Three Words You Can’t Say on NPR – by Bill Siemering
[Recently National Public Radio notified staff and stations to use the initials NPR as the sole identity on-air rather than the full name.]
Why did National Public Radio abandon these defining words in favor of letters at this time?
At a time when we’re awash in Internet sites, blogs and social media, of course NPR should promote its online presence. But by banishing the word “radio” from its identity, it also downplays its relationship to the network of public radio stations which 32 million listeners tune into each week to hear NPR programming. NPR should continue to honor and nourish that relationship instead of trying to escape or bypass it.
The many new ways people listen don’t make the word “radio” confusing. In fact, Internet only radio stations use the word “radio” so people know what to expect.
The technology has not become obsolete like the telegraph in AT&T.
We have nothing to cover up like British Petroleum or any shameful connotations like Blackwater.
Yet NPR has chosen to remake its identity with a similar bland approach to corporate branding.
Words mean more than letters.
The words National Public Radio have 40 years of meaning something and were chosen with great care and thought.
‘National’ is inclusive, meaning all of us, meaning we can hear each other and we can hear public radio everywhere.
Before “public radio”, it was “educational radio.” We took our new name seriously, to serve a broader audience, to be more engaging, to reflect the diversity of the country. It brought us out of the university into the public square. Now with the ascendancy of ‘public media’ NPR hides it.
On-air fund raising rests on the distinction of public radio. “We depend on the public for our support and that’s what makes our programming stand out and outstanding.” (In future years, when seeking pledges, the host may say, “You may not know this but the ‘P’ in NPR stands for ‘public.’”)
Radio is the most evocative name among media. People recall listening to songs at important times, even dancing to them, and the play-by-play of a baseball game on a hot summer night. Listeners connect strongly with on-air personalities and stories because they create the pictures.
National Public Radio is an honored family name.
Why would a name brand that has come to stand for the most respected broadcast medium in journalism be discarded for only letters to be like some other corporation like CVS, H&M, AIG?
Why would a journalism organization, where words matter most, choose letters instead?
Can this decision be reconsidered?