A 30-year legend gets trashed, but who cares?

It has now been more than two years since Bob Edwards was sacked after nearly 30 years as the host of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” The news was reported on the front page of The Washington Post, right below the story about whether the current administration knew in advance that 9/11 was about to happen.

Somehow, Edwards’ firing doesn’t seem to be nearly as momentous as al Qaeda’s murderous act. But there remain some eternal truths in NPR’s clumsy handling of the matter, and here are a couple of them.

Edwards was with the same broadcast entity for almost three decades. This doesn’t often happen in this fickle and capricious industry. Most who have made a living in the radio and TV fields have found that three to five years is a l-o-n-g time to survive. Usually, within this span of time, the station changes hands, adopts a new policy – such as all-news to hip-hop, switches from English to Hispanic format, or the general manager’s brother-in-law needs a job. In all of these instances, you will have joined the ranks of the unemployed.

So “all things considered,” Edwards was still able to watch his lawn grow, his kids stay in the same schools, and get to know his neighbors. Most broadcasters never experience that luxury.

Because Edwards was the “signature voice” of morning drive time on NPR, where some 13-million listeners are claimed, there was the usual caterwauling by loyal listeners and threats to stop listening and pare down donations. Then things quieted down just as they did when the likes of Arthur Godfrey, Walter Cronkite, Huntley/Brinkley, and Howdy Doody, vanished from the airwaves.

Everyone supposed that without these broadcast icons, civilization as we know it would cease to exist. So in the grand scheme of things, Edwards’ departure or reduction in standing at NPR will be like (to use a broadcast simile) a duck fart in a pond: at first there are discernible ripples that quickly get smaller and smaller, and then disappear before they ever reach shore. That is what this NPR story is – a duck fart.

Of more significance is the predictable and timorous response and comportment of NPR’s executives. Executive Vice President Ken Stern trotted out the usual nattering about “the changing needs of our listeners” and “a programming decision about the right sound.” Another vice president at NPR, Jay Kernis, could not be reached for comment, but Edwards believes it was Kerns who was responsible for his demotion because Kerns didn’t like his style.

This lack of immunity has always been a fatal weakness in most union (AFTRA) contracts – if your “sound” or “delivery” or “style” doesn’t fit the proposed new format, the only thing the station owes you is your severance and unused vacation pay. So Edwards could have been bashed and trashed at any time by NPR, yet he survived nearly 30 years.

Even though National Public Radio is fundamentally for the effete and the elite, its management cadre consists of the same empty suits you will find at commercial radio and TV stations. NPR survives because it is the darling of the left, feminists, environmentalists, portly transgender people reading esoteric poetry, and parvenus who like to have NPR blaring in their cubicles at some “green” group with an acronym for a name. Edwards’ firing/demotion is, as they say, a tempest in a teapot. Yet the story found its way to page one, right hand side, just below the fold, of The Washington Post.

As Tennessee Williams might put it, do you smell mendacity in the air?

– Chase.Hamil

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