DENISE DEZOLT: I want to welcome you. I am thrilled to see such a large group of people in this auditorium. I look around and I'm excited that we are all here today to see the overt manifestation of President Jonathan Kaplan's perspective on the World Series. He shares that same commitment that we all do, to social change. So it is with great honor, and great privilege, and great joy that I introduce to you president Jonathan Kaplan.
JONATHAN A. KAPLAN, JD: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
JONATHAN A. KAPLAN, JD: I'm very pleased to kick off this plenary session this morning. Several months ago we launched, as Denise just mentioned, a speaker series at Walden entitled Perspectives on the World. The goal of this series is to inform and enlighten all of us, Our students, our faculty, alumni, and the broader Waldon community.
The series is designed to achieve that by giving us the opportunity to hear a wide range of views on issues of global importance. This morning we continue this series, and we are very fortunate to have as our plenary speaker, the president of National Public Radio, Mr. Kevin Klose, who has devoted his career to informing and enlightening.
National Public Radio is America's premier nonprofit news and cultural radio programming service. Renowned for journalistic excellence and standard setting news and entertainment programming. Since its launch in 1970, the very year that Waldon began as a university as well, NPR has partnered with over 800 public radio stations attracting nearly 26 million listeners weekly.
I'm very pleased to say that given the amount of NPR listening I do, I probably account for 10,000 or 15,000 of those listeners. A former editor and national and foreign correspondent with the Washington Post, Mr. Klose is an award winning author and international broadcasting executive. Prior to joining NPR in 1998, Mr. Klose served as director of US International Broadcasting, overseeing the United States government's global radio and television news services. And president of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, broadcasting to Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.
A former Woodrow Wilson national fellow, Mr. Klose serves on the board of independent sector in Washington, DC. He's the author of Russia and the Russians: Inside the Closed Society, winner of the overseas Press Club's Cornelius Ryan Award, and co-author of four other books. Please join me in welcoming, to Walden University's summer session residency, Mr Kevin Klose.
KEVIN KLOSE: My goodness, good morning. How are you all today? Thank you for being here. How many Public Radio listeners are in this audience? Oh, OK. Excellent.
Well, thank you very much for being listeners to public radio, but most of all, thank you very much for being part of who we are as a people. It's not only about Americans, it's about human beings. Human beings who are dedicated to something, which I call lifelong learning.
And journalism, it seems to me, is a major part of the journey and the challenge for all of us. I spent much of my career divided between service in the United States and also out of the US. I spent a lot of time in countries of central Europe and the former Soviet Union, which are moving themselves, as best they can. And its progress is different and each place as we know, towards self-government, towards the rule of law, towards civil societies, towards multi-party, democratic means by which they can govern themselves.
In the United States we were very lucky at the very beginning when the-- I want to start at the very beginning, because I think it lays down for us all both a challenge and a responsibility. It helps us understand what it is about life that makes it so different for human beings and all other creatures on the earth. Strangely enough Thomas Jefferson, before there was a Continental Congress, before he became the a US ambassador to France, before a lot of things happened in his life, as a very young man, he was an amazing student of history and culture.
He was a bibliophile and assembled 5,000 volumes of books in the 1750's and 60s. And those books, as you may know, became the core collection that began the Library of Congress. He sent them by pack animal from his residence in Charlottesville, Virginia, about 150 miles Northeast to Washington D.C., to the new capitol, where he later was the third president of the United States.
So he had a huge love, a thirst in his life to learn other cultures. To learn languages. He could read classic Greek. He read Latin. He knew many of the European languages as well as English.
He wanted, as they all did in that time of thinking a knew about what it was they wanted to do-- Jefferson wrote a series of essays prior to his writing the Declaration of Independence, and as we know he was the author of the Declaration. Before he wrote the Declaration-- and they were trading ideas there were early ideas about how self-government could work. How if you didn't have a King and a hierarchy of a kingdom, how you could self-govern and so forth.
And one of the essays he wrote, he made the following observation, which is as true today as when he wrote it with his Quill pen on paper in about 1763 or 4. I'm going to translate it into 21st century soundbite. We're not going to use his colonial British English.
He observed that a people cannot be both ignorant and free. The purpose of that simple statement was to center the most important reality in a self-governing society, which is the population, those who are going to self-govern themselves and their fellows, their community, their state, their nation, have got to have information. They've got to be informed. They have the power to vote people to choose who their leaders will be. They have the power to do lots of many, many things around the issue of how they govern and how they proceed in life, but in order to do that they can't be ignorant.
