What Made “Tell Me More” Special

As part of an attempt to end its budget deficit, NPR has canceled “Tell Me More” and laid off 28 staffers. It’s sad news for many reasons. “Tell Me More,” was a very good show, and host Michele Martin was particularly adepts at interviewing people from a variety of viewpoints with both respect and candor. 

But it is also disappointing because “Tell Me More” was a show that reflected the African American experience through the breadth of the human story. Just look at their recent episodes. You might have one day that pairs an interview with Wole Soyinka with a segment on the future of integrated schools and a discussion of Donald Sterling, while the next talked about the housing market, the recent upheaval at the New York Times, regulating the internet, diversity in television and a new Asian American focused sitcom. 

“Tell Me More” didn’t ignore race, in other words. It accurately situated race as a central facet of the daily American story, while leaving ample room for reportage and discussion of other aspects of that story. In a better version of our media landscape, this would be nothing special. Nearly every show would work like this, carving out time for the wide variety of interests and perspectives that make up relevant news for Americans. “Tell Me More” would be the rule rather than the exception, and it would be expected that shows regularly tackle racial issues, because race, in both its historical legacies and present realities, underlies so much of our daily lives.

The good news is that, according to Colorlines, Martin and the show’s Executive Editor will remain at NPR and “will be part of an initiative to incorporate the kind of coverage of issues of race, identity, faith, gender and family that appear on the show” into the rest of the network. Here’s hoping they’re successful. 

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