NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Today, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual report on the state of American journalism, and a lot of it can be summed up in one word: bleak. Fewer and fewer people subscribe to newspapers and magazines. Ad revenues are down, job losses are up and across the board - not just at newspapers, but throughout print and broadcast journalism. And years of dire predictions start to come true as some institutions die while others try to reinvent themselves on the Web.
What's the state of the news media where you live? What's on your local TV and radio stations? What does your local newspaper look like, if you still have one? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You can join the conversation at our Web site. That's at npr.org. Just click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later in the hour, resentments over recession chic on the opinion page this week.
But first, the state of American journalism. Last month, E.W. Scripps and Company decided to close the Rocky Mountain News. The last tabloid-sized issue of the Rocky, as the locals called it, was printed February 27th, almost 150 years after the newspaper began. Denver is now a one-newspaper town.
John Temple was the editor, publisher and president of the Rocky Mountain News, and he joins us now by phone from his office in Denver.
Thanks very much for being with us today.
Mr. JOHN TEMPLE (President, Rocky Mountain News): Good morning. Thank you for having me.
CONAN: And as we speak, a meeting is under way at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, announcing that tomorrow's print edition will be its last. You've had some recent experience; what's it like on the day?
Mr. TEMPLE: Well, it's gut-wrenching. I mean, it's very sad news out of Seattle, but I think to be expected. And it'll be very, very difficult for the people in the newsroom. And I'm glad the editor of that paper can be with his staff because that's where the most - the most important thing he can do today.
CONAN: And obviously, you were the one making the announcement not so long ago.
Mr. TEMPLE: Well, the executives from the E.W. Scripps were here to make the announcement, but I accompanied them and also addressed the staff, and was aware of the weight of the announcement and the seriousness of that moment in Colorado history. I mean, this is the only paper that has literally chronicled, you know, the entire history of Colorado.
They have - every edition of this newspaper sits in the Denver Public Library. And now, we're no longer. However, the Denver Post goes on and as the single paper in town, it's hoped - certainly, by their owners and by the staff - that they will be much more financially healthy and be able to survive this downturn.
CONAN: What difference does it make that Denver is now a one-newspaper town?
Mr. TEMPLE: Well, it makes a real difference in the sense of there are fewer reporters on the street. There's no question that there are fewer eyes and ears on government and on powerful institutions. So there's a loss, and you'll never know what you lost. But there is a loss.
CONAN: You'll never know what you lost. What about the staff that was the beating heart of that institution?
Mr. TEMPLE: Well, it's, you know, sort of both terrible and good news. I mean, it's very, very difficult for the staff. They lose their job at a time when the economy is very bad and it's difficult to find a job. And yet, just today, we had an announcement that a group of about 30 former Rocky journalists have announced the formation of a new Web online newspaper, and they are seeking subscriptions. So, there's - part of the destruction of capitalism is this kind of creative energy, and we're seeing it. And we're also seeing people from my staff find good jobs in the industry and in a related field. And so, that is very encouraging as well.
CONAN: Well, looking back on it, was there anything you could have done?
Mr. TEMPLE: Well, I think, you know, Denver's complicated by the fact - just as is Seattle - that they have what is known as a joint operating agreement, which is essentially an antitrust exemption from the Justice Department to make their operations more effective. I think there are many things we could have done to be a more successful business. Ultimately, I think it would've still resulted in Denver only being able to support one major print newspaper. I think this was inevitable. It was just a matter of timing.
And, of course, the question was, what would the print newspaper look like? What would the title be? But ultimately, I think, no, that Denver can only support one newspaper.
CONAN: Can Denver support one newspaper?
Mr. TEMPLE: I think it can, but it will be very challenging in the early phases. And the question - it may take a number of different leaders experimenting to determine what that newspaper looks like.