And that theme has come back over and over again. It's the mission of National Public Radio when it was founded in 1970, the same year as Waldon. And has very similar goals, which was to be of assistance to people in the act of citizenship. It didn't matter what your citizenship was or what your nationality was, the act of citizenship meant participation. It meant responsibility.
It meant learning about what the issues were. Learning about who the would be leaders were who were asking for your support. And learning about the ideas that would move the society in one direction or another.
Journalism is a fundamental part of that. And you all here from many countries and from around the United States have come together in the disciplines of higher learning to hone your skills. To hone your thinking, to move forward, and to then apply the skeptical search for facts that are provable the separation between facts and fiction. The skeptical search for ideas that might enlighten, empower, or might endanger us.
And to make decisions about which ones of those ideas you will internalize and make part of your life, part of your personal life, perhaps the life of your family. Perhaps your neighbors and so forth and so on. And that's the interconnections that information, and responsibility, and power all come together in that constant search. The never giving up notion that we can move forward by learning new things, by encountering new ideas, new cultures, new expressions, of who we are as human beings. Expressions of ideas that can help us find common ground.
In this nation of ours, now more than 300 million people inside the continental United States, that's the general number. It's probably larger than that because there are many people who are uncounted in that large number, when I was born the nation was $150 million people. In my lifetime it's doubled. And in the next 30 years, there's going to be another 100 million Americans. Another 100 million people living inside this country.
So if we think forward, well, stability and context are terribly important to us. We know that our lives are filled with change. Every day something is changing that's going to mean life will be different for us, five days, five years, five decades, out if we're if we're lucky enough to have that kind of span of time. So the bringing in of ideas, the encounter with new cultures, the encounter with the clash of culture, and trying to make sense out of it is crucial to who we are. And for those of us who are parts of countries which continuously struggle to improve what they do by self-government.
Years ago, Hillary Clinton, then the first lady of the United States, came to Prague in the capital of the Czech Republic where we had moved Radio Free Europe. And she wanted to begin a dialogue with the people of Eastern Europe. They had recently been freed from Soviet, what was then Soviet domination, and they were finding their way toward self-government.
And she delivered a speech, which we translated simultaneously into 24 languages, and broadcast it across the region. And what she said was that democracy is something you have to work at every day. Well, for me part of that process is picking up a newspaper or looking at news shows, and working to bring forth ideas, events and the context of those things, so that they can be of use to others, and they can pass it on to others.
What is different from what I'm doing then from what you are doing in your lives. You're doing exactly the same thing. And as the instructors, the professors, and the instructional materials that Walden provides and all of us have seen over the course of our lives to this exact moment. It's all the same.
So we're in a continuum that's our own. It's special, and we confuse it with our vitality and our values by committing to understanding that not only is there power there, but there is the responsibility. So we have no disagreements here.
We're describing a landscape which is deep and abiding, and demands our attention despite our professional demands, our personal demands, the demands of our society. It demands us, individually to commit to not being ignorant so that we can be free.
And in countries where the political system is still not free, where it isn't self-government, there is individual freedoms. When I served in the Soviet Union, when I was a Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post back in the 1970s, it was Soviet power everywhere. The country's borders were completely closed, and people who got into a disagreement with the it could be policeman on the block, if you didn't resolve the disagreement, if one thing led to another there was actually no place you could go because the borders are closed. You had no power, physically or otherwise, against the might and the power of the state.
Inside that continuum, there were millions of people who aspired to a different kind of life. To more freedom. To more freedom to learn, for freedom travel, freedom to have ideas that were brought to them without the control and the hand of the state in the middle of it all. And eventually those kinds of people, they will prevail.
They're connected to us. There's no real separation from any of us, because the aspirations we have, I think as human beings, they run in the same direction. It's against our nature to try to limit ourselves in our thinking, in our acquisition of ideas, and our ability to bring knowledge to us and to those around us.
At NPR, because of people who support us and because of other ideas alive in this society, a kind of demand and need, we've really committed ourselves to very high quality, fact based, contextual journalism. We believe that the headlines in this multimedia digital world, as we all know, the headlines are instantaneous. They're 24/7. It's a little bit like a squirrel in a cage. Running around, tossing off new things every moment, and running around the cage again.
