NPR Makes the Web Radio Active

Article excerpt

Fans of National Public Radio (NPR) praise the programming: the high-quality news, the in-depth interviews, and the entertaining feature stories. NPR's drive-time broadcasts, Morning Edition and, in the afternoon, All Things Considered, are among the most popular radio programs in the U.S.

But because most people listen in their cars where they don't have easy access to a computer, even longtime fans may not be aware of the wealth of NPR information and entertainment on the web.

NPR.org offers comprehensive national and international news including hourly newscasts and articles written by staff members and the Associated Press; however, there are also blogs on a range of topics including the economy, health, and technology. And there are podcasts, photojournalism, feature articles, book and movie reviews, many years of archived audio, and an outstanding music section covering an array of genres.

A March 2009 article in The Washington Post reported that the cumulative audience for NPR's daily news programs hit a record 20.9 million a week in 2008, a 9% increase over the previous year. And the weekly audience for all programming, including talk shows and music, also reached a record in 2008, with 23.6 million listeners a week, an 8.7% increase over 2007 (www .washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2009/03/23/AR200903 2302972.html).

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Reaching 26 Million Listeners

NPR is a privately and publicly supported, not-for-profit organization that syndicates content from hundreds of public radio stations. It was incorporated in 1970. Ninety public stations were charter members, and programming went on the air the next year. Today, member organizations operate 784 stations, and another 117 public stations also broadcast NPR programs. Overall, NPR produces and distributes programming that reaches a combined audience of more than 26 million.

Over the years, NPR, as with most media organizations, has been accused of a range of biases, including both liberal and conservative predispositions. A relatively recent example of someone claiming a conservative bias is posted on the site True/Slant, where blogger Laurie Essig decries NPR as the "National Program of the Republicans" (http:// trueslant.com/laurieessig/2010/ 02/14/a-peoples-history-of-npr).

But more often during its history, NPR has been "cited by conservatives as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet," as University of California--Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers noted. In a 2005 study, a UCLA political scientist found that "NPR hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet. Its score [on a liberal-conservative index] is approximately equal to those of TIME, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and its score is slightly more conservative than The Washington Post's" (www.newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ ucla/Media-Bias-Is-Real-FindsUCLA-6664.aspx?RelNum=6664).

NPR itself claims neutrality. In its News Code of Ethics and Practices, NPR reports, "Our news content must meet the highest standards of credibility." And it must meet "high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality, and staff conduct."

Always On

The first NPR website was launched in 1994 and became a pioneer in offering streaming audio that let site visitors hear prerecorded programs. Last year, NPR completed a major overhaul designed to make the site "brighter, lighter, faster, easier to use, easier to search, and more fun to surf," according to an online note, which also pointed out that the makeover made it easier "to combine listening and reading, to follow breaking news, to comment on our work and share it, and ... to find programming from your NPR station."

An article in The New York Times noted that the changes--part of a digital expansion branded with the tagline Always On--were meant to "raise the level of NPR's journalism and journalistic output, and to make public radio more widely available, not just on local stations but on any format consumers might want. …