My view is, is if it thinks of itself as a newspaper, the answer is no. If it thinks of itself as the leading local information source for Denver and it's very aggressive about online, and feeding cellular devices and niche publications and niche Web sites and - it has the possibility of success. Will it have the profit margins that were typical of very successful, single-newspaper towns? I don't think so. But can it be a viable business? I truly believe it can. But in the short term, it could be very challenging. And they could go through some bumps.
CONAN: And what you're calling that multiplatform service - providing information on cell phones, on the Web - didn't you guys try all that?
Mr. TEMPLE: We did. But think about it this way. Here was one company selling advertising for two Web sites so that our promotional - when we were competing on the promotional basis, we had a very confused message. So, which Web site should I use, denverpost.com or rockymountainnews.com? You need - I think you need one message. And I think that will help the existing organization. But you're absolutely right that we tried a lot. And we also know that the revenue online is much lower than the revenue that had been available to us in print.
And news organizations are going to continue to have to become much, much more efficient. And they're going to have to examine what they do and determine which aspects of what they've been doing no longer make sense in this new media world. And I think they're going to have to abandon some of the things they do.
CONAN: John Temple, thanks very much for your time today, and thanks for your reflection.
Mr. TEMPLE: Thank you very much for inviting me.
CONAN: John Temple was the editor, publisher and president of the Rocky Mountain News until February, when E.W. Scripps and Company closed that newspaper. He joined us by phone from his office in Denver today.
With us here in Studio 3A is Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. He oversaw the State of the News Media report.
Tom, nice to have you back on the program.
Mr. TOM ROSENSTIEL (Director, Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism): Thanks, Neal.
CONAN: And the story from Seattle and Denver becoming all too familiar.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. Now, the one thing to remember is, as John Temple said, these are both papers - both cities that have two newspapers. And to be in a so-called joint operating agreement, one of those papers has to be legally declared as a failing newspaper.
So the Rocky was a failing newspaper for a number of years. And what happened in - last month was that the market in this recession, and with the audience migrating to the less profitable Web, could no longer support a viable newspaper and have that viable newspaper underwriting a failing newspaper.
We have yet to see a major metro go out that was the only newspaper in town. It's a little bit - we're ahead of ourselves if we think newspapers are dying and there are cities now that don't have them. That hasn't happened yet. It may, but it hasn't happened yet.
CONAN: Then, they're on a severe diet. I travel around the country, and these newspapers are becoming thinner and considerably less substantial.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: The basic problem here is that the audience is migrating online, and the advertiser is not migrating with them. The Internet, it turns out, has decoupled advertising from news.
If you're Best Buy, you don't necessarily need to put those inserts in the newspaper to reach your customers. You have a Web site and they can reach you directly.
To give you an idea, many newspapers, particularly like the New York Times, probably has half its readership now online, but it makes only 10 percent of its revenue there. So, the problem here - and we've talked about this before on this program - the problem facing newspapers, in particular, is a revenue problem more than it is an audience problem.
And if, as John indicated - and John is a very bright guy; the problem at the Rocky was not a failure of leadership - newspapers haven't a chance here because they've held on to their audience, if you look at their combined audience.
The question is: Can they figure out a new way that's not advertising to monetize that audience, to convert that audience into revenue? Is it through charging on your cell device? Is it through some subscription format that hasn't been figured out? Is it through point-of-transaction sales, where you go to the Web site and you actually not just get - see advertising but buy something in a retail mall?
There's a variety of options out there still unexplored, but they get - better start exploring them quick.
CONAN: Well, we'll find out a bit later whether charging on your cell device -most people think that's what you do when you plug it in overnight, not when you pay for a newspaper account. But anyway, we want to find out what the state of the media is where you live. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
And John(ph) is with us from Independence in Kentucky.
JOHN (Caller): Hey. Yeah, I just wanted to mention that the newspaper down here - we used to have two, one was the Post, which was more focused on local calls - oh, I'm sorry, local news. And the other one was the Enquirer, which was linked to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
CONAN: Mm-hmm. And what's happened to them?
