Reporters’ spots endorse news values

While On The Media was exploring the issue of liberal bias in NPR programs, the embattled news organization adopted a different tactic to refute the recent attacks on its journalism. It conceived and produced a series of on-air testimonials featuring its on-air hosts and correspondents, describing NPR's news values in their own words.

Sixty journalists wrote and recorded testimonials for the first batch of spots, which were unveiled to stations March 24 [2011] and added to the NPR program feed on March 28. More than 100 spots will be produced for the campaign, which is rotating two testimonial promos within each hour of the NPR program feed through April 17.

If the spots air that frequently, the campaign could reach 22 million listeners, according to Eric Nuzum, acting v.p. of programming, who managed the production.

Concepts for the campaign evolved from conversations inside NPR about "ways to tell our story and to engage different people in telling our story," Nuzum said. The idea to enlist NPR's news talent hit a "sweet spot" because it gave individual journalists opportunities to create first-person testimonies about their work, he said.

Nuzum tapped five NPR newsies to create sample spots, then shared them with a larger pool of reporters and hosts and invited them to write their own scripts. The guidelines were relatively simple — talk about NPR's journalism "why it's important and what we stand for collectively," Nuzum said. The approach was very similar to spots that NPR creates for public radio fundraising drives, except that they don't include a call to action.

The spots were produced in an assembly-line style recording session, with journalists lined up in the hallway, waiting patiently to record their scripts.

Completing the project within 72 hours "is a testament to how journalists in the NPR newsroom saw this as a important way to stand up for the values they believe in so strongly," Nuzum said.
NPR.org posted audio of many of the spots last week. Sample them online.

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