America

Inside the Crisis at NPR

NPR employees tuned in for a pivotal meeting late last year for a long-awaited update on the future of the public radio network.

After many tumultuous months, marked by layoffs, financial turbulence and internal strife, they signed in to Zoom hoping to hear some good news from NPR’s leaders. What they got instead was a stark preview of the continued challenges ahead.

“We are slipping in our ability to impact America, not just in broadcast, but also in the growing world of on-demand audio,” Daphne Kwon, NPR’s chief financial officer, told the group, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The New York Times.

For the past two weeks, turmoil has engulfed NPR after a senior editor assailed what he described as an extreme liberal bias inside the organization that has bled into its news coverage. The editor, Uri Berliner, said NPR’s leaders had placed race and identity as “paramount in nearly every aspect of the workplace” — at the expense of diverse political viewpoints, and at the risk of losing its audience.

The accusations, leveled in an essay published in an online publication, The Free Press, led to a deluge of criticism from conservatives, including former President Donald J. Trump, who called for the network’s public funding to be pulled. The essay also generated vociferous pushback internally, with many journalists defending their work and saying Mr. Berliner’s essay distorted basic facts about NPR’s coverage.

But NPR’s troubles extend far beyond concerns about its journalism. Internal documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with more than two dozen current and former public radio executives show how profoundly the nonprofit is struggling to succeed in the fast-changing media industry. It is grappling with a declining audience and falling revenue — and internal conflict about how to fix it.

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