JOHN: Well, the Post has actually gone out of business, and it was absorbed by the Enquirer a while ago. And the Enquirer has now - in the last couple of years or so, it's actually become a lot smaller and there's been a lot less to read in it. It used to be a really big event for me and my family.
I'm just 19, but me and family, we would go up to a restaurant about every Sunday morning, and we would take the newspaper with us and we'd all get a section to read through, and we'd all switch around and talk about what we are reading. And we tried doing that just this past weekend. We found a hard time to find a lot about to talk that we hadn't already read online.
CONAN: And you've probably finished a lot of the sections before the menu came?
(Soundbite of laughter)
JOHN: Yeah. But in addition to the newspaper becoming smaller, it's - there is - all the information that we can get from it, we can get online. Like my dad, he got his first job through the newspaper. And I tried to get a job through the newspaper and it turned out to be a scam. And I had to - I tried to resort to online sources instead, and they've been a lot more fruitful so far.
CONAN: Well John, good luck getting a job.
JOHN: All right. Thanks.
CONAN: Appreciate it. And John - Tom Rosenstiel very briefly, that's a consistent situation.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: The Internet is really, in many ways, a superior delivery system for news but not for advertising, because you can get what you want, when you want it. You don't have to wait until the next morning.
CONAN: And in terms of looking for a job, it's clearly a superior way to deliver classified ads.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: The classifieds can be much longer, deeper, more specific. Imagine a real estate ad online, where you take a virtual tour of the house. There are - the technology, you know, really is a better way of delivering information. We just haven't figured out a way to finance it.
CONAN: Tom Rosenstiel directs the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. He'll tell us more about the generally dismal state of the news business, and the few bright spots, in just a moment.
What's the state of the news media where you live? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. Stay with us.
I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
The Web, dismal economy, fewer ad dollars - all part of a nightmare many news outlets face right now. The annual report on the state of the news media comes out today. Tell us, what's the state of the news media where you live? What's on your local TV and radio stations? What does your local paper look like? 800-989-8255. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also join the conversation on our Web site at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Tom Rosenstiel directs the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, the organization that put together today's report. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line.
This is Tierria(ph), is that correct?
TIERRIA (Caller): It's Tierria.
CONAN: Tierria, okay. Go ahead, calling from Chicago. Go ahead, please.
TIERRIA: I'm calling from Chicago. I'm probably soon to be an ex-subscriber to the Chicago Tribune because they recently redesigned it. It's beautiful to look at, but there's no news in it. So that's the state of my particular paper. Page three of my Chicago Tribune is an article on Facebook, something on Twitter, and something about Utah.
And, you know, we just had 28 kids in Chicago - school children in Chicago -have been murdered this year. It's a little insulting, quite frankly, to pick up the news - page four: shortage of Catholic priests. It's - there's just not a lot of news in it. Well, that's my…
CONAN: And when you say it looks beautiful - color pictures, color graphics, that sort of thing?
TIERRIA: Color graphics - it's got a big, giant picture of a basketball player at the banner that says Chicago Tribune; big, beautiful color pictures all over the place; giant advertisements in color, including on the front page of the newspaper, which I really can't get used to, either.
CONAN: And the only recourse you have is to cancel your subscription?
TIERRIA: Well, that's what I feel like. I mean, I definitely wrote them and told them, you know, hey, where's my news? But they, you know, never bothered to respond back to me. And, you know, that's not going to do well for them, revenue-wise. But you know, I'm a person who likes to snuggle in with the newspaper and see what's going on. And unfortunately, I'm finding out more about what's going on, you know, listening to my local radio station, listening to NPR.
Your coverage is still - I feel like I'm still getting the news. And I just don't feel like they're telling me anything that I'm interested in.
CONAN: Tierria, thanks for the kind words. And we'll wish you good luck with the Milwaukee Journal.
(Soundbite of laughter)
TIERRIA: The Chicago Tribune.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: And let's see if we get - there's another call from Chicago. So let's go to Brad(ph), Brad also calling from Chicago.