We see plenty of headlines in our lives. The real issue for us is trying to make sense out of them. I believe deeply, as you do here, that it's not just what happened but it's also the context. So across our operation, which is actually very small in terms of how the media are in this country, I used to be at the Washington Post. The Washington Post is a Fortune 600 company.
Interestingly, as you may know, if you follow the fortunes or the misfortunes of newspapering in this country, it's been very tough for newspapers in the past 10 years. Many years ago, the Washington Post leadership, under the Graham family, bought an educational preparation enterprise called Kaplan, because people are interested in knowledge and education. And moving on with their lives, and acquiring the discipline so they can move their professional life and their personal lives along a continuum of constant progress.
Kaplan is now the tail that wags the dog of the Washington Post. It provides much more revenue and profit to the Washington Post company than does the newspaper. At the Washington Post, the goal there was to do high quality contextual journalism, but things have changed for us in our country. We don't have time often for newspapers.
When I left the post 17 years ago, the Washington metropolitan area, since then to today has grown by about 150,000 to 200,000 families. One would think that the circulation of the paper would have gone up. When I left it was about 800,000 a day and about a million on Sundays. Today the daily circulation of the Washington Post in the metropolitan area is 640,000 and the Sunday paper is about 800,000.
People don't have time for it. Our lives have gotten more and more complicated. We believe at NPR, that in the middle of all that with us all together participating, that we can provide a service like no other, because radio, unlike television unlike newspapers unlike text of any sort, radio can be with you no matter what you're doing in your life. You can be driving, jogging, doing the dishes, patting the dog, you can be doing almost anything you want in your life and radio can be there.
We had trouble from a congressman from Ohio some years ago he was always angry about public broadcasting. And I finally figured out, after trying to track out why this man was so obsessed and so angry by Public Radio, I think I got a clue. He had a shower radio hanging from the nozzle in a shower, and when he got the hot water on, it didn't receive very well. So he started his day in a grumpy mood and it never got any better.
Well, I can't solve his shower radio problem and he's out of Congress so-- but my point is that the ubiquity of radio allows something else to happen, because it can be with us this way and because we can't see it. Radio starts to get very personal. It starts to become-- I think of it as that is the only real mass medium that's entirely of the imagination.
Because the voices come from some other place, you can't see where they're coming from. It flows across your car, across your kitchen, or in your shower, if your reception is good. And there are these voices coming to you from Harare, Zimbabwe, or from Helena, Montana, or from Mount St. Helens, Or from Karachi, or Cairo, or Cairo, Illinois.
And these voices start telling us narratives about the human condition, about events that have happened, the flood along the Mississippi as it crested down through. Amazing chronicles of human challenge, of survival, of bravery, of loss, of disruption, of fear, of heroism. And these things can come to us no matter where we are and immediately we can join with that human experience in a remarkable way. So it gets in very, very close to us.
I think radio is a very powerful medium. And because the Public Radio crowd, when they began in 1970, they took the view that this was not to be a transactional medium. It was going to be a values medium. And they realized that the kind of radio they wanted to produce was going to be unique and never previously done.
They were going to take five elements. Verbal communication, people talking back and forth through each other. Ambient noise in a hall like this, or on the street, or in a camel caravan, or with sheep herders, or in a factory, use the ambient sound to put in a touch of that kind of reality. They would use human expression nonverbal, music, sculptors hammer on a chisel, pick up that sound and bring it to us.
They would use musical bridges between pieces and they would do something else for us, which is crucial in our daily lives and much more important perhaps than it was even 30 years ago, they would use a fifth element, silence. And allow a story to be told even if there were pauses, even if there were moments of indecision, even if there were moments when nothing happened at all across that space.
Some years ago, I was listening to one of our great hosts named Scott Simon. He does a show on Saturday it's called Saturday Morning Edition. He was interviewing a young woman who had written a memoir, she was Cambodian, she'd written a memoir about the Cambodian genocide that occurred some 20 odd years back. And her family had suffered deeply from the killing zones in Cambodia. And he was asking this young woman about her memoir, and he said to her at one moment, tell us then, what happened next to your father.
And I was driving down the New York State Freeway on a Saturday morning in March listening to this. And I found myself clenched over the steering wheel like this, because I didn't know what had possessed me, and I knew what had happened. I'd fallen into the silence between the question and her gathering her strength to come back to him and say what next happened.
That power to bring us together around a peace of silence, to touch us that way, I think tells us again, how the search for common ground requires us to be respectful of each other. And to look at us, and look at look at who is listening to us, and who's using our content. Not as a sales medium to blast commercials, although that's a way of doing of doing transactional reality, but to actually create values that we can share together.
At NPR, over the past decade that I've been there, the listening audience is now about $26 million in this country a week. That's one person just listening once, so John can listen many times he'll still only count them once. Well, perhaps we'd count him twice.
When I came to NPR at the beginning of 1999, the national audience was 13 million. Now, were very small. I was once talking to the man who was then running CNN news just before the Iraq war, and I said, Walter, how are you positioned CNN to cover the war. He said, well, we've got about $30 billion worth of people, talent, equipment, and production capacity, ready to cover this war. And another $5 billion for contingencies.
At that time in the life of NPR, 35 million dollars was the equal of the entire news budget of our enterprise for a year. So we were very small. But what's happened to us is as the other media have turned, and the networks, and the cables, to a kind of info news, a entertainment valued news that has a lot of gossip in it. It has a lot of personality, and it often doesn't really get to the heart of some of the issues that confront our country, and confront, the nation, confront the world, and to confront us as citizens. It's moved away from a lot of that kind of very serious coverage. And as we have been able to expand our coverage, we now have 18 foreign bureaus, we're running more fully staffed foreign operations than most newspapers, most of the biggest newspapers in the country, and we've got about 25 correspondents around the United States. And we have the participation of 800 independent, autonomous community-based, community supported public radio stations who help us cover this nation.
So we're actually bringing more content, more segments from around the nation, than perhaps any other single enterprise other than the Associated Press. And people need this in a very powerful way, I believe. And I think that audience rise, which is completely counter-intuitive, because there's so many sources of quick handoff headlines now.
Why would people be listening more to public radio and this kind of long form journalism? I think it's because radio is easy to use, it doesn't get in the way of our lives. We can put the paper in the corner, unfortunately, and not read it, while we race out the door to get to the car pool or get on the way to the job, and radio can go there with us.
And also because people really want context. We've interviewed many, many listeners and I can tell you that one of the major pieces that we provide that people value the most is high quality, fact based, contextual foreign news. It's like number one or number two amongst our listeners.
I'm not talking about a commercial for Public Radio, I'm talking about the values in our democracy. The values of our democracy demand that we be informed. Demand that we not just rush through life uncaring. If we do that we're going to wind up with uninformed consequences that may not be the consequences we really wanted.
We may have gone down the wrong track because we hadn't informed ourselves deeply enough. And as graduate students in a great university, which has phenomenal dynamic outreach, we all know the empowerment that comes from knowledge. From gain of ideas, from gain of individual facts, and from our ability to make context of it in our own lives. And to, as I said earlier, to bring it into our lives.
If we do that at NPR, t Public Radio and if journalism can do that, we're serving the lifelong learning aspirations of many, many people. And so we've been sort of discovered. You'll very seldom find a billboard along I-94 that says, for real golden oldies and news, go to your public radio station. It's just not up there.
What we do feel though, very powerfully, is a connection also to listeners in the new age. In the age of handheld, in the age of iPods, in the age of cell phones. In the age of cell phones, which as people have said, are the Swiss army knife of the digital era, they can do anything. And as you know, as Steve Jobs at Apple has made clear, we're now in generation three, in the G3 iPod.
We're going to do a generational divide. How many of us here have ipods? How many of us here have children, nieces, nephews and others who are much younger than we are who have ipods? [LAUGHING] Exactly. I know people who listen to public radio and don't have radios. Forget about it. That's like 19th century.
How many have cell phones here? It's like that. If we said to each other, let's all do a contest. Let's, with our cell phones, take an image of this assembly today and then let's do a contest to see which image is the most accurate image that encompasses the idea that we had, several hundred graduate students in an amphitheater, what I think is going to be a lovely day in Minneapolis, to hear some guy who flew in from Washington and almost missed the plane. How would we figure out, in this kind of interactive age, which image was the image that best characterized, was the most representative, if we wanted to call it that-- if you were passing it on to somebody else who didn't know what was happening here, but you wanted to give them a description and an image would do it, which of the hundreds of images would we provide to the world outside?
And I know that these kinds of issues, they seem kind of remote from us, but in fact, in the world where in effect everybody now has a kind of a mirror and a signaling device, how do we find what's the fact of the matter? What's the one that can tell us most characteristically what actually happened there?
In the interactive age, I think there are now some several hundred million iPods. There are tens of hundreds of millions of cell phones. Many countries have never wired their telephone system at all, because they didn't have wired phones. They've just gone to wireless. And it's all gone, they'll never go back to where they were.
I was in Mombasa last year. People there-- where the economy is very disrupted and very challenged by a lot of issues-- rent their cell phones for a week. And then they run out of money, they turn the cell phone back in, and they come back online and start their conversations two weeks later when they've got more money.
And it's completely intermixed in this astonishing kind of self-created, very, very low-key sort of people's economy that functions, in many places around the world, where the hierarchy of values demands instant communication but doesn't yield the way to keep it in your hand all the time. We need to be there. We need to know what is happening in Mombasa. And we need to be able to bring to you, and to bring to Mombasa, who you are to them.
That's the connectivity that challenges us in the old-fashioned media, where you have a reporter, a fact checker in a library, a producer, an editor. Often, of the stories we produce, there's actually a script that goes back and forth between Baghdad and Washington. Be challenged by editors in Washington, sent back to Baghdad in the middle of a very complicated-- We want to get that story right. We want to make sure we got all the facts in for that time we're going to have before you.
And in the digital age, when everybody is equipped with these things, how do you get context? How do you know which fact is the right fact? And how do you find the curated presence of-- We have a group of people trained, steeped, cultured, experienced to do this for us, and help us figure it out, and not give up our individuality and our power to express ourselves.
Those challenges that stand in front of us at NPR stand in front of all the media. But they also challenge us as citizens. Because, once again, we're going to be asked by our responsibilities, by our power, that we have to come back to. Our power to invoke self-government-- choosing issues, choosing ideas, choosing policies, choosing commitments. Bond issues, indebtedness, tax rates, and so forth. Sometimes directly by referendum, sometimes indirectly through elected officials. Sometimes we can't even say going forward. As we move into electronic voting, perhaps people will be voting on their cell phones very soon across this country.
There are whole new ways of participation that are going to be presented to us. The knowledge we bring to that encounter, the self-awareness, and the self-instruction we've gone through, is going to help us be better citizens. And help us participate better and make better decisions, because they're better informed. Which takes us right back to the Jeffersonian principle.
I want to make one other point and then I'd be really pleased to take your questions. And I have an assistant outside. I take the easy questions and the hard ones go to him.
The other point I'd like to make has to do with you all. One of the pieces we know in the public radio community is that we are supported. It's sort of counter-intuitive, as Robert Siegel-- one of our great hosts-- has said, you know, if you're going to get The New York Times for free on your doorstep everyday, why would you pay for it? But millions of people voluntarily pay for public radio. What I know from that is that the community of values that joins us together, it helps us navigate our lives. It helps us make decisions about the qualities that we want in our lives for ourselves, for our coworkers, for our families.
But that requires us to really search for common ground. I've traveled across this country, visiting hundreds of our member stations. And what I know from my visits is that when you look at this nation from far away, you know, it's a big kind of continental expanse with Hawaii and Alaska-- no small additions-- in the picture. And it looks like it has a kind of reality that's continuous and contiguous.
When you come down into it-- and you all know this is true, whether you're live in the United States permanently or not-- when you come down and down and down, and get closer and closer to the ground, each community has its own set of values. It can be similar to-- but actually be quite different from-- the jurisdiction right next door, or the town, or the village, or the city.
Every one of these communities has its own distinct authenticity. Its own perspectives, its symbols, its failures, its successes, its challenges. They may resemble the people next door, or the community next door, and those further away. But in fact it is defined in very unique and specific ways. It's a place of locality.
What I know from my life-- and you know too, and we shared together-- and it's something I really think is worth looking at-- ourselves every day. Part of that continuity, part of that community, has to do with who we are in history that we bring to life in our own lives.
Everybody in this room has a story, a chronicle, of how we got here. Whether we're here temporarily, or whether we've been here for generations. Or whether our parents or grandparents arrived, either in force or in freedom. In this nation of ours in particular, one of its unique and powerful common ground characteristics is that we all, every one of us, came from somewhere else.
As Americans, we have a heritage that started elsewhere. Further back, we know, in prehistory that there were great migrations of humans as the human species evolved and then radiated out of Africa. We know about those things, but in our own personal lives we have a history which is unique and special.
Protecting and preserving that history, representing what its aspirations were, and bringing those to ground, and understanding that next door, in the next door yard, the next backyard, the next street over, many of us have their own stories. And to them they're as real and as powerful as they might be to us in our lives.
So together we bring both this immense diversity and also a constant search for common ground. I think that reality in the life of this country is one of the most powerful of all our realities. And it helps us radiate back out of the American experience to others in other nations, beyond the borders of the United States, far around the globe. It radiates back something which I think is common ground for all of us-- the human aspiration to find community, to find context, and to find commitment. To enjoy life, to live life better, and to do what Jefferson wrote when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.
The phrase that he crafted set forth, as he wrote, that humans are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Of life, liberty, and the first version was pursuit of property. And he looked at that-- and you know that the Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony merchants wanted that one in there. Jefferson looked at that and, in his wisdom and a kind of spirited aspiration for what human life was really about, he changed it to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
Making it an ethical value written down is a fundamental principle of what this place was supposed to be, that they were going to create. So we've come full circle in touching on the ideas of one human being who lived many centuries ago. Those realities are as alive today for all of us.
I want to salute you all and honor you for doing what you've done in your lives to continue your education, to continue acquiring the knowledge, the perspective, the disciplines of intellect that will help you empower yourselves further. It's a great example to all of us. Thank you very much for being here.
OK, we have two microphones, right down here. Please line up and we'll take them one on each side. We have about a half an hour for discussion and Kevin will be happy to answer your questions.
As a longtime listener to NPR through Jefferson Public Radio, I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you for everything that you have done in overseeing the spread of knowledge to both the community in which I live and my ability to travel throughout the United States and continue to listen.
In addition, I wanted to know what we could do as students and listeners to help not only assist NPR in its ability to give continuous journalism that is what I would say current in its support, but also what can we do to perpetuate the idea of public radio and allow it to spread more positively. Basically in a way to combat the 24 hour news cycle.
That's a great question. Next question?
You know, we don't do any promotion at all. We have grown virally, as is just the way the internet and the way things like Google began. It's word of mouth, people talking to other people. What I have found-- in this particular decade in which I've been at NPR, but before that-- is that people are interested in identifying others whom they may never know. But they're are identifying common ground. And so people say to each other, I heard on NPR today-- That's like an opener for values. It's a very strange thing to me, but it's very powerful.
I know for a fact, and I grew up in the world of the original three networks-- ABC, CBS, NBC-- as some of us here may remember them. You can say to somebody today, oh I saw on CBS last night-- I have no idea what you're talking about. It doesn't mean anything anymore because it's been homogenized into a different kind of continuum.
So there's a kind of distinctive quality about saying you're a public radio listener to somebody else. That word of mouth is the most powerful expression, I think, of our service back to you all. And I hope you'll keep talking to your neighbors and friends about us. That's the way we spread who we are. Thank you.
I appreciated your comments about staying true to your philosophy and mission in this news division. Your listenership has grown significantly since 1999. I'm curious if you know if the viewership of the cable news networks in the same time period has grown, or changed, or decreased?
Good question. Cable viewership is actually very, very small, in general. It's in fractions of the kind of listenership that we've aggregated at NPR. Morning Edition, the morning show, is the most listened-to radio program in America, in any time zone, up to noon any day during Monday to Friday.
The cable networks have fractured and fractured each other's viewership. And cable has all the people keep it on. As they say in Washington, DC-- Washington, DC, by the way, is the only place you can go to a sports bar and they're all watching C-SPAN.
People have CNN on. They have Fox on. They have these cables on, but they only look at it episodically. Because that's what it's doing. It's on such a short cycle of presentation. Anything and everything is being turned into a kind of melodrama. And I think people actually just tune it out after awhile. It's like wallpaper that happens to move.
What's happened in the last year and a half or so is that CNN-- which had been pushed way down by Fox-- has started to come back up. Because they've become more forward about their ideas and about their positions on things. We believe strongly that if you go down the center line on an issue, you may have to take in five different perspectives and many different conflicting views, assertions, and so forth.
