our answer to those questions.
> Three years ago, we looked at the rest of the broadcast world and saw only
> retreat: fewer reporters in the field, less international coverage, less
> diversity of views and voices. NPR made a clear and conscious decision to
> move in the opposite direction. We opened two more foreign bureaus, opened
> a production facility called NPR West in Los Angeles, and added field
> reporters in communities around the United States. We launched new shows,
> like the Tavis Smiley Show and Day to Day, to expand our range and bring new
> voices to public radio. We made major changes to All Things Considered,
> Talk of the Nation and Weekend All Things Considered. These changes in their
> entirety have improved and deepened our programming, allowing us to provide
> the broadest range of ideas, sounds, and stories.
> We believe, and listeners have told us, that these changes have brought real
> improvements to our programming, and we're confident the same will be true
> for Morning Edition.
> So, why are you moving Bob out as host of Morning Edition?
> Morning Edition is our most important show, and we wouldn't make changes
> without a lot of planning and discussion. More than 18 months ago, we began
> a careful series of discussions about the program with Bob, stations, and
> NPR staff.
> Twenty-five years ago, Morning Edition was created with a single, in-studio
> host. That model is no longer sufficient to bring the weight of credible, in-
> depth reporting that we are demanding of ourselves. In the last year, we
> have experimented with a different model: two hosts (one in DC and one in
> Los Angeles) for the show, both capable of providing unique reporting from
> the field, and of working in tandem to carry the show forward during even
> the most pressing news events. We believe this is the right model for
> Morning Edition in the years to come. In making this change, we don't mean
> to diminish Bob's remarkable career at NPR, and we know that he will >
> continue to make an extraordinary contribution in his new role.
> Are you doing this because you're trying to attract a younger audience?
> We don't program to one audience - but to everyone who wants in-depth,
> intelligent news and information. Over the last two years, we have hired at
> least six new hosts at NPR - Michele Norris, Alex Chadwick, Tavis Smiley,
> Melissa Block, Neal Conan and Steve Inskeep. They range in age from the mid
> 30s to the late 50s, they are white and black, male and female, east coast
> and west coast. They are threaded together only by their excellence of
> craft, love of radio and dedication to the highest standards of journalism.
> Why now? Why not wait till Bob's 25th anniversary in November?
> We made the difficult decision to replace Bob as host early this year, at
> the end of an extensive process lasting more than 18 months. Given the
> length of time, we did not believe it appropriate to wait another nine
> months before making this change. Having made the decision, we also felt
> that it would be unfair to withhold the information from Bob or, having told
> him, to ask many people to hold this announcement for an extended period of
> time. All that being said, we deeply regret that many have understood this
> to be disrespectful of Bob. We intended nothing of the kind.
> Is this decision a reflection of a dumbing down of NPR - what we see in the
> commercial broadcasting world?
> No. We are working hard to move in the opposite direction: expanding our
> reporting staff and adding thought-provoking new shows. In the coming year,
> with the proceeds from the historic bequest from the late Joan Kroc, we will
> expand our reporting staff, enhance our ability to do investigative
> reporting and increase our capacity to tell the stories no one else can.
> Last month we hired Bill Marimow, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and one
> of the most distinguished journalists in America, as a new managing editor
> for NPR News. We have also committed to adding three new producers and
> editors to Morning Edition to ensure that the quality of the show will only
> grow. These hires are emblematic of our specific goal to enhance quality,
> diversity and excellence at NPR News.
> Morning Edition's audience has been growing dramatically over the last few
> years. If it ain't broke, why are you fixing it?
> You're right, it isn't broken; it's a great show. If we were a commercial
> outfit where decisions are profit driven, we probably wouldn't make any
> changes. But we're not. We're driven by a mission to provide the highest
> quality journalism to our listeners. We have asked ourselves hard questions,
> and we're acting on our answers to make Morning Edition even better. Our
> goals are to take the show to more places, with hosts as reporters going
> into communities, giving it more depth, flexibility and responsiveness.
> Unless you bring back Bob, I'm going to stop giving to my local NPR station.
> Public radio has been built on listener support, which is the largest source
> of funding for local, independent member stations. They rely on the public's
> support to bring each community the best news and information daily. Holding
> back your contribution will only penalize your local station for a decision
> made by NPR management.
> Is there a chance you will change your mind and bring back Bob?
> The changes we are making are part of a multi-year effort to expand our
> reach, to enhance our diversity, to tell stories from your community and
> abroad, and to be able to react to the immediacy of news across the day. We
> have worked hard to make this happen and believe that you are already
> hearing the benefits of these ideas. We are deeply aware that this is a
> listener-supported network and we are grateful for all the expressions of >
> love and support for Bob. But in the end, this is about our broad
> commitment to delivering the kind of high-quality in-depth coverage that
> makes our reporting remarkable. We do not plan to deviate from that
> As a senior correspondent, Bob will be an important part of our plans going
> forward. He is an extraordinary storyteller and writer and we expect him to
> tell the most vivid stories of artists, thinkers and leaders. We look
> forward to hearing him on all of our programs.
> Again, thank you for your comments about Morning Edition. I do hope that
> you will choose to join us at the online chat on Monday.
> Jay Kernis
> Senior Vice President for Programming