December 29, 2004

Tavis Smiley has left the building and NPR is the reason why. If you remember the Bob Edwards flap, you may be interested to read these.

As I discover I am officially the last to know . . . The Tavis Smiley Show is no longer on the radio. Replaced by the same-themed "NPR News With Tony Cox" and essentially the same show (so far), Tavis has jumped the NPR ship saying they didn't do enough to grow. Given how badly NPR screwed up with the Bob Edwards thing last summer I thought this was interesting in a kind of "they're still being ignorant fucks?" kinda way. For non-Umurukun monkeys, The Tavis Smiley show was a radio talk show with various guests and news items from an African-American perspective that garnered a very diverse audience.

  • Damn shame, I listen to Tavis during my lunch drive. Only thing I couldn't stand about Tavis was the fact that it was pre-recorded. I would have loved to have called in on at least twenty separate occasions.
  • Boo! I have to say, pretty sneaky of them using the same theme song too. While driving with my fiancee last week, I heard a new voice and specifically said "Oh, Tavis must be on vacation." 'The funds were certainly there to do the job, thanks to Big Mac lovers everywhere. Joan Kroc, who inherited the McDonald's fortune, bequeathed 225 million dollars to NPR in her will. I had hoped the network would use part of the generous gift to spread the word to underserved communities, to create additional, complementary programming, to expand what I believed was our shared mission. That was not to be. NPR, considered a bastion of the liberal media elite in this country, was satisfied with the limited victory it had achieved, and wanted to leave well enough alone. Some of the disenfranchised had been brought into the tent; it apparently was okay for others to remain out in the cold.' I admit I've wondered the same thing. Isn't it time for some bold changes when a bombshell like that drops? I have and always will love NPR, but I had hoped they'd do something with that money.
  • To: Dear Mr Smiley, I just wanted to say how much I will miss your radio program, which brought a much needed breath of fresh air to the usual stodgy NPR faire. As far as presenting points of view and perspectives that media usually fails to cover, your show was often captivating and almost always well produced. I didn't always agree with the content but it always made me think. Best of luck in whatever comes next. You can count on this person to follow your work in the future. Respectfully--
  • they ran it at like 3 a.m. here in d.c. i always thought that was a bit of a slap in the face for tavis.
  • Love Tavis Smiley. I used to watch his show on BET years ago. As much as I like him, I think that his brother was even better.
  • *raps bernockle*
  • While I'm unfamiliar with the program, after reading that most excellently written and well-balanced sign-off letter, I'm sorry I never got the opportunity.
  • He always struck me as a kissass. Is there some cultural nuance that I am missing?
  • very possibly.
  • I usually listened to his show on the way home at night, and it was a surprise one night to hear that the show was his last. He has a tv show too, that he sometimes plugs at the end of a radio broadcast, but I never really watched (except for an interview with Lily Tomlin and some other actor whose name I can't remember).
  • A really snarky friend of mine who is an NPR junkie once remarked that she didn't think black people really listened to the Tavis Smiley show. She figured the show was on the air to give white liberals something to pat themselves on the back about. Reading between the lines of this letter, I think Mr. Smiley is saying pretty much the same thing. If that's the case, I admire his willingness to walk away and spend his energy and talents elsewhere.
  • To be honest, I like the new guy better. Tavis had the kind of a cadence to his voice that always sounded like he was trying to sell me a knew car, and he knew it was a lemon, and I knew it was a lemon, but he was convinced he could sell it to me anyway. I'm not saying he was insincere; I'm saying his cadence just sounded that way.
  • bit of an off-topic grammatical query here. after reading Tavis's letter, i am once again wondering: why "Black" instead of "black"? black isn't a religion (like Jewish or Muslim or Christian) and it's not a location (like African or Asian or European) and it's not a country (like American or French or Australian). it's a generic term that covers a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, primarily African in recent origin. we don't capitalize white, which is a very similar term, used to cover a broad range of ethnicities, primarily European in recent origin. so why capitalize black? it's inconsistent, unless we start capitalizing every similar term. honestly, the people commonly referred to as black are no more a homogenous group than whites are. black Americans are largely descended from a