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It's interesting that the author believes that the main thrust of his argument that "NPR remains a cultish echo chamber with a tiny audience anchored in a dying medium" is still valid, if it ever was. In particular, the tiny audience argument doesn't necessarily hold up under scrutiny -- especially given how media audiences have fragmented over the years. According to NPR (and I'm sorry that I don't have another source handy), nearly 27 million people listen to its programs. Let's just say that I don't think I've ever seen that many survivalists. "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" are two of the most-listened-to radio programs in the country, behind only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Although it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, "Weekend Edition Saturday" has more listeners at 3.7 million than the average "O'Reilly Factor" audience of 3.1 million viewers. The "Factor" is, of course, Fox News Channel's highest-rated program. Somehow, I don't think you would necessarily describe Fox News as a "cultish echo chamber" or its audience as "tiny" (although some of Fox News' critics have). In my market of Chico, Calif., the NPR member station is the fourth-highest ranked station, according to Arbitron ratings. (Disclosure - I am a volunteer DJ for this station.) It's a little different in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood market, where public radio station WLRN is ranked 12th out of 40+ stations (as of winter 2010). About 3.8 percent of Miami radio listeners listen to WLRN. Top-ranked Miami station, Lite FM (WLYF), has about 8.3-10.5 percent, depending on the reporting period. Your commentary had an interesting perspective on the state of news media in the mid-1990s. However, given that NPR has grown in the past 15 years amid the large fragmentation of listening/viewing audiences and downsizing of news staffs, I think your critique may need re-evaluation.
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Jun 30, 2010