Meetings with NPR StaffJuly 19: Bruce Drake, VP for News
July 6: Maria Thomas, Vice President, NPR Online
June 21: Blake Truitt and Franklin Adams, Development
June 7: Margaret Low Smith, VP of Programming
June 2: NPR President & CEO Kevin Klose
July 19: Bruce Drake, VP for News"Working at NPR makes working at a newspaper seem like child's play," Drake said to interns after introductions. "The people at NPR have an aptitude for telling a story on radio."
Drake gave a brief history of NPR, starting in 1991 when he joined the organization. "It was a very different place back then - quirkier," he said. Then, there were 9 million listeners -- as opposed to the nearly 22 million today -- and NPR was not a primary news provider.
Drake said that changes at NPR accelerated in the late 1990s, after the first Gulf War, and intensified during the 2000 elections. NPR went from possibly having no hard news stories on a given night to having live anchored news coverage with frequent updates.
Drake predicts that the next few years NPR will expand in the area of investigative reporting. He thinks that NPR will set the news agenda by coming up with good stories in advance. Drake says, "All reporting is investigative reporting, because all reporters should be peeling the layers back, trying to find out what they are not telling you."
July 6: Maria Thomas, Vice President, NPR Online"Tell me your name, where you are from and what Web site you use for news sources," Maria Thomas, VP of NPR Online, told interns. Popular answers included CNN.com, nytimes.com and nypost.com, with one mention of NPR's site, npr.org, by an intern from Online.
So if NPR's Web site is not used primarily as a news source, what is its function? Thomas mentioned popular features such as the Ombudsman's online column, All Songs Considered, the NPR shop and the Bob Edwards dedication page. Most of all, she stressed the Web site's archival function. "That's what we're good at," Thomas said.
Interns also learned that this year marks the 10th anniversary of NPR Online (which is quite an accomplishment in the world of Web sites) and that NPR's Web site has four million unique visitors per month. She also explored issues such as the differences between streaming on-demand from the NPR Web site and downloading from the site. The latter is not currently a possibility due to copyright laws. Thomas described npr.org's new design that will group shows and information together thematically.
Thomas explains that NPR Online is an exciting place to be and that it offers many challenges. "What people expect from our Web site is no different than what they expect from NPR news." And that is certainly a lot.
June 21: Brown Bag lunch with Blake Truitt, Director of Corporate Sponsorship; Franklin Adams, Development Sales Representative
The Halo Effect
Interns watched the new development video, which is part of the presentation that the NPR corporate sponsorship team uses to woo businesses into the NPR underwriting fold. Each 10-second spot of advertising is subject to limitations imposed by internal NPR policy and FCC rules governing commercial ads on pubic radio. Interns also learned about "the halo effect." Over time, NPR listeners usually develop positive feelings about the companies they hear sponsoring NPR. In fact, eight out of 10 listeners prefer to use sponsor products. This is probably because one hour of NPR programming contains only one-and-a-half minutes of sponsor mentions. In commercial television there are about 22 minutes of commercials per hour.
June 7: Brown Bag Lunch with Margaret Low Smith, VP of Programming
Pay Attention to Your World
It was like a lunch date with a friend. Margaret Low Smith infused energy and congeniality to the summer intern's first brown bag lunch. Smith discussed NPR's programming landscape of NPR, and explained the difference between stories produced and distributed by NPR, and those from other public radio stations.
She spent a lot of time listening, too.
"Pay attention to your own life and your own world when thinking about finding a story," Smith said.
Gathered around a conference table and munching
on their meals, interns drew story ideas from
their personal experiences and discussed them
with the group. Sabrina Ford, intern with The
Tavis Smiley Show in NPR West in Los Angeles,
shared her ideas via videoconference. The group
also talked about other resources for finding
June 4: Opening Breakfast with NPR President & CEO Kevin Klose
Create something irreplaceable
NPR's President & CEO Kevin Klose spoke candidly with summer interns about the value of engaging people in information and ideas. The opening breakfast on June 2 gave Summer 2004 Interns insight into how the top guy at NPR views the growing public radio audience and the future of broadcasting. He also fielded questions from the interns.
Klose says that using the best energies and being forward thinking is the cornerstone of NPR. "And we can't turn back from it," he says. He attributes NPR's success to creating something that is irreplaceable.
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