Tavis Smiley Leaving NPR
I'm gonna be honest, maybe a little ugly and maybe a little silly. I'm not Tavis' biggest fan. Though I listen to NPR daily, I rarely catch his program and, even though I tape his PBS show (because it comes on at 1am), I almost always forget to watch it too. You see, he has a kazoo-like timbre to his voice that basically grates my nerves. I have a few issues with his diction, his inappropriate lapses into slang and ... I really just have a hard time with the name "Tavis." For some reason, it conjures up visions of Blaine and Antione. I keep seeing them - wrists twirling, lisps in full force - calling him "Tavist." It's an odd train of thought but, hey, that's where he takes me.
Smiley criticized NPR for what he characterized as its failure to "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don't know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future."
The launch of "The Tavis Smiley Show" was designed in part for NPR and its member stations to reach out to minority listeners.
(link via afronetizen)
I guess I really don't buy that somehow NPR let Tavis down. To his credit, I'd say that he got a lot more exposure and had the opportunity to appeal to a much broader audience than the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" demographic (a show which didn't make it in the Bay Area - thank God ... I listened to him in the 70's and I've outgrown him). He was given the opportunity to interview a wider range of guests than he had on BET and was able to showcase some of my favorites like Cornel West and give a voice to black conservatives like Joseph C. Phillips. I see it as a net win for him.
For NPR, on the other hand, I'm guessing they didn't pull in the broader audience that they wanted. For that, however, I am not sure I can place blame on them or their marketing of him. Tavis has a strong following in the black community and with the "hip-hop" crowd. From his days on BET, his books, his collaboration with Tom Joyner and his coordination of the annual "State of the Black [dot dot dot]" specials on C-Span, I think it was on him to bring his crowd with him ... much in the way barbers and beauticians bring their old clients to a new shop. He didn't. Is that NPR's fault? I don't think so. I just can't envision too many of the folks who supported Tavis on BET and the "call in for some free tickets" shows tuning into him on NPR when more often than not, it seems, NPR is asking you to send them money. It's one thing listen to him for a segment with the "fly jock" but quite another to tune in to a station where all they do is talk - with no music, buffoonery or prizes (I know that sounds a little Bill Cosby-esque but...).
I can't say I'm surprised that he's leaving - nor am I really disappointed. He'll do fine in his next life. He definitely has a following and NPR, surely, can find another black person to draw in a more diverse audience. "Tavist" just wasn't it.