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Curious Listener: I'd Like An Order Of News, Hold The Books And Music Please

Katie Burk

In a time of on-demand and specialized media outlets, it has become increasingly easy to seek out only the exact sort of information we may be looking for at any given moment. We hear phrases like "niche journalism" and see news or entertainment websites designed to appeal to very specific topics.

NPR aims to provide a variety of news, culture, humor and music that represents the full diversity of interests of the 26 million people already tuning in as well as others who may be new to NPR. And our goal is to keep all of you both informed and delighted with interviews, reports, videos and games that satisfy your curiosity and keep you hungry for more.

Still, even self-professed NPR lovers can become impatient when they hear a story or report that doesn't appeal to them personally. NPR's Audience Services team occasionally hears from listeners who wish we wouldn't cover certain types of music or review certain films. Recently, we heard from a listener with a more broad programming critique. Daniel, in Ohio, wants to know why we cover books and music at all. He also wonders whether these reviews should be considered promotional in nature. Here's our Curious Listener:

"I love NPR. I depend on it to keep me informed in a balanced way. I am grateful that it's around, and to show that gratitude, I have become a sustaining member. However, there is one feature that I don't quite get. Several times a week I hear a review of a book, or a music album. Though these reviews are thoughtful, I don't feel enriched by them. I mostly feel like some writer or artist is getting a free promotion of their work by NPR staff, which doesn't seem fair. Are these artists so different from the thousands out there that they deserve special recognition? Perhaps someone could explain the rational for these reviews and how they differ from, say, Oprah's (former) book club in their function. I'm not being sarcastic here. There may be something obvious that I've missed. I have no pride and would be happy to admit to being in error."

Dear Daniel,

We appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns.

In addition to being an esteemed news organization, NPR is also a producer of award-winning music and cultural programming. We believe that music, films, and literature are an important part of the national conversation, and we strive to provide a depth and variety of coverage that reflects the diverse interests of our audience.

NPR programming reaches an audience larger than the combined circulation of the nation's top newspapers, and we are committed to excellence in every area of our coverage. For example, at the same time that NPR's Music team was winning an Emmy for New Approaches To News & Documentary Programming in 2011, NPR was also launching a brand new investigative reporting unit and producing Peabody award-winning coverage of the Arab Spring.

Although we're proud of our work, NPR is certainly not alone as a news organization in offering cultural reporting and critical reviews. Book and music reviews have been a function of news organizations throughout history. It is important to note that not all reviews are positive. NPR is not selling the books or music we cover and we do not receive any compensation for such coverage. NPR observes a strict code of ethics and standards for journalism which you are welcome to review: http://ethics.npr.org/

NPR's knowledgeable and experienced staff make thoughtful and informed decisions about which stories to bring you, but we also welcome audience input. If you feel that there is an author, musician or filmmaker we haven't yet done a story about that deserves our attention, we encourage you to submit your story suggestion via our contact form.

We recognize that not every story or area of coverage can appeal to all people. If stories about music, books or films just aren't your thing, you can always enjoy NPR's excellent news reporting or check out our science and health coverage from blogs like Krulwich Wonders and Shots. Perhaps you're interested in the creative and innovative ideas discussed in a program such as NPR's TED Radio Hour, or maybe you appreciate the topical humor of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. Whichever of our programs may appeal to you most, NPR seeks to keep you both informed and entertained. Listener feedback is important to us, and we, again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.


NPR Audience and Community Relations

Books and Music will continue to be an important part of the mix of NPR's programming. We understand that we may not always be able to please every audience member with each aspect of our coverage, but we hope that everyone will be able to find something that they are looking for in NPR's programming. For a different perspective, just check out this past Curious Listener post where we responded to a listener who was fed up and depressed by what she felt was too much news coverage. Whatever your perspective is, we always welcome thoughtful questions and comments from our listeners.

/ Katie Burk/NPR
Katie Burk/NPR

Send your questions about the inner workings of NPR, something you heard during a program, or anything else NPR-related to NPR Services. Your question and the answer might even end up on the This is NPR blog.

Justin Lucas has worked for the NPR Audience and Community Relations team since 2006. He lives in Baltimore, and spends his free time playing music and working on freelance design and illustration projects.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Justin Lucas