mish-mash of different African ethnicities, with a little Native American thrown in there to boot. white Americans? same thing, except substitute European for African. to make matters more fun, in the US there are folks in both groups who don't share the same backgrounds - recent immigrants - who are lumped in with and treated just like the folks who have been here for generations. so inclusivity and homogeneity are an illusion, no? i just don't like the grouping. we're all one species, why accentuate the differences to differentiate ourselves into little exclusive groups? counterproductive. ok. all that out of the way, back on topic... NPR seems to be shooting itself in the foot these days. not a good idea, especially now when folks are thinking "donate to the pledge drive? didn't that mcdonald's widow just single-handedly subsidize this network for the next hundred years? they don't need my money..." and yes i know i'm probably the last person to have a beef about capitalization. perhaps i should be Capitally Punished - you know, have my caps lock key forced into the "on" position...
  • Playin' the ol' capitalization card, eh frogs?? Yeah we see how you are ;) Personally I just hope they still have Connie Rice and Cornell West on. And George Johnson. That was like half the show right there anyway. Always a blessin' my brothah!
  • I recall a professor teaching a Black Studies course explaining at its beginning why he wanted us to capitalize Black but I don't recall the actual explanation. Bartleby's has a paragraph on the topic: capitalization of black Black is sometimes capitalized in its racial sense, especially in the black press, though the lowercase form is still widely used by authors of all races. The capitalization of Black does raise ancillary problems for the treatment of the term white. Orthographic evenhandedness would seem to require the use of uppercase White, but this form might be taken to imply that whites constitute a single ethnic group, an issue that is certainly debatable. Uppercase White is also sometimes associated with the writings of white supremacist groups, which for many people would of itself be sufficient reason to dismiss it. On the other hand, the use of lowercase white in the same context as uppercase Black will obviously raise questions as to how and why the writer has distinguished between the two groups. There is no entirely happy solution to this problem. In all likelihood, uncertainty as to the mode of styling of white has dissuaded many publications from adopting the capitalized form Black. Though I don't use style guides professionally or presently, I've seen ones in the past that conflict with each other on the use of capitalization for black and white. One university paper's response to a reader's letter asking about this issue of capitalization: Editor’s Note: The University Record and other publications and materials produced by News and Information Services follow University policy in capitalization of the word Black when referring to Black people. The policy was set in 1987 when the Black community at the University stated its opposition to the use of the lower case letter.
  • huh. my college paper (1 hour drive north of the [stinky weasel-infested] campus hosting the paper you linked to, PY) used to capitalize Black, made a big deal out of it, and then quietly stopped doing so in an organized manner. think they still do occasionally, depends on the author of the specific article. anyway, thanks for the info.
  • Last week the NPR News with Tony Cox that replaced Tavis was itself replaced with News and Notes with Ed Gordon The theme music is horrible - a terrible midi-keyborad cross of ESPN Sports center and a random "where the hell did that come from" jazz interlude with Casio horns. Then back to the sports theme. Bleah. Today's show started off with a piece about the GOP courting black religious leaders, but the discussion that followed with Reverened Flake and Pastor Dollar (no, not making that up) was horrible. Pastor Dollar dismissed homosexuality as a choice and likened it to eating dinner off the toilet. Ed Gordon had no rebuttal or anything but softballs for them. (heh. softballs.) So far - not looking good. Come back Tavis!
  • Homosexuality is like eating dinner off the toilet? As opposed to the dignified and artistic spectacle that springs to life when I get all het up?
  • I thought that was ballet.
  • Wow, I wrote and complained and got a *real* response: "Thank you for your comment. We had set the segment up with the understanding that there would be disagreement between the speakers. That did not happen. So it is incumbent upon us to revisit this issue in a more balanced way. We intend to do just that on Friday. Thanks for listening and thank you for your constructive criticism. " Well, points anyway. I'll tune in again.
  • I gave up on News & Notes w/ Ed Gordon. They just seem to have a very conservative p.o.v. Tavis is back though - i hope my station switches back to him.