Ferguson coverage proves NPR needs (a show like) “Tell Me More”

The network is fair and balanced, but where is the “humanity” in its reporting following Michael Brown’s death? 

By A.M. JAMISON

tell-me-more

I miss “Tell Me More.”

National Public Radio ended the seven-year-old show, which covered issues of race, identity, faith, gender and family, on Aug. 1 partly due to a budget crunch. I came late to the “Tell Me More” party, having just begun tuning in to its analysis last year. It kept me company as I worked alone during the day in my home office. I was bereft when I heard it was canceled.

But after listening to the harrowing accounts about Michael Brown, an unarmed black student who was fatally shot by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. – less than four miles from my childhood home – I missed “Tell Me More” even more.

Even as NPR news churned out information about Brown’s death, community rallies, riot, and varying accounts of what led to the shooting, I couldn’t help but wonder how former “Tell Me More” host Michel Martin would’ve handled this story.

Howard University freshmen pose for class photo with hands in the air. #dontshoot

Howard University freshmen pose for class photo with hands in the air. #dontshoot

Who would the engaging, intelligent and seasoned Martin have invited on the show to provide a nuanced context to the tragedy? Which guest would’ve shed light on the history of racial tensions between the predominantly white police force and the predominantly black residents of the St. Louis suburb? Which writer, political consultant, civil rights lawyer, mother or father would have brought more than the facts – dare I say, humanity – to the anguish and frustration of the demonstrators? What would the racially/politically diverse male “Barbershop” crew have said about America’s seeming war on unarmed black men?

No doubt, NPR can always be counted on to deliver the news from the traditional way American journalism is presented: balanced and fair – which, as a former journalist, I know isn’t always so fair and balanced. We are human, after all.

But let’s hope NPR lives up to what Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson promised when “Tell Me More” was canceled: The news network will emphasize diversity on the remaining flagship shows and give Martin the runway she needs to produce such segments for those shows. Because we shouldn’t hear diverse voices only after police gun down innocent black men.

 

10516802_10203706939821707_7095978896425018762_nA.M. Jamison is a former newspaper copy editor who grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Mo. (aka the “Show Me State”). She works as a tech news editor in Austin, Texas.

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  1. Kirk Schlesinger says

    We shouldn’t have to wonder who Ms Martin would interview or what she would be focussing on. The fact is NPR’s new CEO Jarl Mohn PROMISED her to her face during an interview in the final week of “Tell Me More” in late July that she and her staff would be “mainstreamed” into NPR coverage. (Hear the interview: http://www.npr.org/programs/tell-me-more/archive?date=2014-07-29&eid=336306524#) Well, now, I would think that Ferguson is the obvious first assignment for Martin & her team. So, Mr Mohn, where are they? Thanks to you, sir, off the air and out to pasture. The first lesson Mr Mohn teaches us is that talk (especially from him) is cheap and easy — no follow-through or commitment required.

    Fortunately, nothing can keep Michel Martin down for long. She is hosting a community discussion on race, law enforcement, and more in St. Louis on Aug. 28 2014 1730-2000 (5.30-8pm) (http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/st-louis-public-radio-host-community-discussion-nprs-michel-martin)

    St. Louis public radio reportedly will rebroadcast the event on Aug. 29th 1200-1400 (noon-2pm). The live stream can be found at: http://www.stlpublicradio.org/listen.php

    Podcasts will likely be made available from St Louis public radio as well.

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