BRAD (Caller): Yes. Hi. I'm the editor of the alumni Web site for the Chicago public schools. And I recently put together a list of alumni journalists from Chicago and there were, you know, well over 100. Chicago has certainly been a capital for newsmakers for over 150 years.
But one thing I noticed was people from, you know, the last - I guess the early part of the century, it was all primarily newspapers. Then, you moved into, of course, broadcasting - radio, television - and then there was kind of a nice balance.
But as of late, it's pretty much all of the newsmakers coming out of Chicago are in the broadcasting business - they're on radio, they're in television. And then, the newspaper journalists that are still there and still doing well are moving to more online media.
They're - they have a Twitter account, they have a post on Huffington's page as well as their column in the - the Sun Times. And so, new media is certainly taking over if you look at the, sort of, the alumni roster, Chicago public schools.
CONAN: That's an interesting way to look at it. Thanks very much, Brad.
BRAD: Yes, pleased.
CONAN: Tom Rosenstiel, both those developments - I mean, the Chicago Tribune, well, it's - the company's declared bankruptcy, so they're trying what they can do to build up their readership.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. You've got this problem now, which is that the print edition of the newspaper is the part that's financing the whole operation, because the Internet's not doing it. And these are, largely, publicly traded companies or private companies with a lot of debt. And they're very worried about extracting cash, and they're very worried about showing corporate viability; the stock prices of publicly traded newspapers fell 83 percent last year.
So what they're doing is they're maintaining profitability, and they're trying to extract cash or going into bankruptcy because they've got a lot of debt, in the case of the Tribune Company.
And the problem with that is that they're shrinking the print product down in a way that's alienating…
CONAN: Their readership.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: …the readership, which has the threat of accelerating the decline of the newspaper. When in some ways, what you need to do is - you know, these are really emerging industries online - you need to somehow restore that product, maintain the product as much as you can, and weather the storm until the - first, the recession ends and second, you…
CONAN: Somebody comes up with a business plan.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Exactly. Well, the problem is if you shrink that, you know, the core business down, people are going to abandon this because they have so many more options now for news.
CONAN: Well, on the second option of going online, as we heard in Denver that some of the people - the refugees from the Rocky - are putting together, 30 of them, a Web newspaper of sorts. There are people trying that all across the country.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yes. And right now, the scale of that is fairly small. But those new start-ups are not going to have the burden of so much debt. They're not going to have the expectations of a stock price. They really are going to be operating like a Silicon Valley start-up, with different expectations.
CONAN: And they might make it, they might not, but it's not going to have all that weight of expectation on them. But nevertheless, the overall quality of news coverage in a town, that's going to suffer.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. I mean, there is something to be said for simply the number of boots on the ground. It doesn't matter how good your journalists are if there aren't enough them. And newspapers have always been sort of the Russian army of journalism. They've had the most boots on the ground, and that is going away. And as John Temple said, using different words, the problem with this is, we won't know what we don't know.
CONAN: Yeah. And as the Russian army used to say, that quantity has a quality all its own. So, let's get another caller on the line. This is Steve(ph), Steve calling from St. Louis.
STEVE (Caller): Yeah. Hi. I would say probably the leading publication here in St. Louis for in-depth coverage is the Post-Dispatch, which traditionally had, I guess, a lot of reporters and a lot of coverage. But their paper has really just, in my opinion, gone downhill. And they've compensated to that by having a lot of their remaining reporters post on their Web site, which is kind of set up like a blog, where there are different niche audiences for, you know, politics or business or religion or whatever.
And their leading writers will make blog posts throughout the day and people can comment, and then the reporters will follow up. And it's great in concept because for a person like me, one of the first things I do is flip to the letters to the editor of the paper to see what people are saying. But the end result on the Internet has been that the reporters are doing their best to try to engage the audience, but the audience just tends to post very angry, polemic comments that really don't have anything to do with the story. So, nice experiment, but I'm not really sure how well that's going off.
