From Publishers Weekly
Having enjoyed a long career in public radio, starting out at a university station and going on to be NPR's first employee and later the chairman of its board of directors, Mitchell chronicles the field's evolution from a privileged standpoint: he knows all the major players and is well-versed in both the guiding philosophy and the inescapable politics that have shaped it. His book acknowledges the importance of university and local stations, but its primary focus is NPR. Mitchell tells the stories behind NPR's major shows, such as All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation, using the process that shaped them to explore the network's purpose. He's a fervent believer in NPR's mission to inform, stimulate and challenge, but one gets the sense that he would have conveyed this better with either a more personal approach or, paradoxically, one that steps back further. Despite Mitchell's firsthand role in NPR's history, this is not a memoir, so he generally avoids talking about his own experience and often presents other people as little more than unmemorable sketches. However, his insider's point of view also has hazards, as he writes largely about internal conversations and political machinations, neglecting to examine either the wider context of media and history or the audience that NPR tries to reach, except as subjects of statistics and surveys. The end product is a somewhat rarefied view of developments that may interest radio buffs but will have a harder time engaging those who simply love public radio and want a more expansive perspective on its background.
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Mitchell, the first producer of the National Public Radio program All Things Considered
, offers a behind-the-scenes look at how public radio evolved from being funded by the government to being supported by listeners. Chronicling the infancy of radio and its ties to the progressive movement, Mitchell details the early days, when pioneers were able to sneak into pubic broadcast legislation provisions to promote public radio. Strong personalities and fierce rivalries marked the early years as NPR and strong affiliates, notably in Minnesota and Wisconsin, debated a format that would provide brand identity and maintain the alternative nature of public radio. As NPR produced strong programs, bringing in more professional journalists (Nina Totenberg, Cokie Roberts, and Linda Wertheimer), debate focused on how public radio would continue to distinguish itself from commercial radio. Budget crises and threatened cutbacks during the Nixon and Reagan administrations forced the move to listener support, a move later embraced as the path to independence. A revealing look at a respected national institution. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved