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Ed Gordon to Host New Show on NPR
By: Makebra M. Anderson
NNPA, National Correspondent
Originally posted 12/21/2004

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Ed Gordon, the former anchor of “BET News,” “BET Tonight” and host of “Lead Story” will host a new show to be called “News & Notes” on NPR, beginning in late January.

The formal announcement of the new one-hour show, which will air each weekday, was expected to be made on Tuesday. According to NPR officials, the program will focus on news, trends and issues important to African-Americans.

''NPR is steadfast in its dedication to present diverse perspectives of relevance to African-Americans,'' says Jay Kernis, senior vice president of programming. ''News & Notes with Ed Gordon takes the mainstream story and gives it context and perspective listeners will not hear elsewhere.''

Gordon had been in discussions with NPR for more than a year. Although not a replacement for Tavis Smiley’s former show, network executives were eager to have another African-American oriented program as part of their regular lineup.

“This has been one of a series of projects that have been initiated by a partnership between NPR and the African-American Public Radio Consortium,” explains Loretta Rucker, president of the African-American Public Radio Consortium. “The consortium (made up of Black general managers in public radio) approached NPR about bringing more programming that gives the African-American perspective in their lineup. Out of that came the ‘Tavis Smiley Show’. It was the first, but was never going to be the last.”

Gordon, who will host the show from WNYC in New York, says he is looking forward to his new challenge.

''The format of the show allows us to talk about anything from politics to pop culture, and that prospect is exciting,'' he says. ''... This kind of program is imperative because often these issues and voices are still, unfortunately, under-reported, under-represented or overlooked all together by most media outlets.''

According to Rucker, NPR and the Consortium have been meeting with Gordon since the beginning of 2003, a year after they launched the “Tavis Smiley Show.”

“The next year after the Smiley show, we began meeting with lots of African-American talent. Ed Gordon was the next person we wanted to talk to,” she recalls. “Ed will be the primary host, but there will also be a female host. Ed is very connected with the African-American audience. He does very well with bringing about a roundtable dialogue. Focus groups show that African-Americans prefer more debate and dialogue. That is a strength that Ed brings to this.”

George E. Curry, editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and, will appear as part of the journalists’ roundtable at least three days a week. He was a regular panelist for more than seven years on BET’s “Lead Story” when it was hosted by Gordon.

In 2002, NPR made its first attempt at drawing minority audiences to public radio. NPR says they asked Smiley to host a show designed to “appeal to an African-American audience.”

The show began on 16 stations, with less than 300,000 listeners per week. By 2004, the show had grown tremendously. It could be heard on 87 stations in nine of the top 10 markets – 18 of those stations were in predominately African-American communities—and had more than 1 million listeners per week.

Before the “Tavis Smiley Show,” NPR had never made a bold attempt to attract African-American listeners.
“NPR didn’t know who Tavis Smiley was until we brought him to their attention. Everyone knows that public radio has to become more diverse, but nobody wants to shoot in the dark,” says Rucker. “So far they [NPR] have been very forthcoming.”

Smiley quit his NPR show earlier this month when his contract expired, charging that NPR didn’t do enough to promote him.

Gordon, a Detroit native, brings years of experience to NPR. He is a frequent contributor to 60 Minutes Wednesday, the Today Show and Dateline. He also served as the host of BET Tonight, anchor of BET Nightly News and creator of the interview series, Conversations with Ed Gordon. He has interviewed Nelson Mandela, President Bill Clinton, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Foxx and O.J. Simpson. It was his Simpson interview that led to an anchoring job with MSNBC-TV before he returned to BET. The Black-oriented cable channel later cancelled “BET Tonight with Ed Gordon,” “Lead Story” and “Teen Summit.”

Rucker says, “Ed is a seasoned journalist. He has a large Rolodex, including entertainment, political, business, news figures. We are excited about him joining NPR and we will continue to move towards a more diverse public radio.”


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