CONAN: And the other thing, Tom, is reporters complain they're being spread awfully thin. If you've got to file on Twitter and then update your blog, when do you have time to actually report?
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. The Web offers the potential for both infinite depth and infinite speed. And at the moment, as these newspapers try and react, they're moving more in the direction of breaking news. I mean, the Internet has allowed newspapers to go - get back in the breaking news business and compete with local TV. But that has the effect of taking your writers and spreading them very thin, and has - reinforces that tendency where you'll see the newspaper the next morning and you think, I already know all this.
CONAN: Yeah. Steve, thanks very much.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email, this from Jocelyn(ph) - excuse me, Bruce in Tucson: I subscribed to the newspaper for years, but when I got divorced 10 years ago and the Internet version of the Arizona Daily Star came out, I stopped subscribing to waste less paper. About two years ago, as the threat to local papers grew more dire, I wrote to the managing editor and asked that they charge for the Internet version. He said - she said that was not in their business plan. Recently, they offered a PDF version of the actual paper for $4 a month as opposed to the online version, which is still free. I now subscribe to the PDF version, though I do not use it. I prefer the free, online version but make my monthly contribution just to keep the local daily in business.
That's a - as a business - that's a very nice thing for Bruce to do. As a business plan, I don't think it's going to go too far.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah, the problem with this idea of charging for content is the whole industry has got to do it en masse, collectively and in a way that probably requires a congressional exemption from antitrust regulations or it won't work. And the reason is because if the New York Times says, well, you have to charge for our stuff, as long as I can go somewhere else and get a similar story - maybe not as good, but close enough - for free, no one's going to pay for it. It's essentially trying to charge for something that people can get elsewhere for free.
CONAN: What about some of these alternative plans that we've heard about to -well, every time you click on a link to a newspaper article, there should be some micro charge that goes to the paper?
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah, I think the micro payment idea was tested early on in the Internet, particularly overseas. It did not work. It's a little bit like driving down the freeway in the old days of toll roads and having to stop at a gate every mile or so. I think a more viable option, but one that hasn't been tried, is the cable model, where your subscription to CNN and Fox and the Food Channel and the Golf Channel and the mlb.com are embedded in your cable bill every month, and particularly the basic cables. The cable company turns around and pays a fee to the content producer. The analogue here would be, you already pay for the Internet. It's your Internet access fee. Build a small fee into that for the content producers, for the newspaper industry and the news industry…
CONAN: But who decides how much the New York Times gets and how much the…
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: It would be based on traffic, on ratings, as it were, just as it is in cable and just as ad rates are in television.
CONAN: And interesting, you point to cable as the model. Cable is the one bright spot in this media landscape.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Cable did spectacularly last year. Our mean ratings across the day were up 38 percent; profits were up 33 percent for the year. And part of that is because they had a kind of Ahab-like fixation on the election, and part of it was because the convenience of that medium. Part of it also was the fact that it's not entirely advertising driven. Half of the revenue in cable news comes from these subscriptions. So…
CONAN: I thought it all came from ShamWow.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: With a fairly small audience, you can make a very tidy profit in cable. And had we invented a thing 15 years ago where we said, well, we're going to create this medium where you can get everything you want, whenever you want it, on your computer, but the people who produce the stuff that's there get nothing, get no fee of any kind, you'd say, well, wait a second, that's not really going to work. We can't design it that way. But we didn't design this. It just evolved.
CONAN: We're talking with Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, the principal writer on the State of the News Media 2009, which was issued today. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255, email us, email@example.com. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Let's go to Joe. Joe with us from Petaluma in California, Petaluma.
JOE (Caller): Hello there.
CONAN: Hi Joe.
JOE: Good to be on the show. I have an issue that came up a few months back. We get the San Francisco Chronicle, and I've had the paper for about two years and I paid for six months of it and continue to get the paper four days a week. And my wife has written letters to the paper asking them how we can pay for this, and we haven't heard a response.
CONAN: So they're giving it to you, the actual, physical newspaper, for free.
JOE: For free.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JOE: It's kind of absurd. I mean, they're - I imagine we're not the only one in this situation as well. So, you know, some of their problems might be fixed just by, maybe some infrastructure…
CONAN: Are you getting dunning letters - we're going to actually stop delivering the paper unless you actually subscribe?
JOE: Actually, I've not been getting any letters of any kind from the - you know, the only thing I'm getting from the newspaper is the newspaper.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JOE: I don't get any sort of bills or invoices or anything.
CONAN: Well, it's a happy situation for you but not necessarily for the San Francisco Chronicle, which, Tom Rosenstiel, is at death's door.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. I mean. this is, this is - I mean, I shouldn't laugh. But you know, this is an industry that's got to reinvent itself, and it's having problems maintaining the old infrastructure. You know, American newspapers charge very little. Only about 20 percent of the revenue of newspapers comes from subscription. In Europe, it's almost the opposite; about 70 percent of the revenue comes from subscription because they charge a great deal more for newspapers. American newspapers didn't do that because they made so much…
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: …money from advertising that they didn't have to. And now, that doesn't work, and the industry is just not nimble and innovative enough. There's very little money into R&D other than printer - other than R&D presses…
CONAN: Which is not to say it's not profitable. I mean, they're still making money.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Even, you know, here we're talking about our newspapers dying, the industry will average about 11 percent profit in 2008, in a terrible year. There's a lot of revenue still in the newspaper industry. Last year, the industry made $38 billion in ad revenue and about another 7 in subscription revenue. So, this is a very large business now, and there's plenty of room, actually, to scale back. The problem is that you may scale back to the point where people say, well, there's a lot of money here but there's not a lot of news.
CONAN: Joe, thanks very much for the call.
CONAN: Let's see if we can wind up with David. David with us from Winlock in Washington.
DAVID (Caller): Yes, hi.
DAVID: I do a small community newspaper. I'm kind of the editor, writer, just kind of jack of all trades of it. And I wanted to touch on that, that our daily here that serves a community of about 40,000, 50,000 people…
CONAN: Mm hmm.
DAVID: …switched last year to focus more on extremely local news. They took the national and international news off their front page, and everything's very local. And that's what our community weekly has been doing for - well, since 1967. And though the economy has kind of hurt our ad sales a little bit, it hasn't really put us in jeopardy because we focus on such local news that the community reads us and wants to see us.
CONAN: And you're still making money?
DAVID: Still making money. Like I said, the economy has put a little bit of a crimp in our style but not like the New York Times, for example.
CONAN: Do you still have enough money to hire reporters to go cover local town hall, that sort of thing?
DAVID: Well, like I said, I'm kind of - I'm kind of it. It's sort of a one-person operation. We also have a sales manager. So no, we don't hire reporters. But what we have is local correspondents who attend various clubs, meetings and other things and then write in a weekly report. And they do it for next to nothing because it's such a community involvement spirit.
CONAN: Hyper-localism, and even a lot of big-city newspapers, Tom Rosensteiel, are trying that.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah, and the problem is, for the big-city newspapers, is that these hyper-local publications like…
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: David's have been - already occupy that space. The real problems in the newspaper industry are happening at the big-city metros. And there are still a lot of profitability and viability in the very local papers because they are competing for advertising that has no other place to go. These places don't have Web sites. They rely on this local…
DAVID: We have a Web site, but our population doesn't really use the Web for the kind of news that we…
DAVID: …we publish.
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: And your advertisers may not really have much in the way of Web sites themselves, so they can't bypass you. They need you.
CONAN: David, good luck, a continued good luck to you.
DAVID: Thank you.
CONAN: Appreciate the phone call and Tom Rosensteiel, we hope you'll be back next year with much better news.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Me, too. Thank you.
CONAN: Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, oversaw the State of the News Media report. We have a link to the full report at npr.org/talk, and Tom was with us here in Studio 3A. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.