But we have the power to sort it out for ourselves as listeners. And in the end these journalistic enterprises are not the stopping point. You all know this. They're a pointer for learning more.
And one of the revolutionary powers of the internet is that we can learn so much more, so much more easily. We are transparent to the world in ways we never were as a people. The websites and the search engines are phenomenal.
And my view is that the more we put the qualities and the values of what it is we do out there-- regardless of any other issues that may arise between this nation and other nations-- people on their own will find their way to these kinds of values. And they know it's distinctive. They know it's different. And they know it has enormous impact in their lives because it's the authentic expression of who we are as a people.
Just an asterisk about the internet-- we are in a completely different era now. And that's easy to say, but where's the threshold? I think the threshold occurred in the 1990s, when some activists in a few parts of the world got together and, by using the internet, they brought about the adoption of the international anti-landmine treaty.
It was done entirely not through diplomacy. It was done by the work of people on the internet connecting up on an issue and a series of matters that they felt deeply about. And a lot of countries signed that international landmine treaty to stop the use of those things.
First time that had ever happened. A kind of popular, focused grassroots effort to change agreements amongst sovereign nations. And not done at the level of state departments and ministries of foreign affairs but done essentially by a populist movement that was actually created on the internet. Kind of an amazing threshold for us all. Thank you.
Hello, I want to thank you very much for the National Public Radio because I'm a second-generation and I remember being raised where my dad listened to it in the early days of it. And my dad was always, I heard this on NPR, I heard that on NPR. I was raised that way and I've learned to love it and depend on it for news.
And a lot of times I'll say that to people who are very musical, and they're listening to music all the time, and they're not really thinking about the news. I'm getting more tied with people in the Navy because I'm in Virginia.
And the other day I heard on NPR about how the government was thinking about switching some people from Iraq to Afghanistan. And it worried me because my boyfriend's in the Navy and they're the ones who have to transport them. So immediately I went to his house and got on the National Public Radio website and showed him the stories and everything.
And I'm opening him up to, you really need to listen to the station because it is bringing news that is relevant and important to your daily life. Because nowhere else was really covering that. No local news stations were talking about it. But that's something that going to be a major impact on the military and especially the Navy if they are going to be doing a lot of transporting.
I must say about the coverage of both Afghanistan and Iraq-- we've actually had an anonymous donor. We've been covering that war since before the war in Iraq, since before the violence began, as you know. Anne Garrels was there early on, has gone back many, many times. And we've been there. It's a very difficult, very dangerous place, as we all know.
About five years ago we moved our bureau several times because it got more and more dangerous as the disarray rose. And then finally about four years ago, we take our correspondents-- there are about 20 of them, correspondents and producers who volunteer for this-- and they come and we put them through a kind of emergency training. How to handle yourself in tough situations. They go through, in effect, executive security training.
They get it so they're prepared for this kind of very bizarre, testing life. And we gather them in the region every year. We bring the correspondents and the editors and the producers-- and their spouses or significant others-- and spend about five days together just talking about the story, about security issues, about safety, and actually just holding hands. You know, especially for the spouses-- those who are not actually doing the work--
It's a complete mystery to me why these people-- and they're every age level at NPR-- do this kind of work. Because we don't pay network salaries. They do it because they believe that the stories they can report about the military, about the Iraqis, and about all the issues around there, are enormously important. It's their calling and that's why they do it.
In this one meeting-- we were in Beirut-- we're sitting, having discussions about what we don't have. And they said-- you know, it's gotten so much more dangerous than it used to be. We need some armored vehicles. That's what we need. Because people are getting shot up all over the place.
And we have for years never done that. We never did it in Bosnia. We didn't do it in Afghanistan. So we went looking for used armored sedans. You can find them if you go look.
And we had a great bequest-- some people here may know-- from Joan Kroc, the widow of Ray Kroc, who was the great entrepreneur who created the McDonald's chain. And the money had arrived and it happened that this request came in. We had no such kinds of resources before, but we were able to actually find two used armored sedans that had been armored to NATO specs for a civilian sedan. They could withstand an AK-47 burst. Like five-- that wouldn't get through. It was kind of astonishing.
We air-shipped them from this side of the world to there. Six weeks later our correspondent, a driver, an interpreter, and another correspondent for another organization were driving out what was known as the highway of death-- the main highway between downtown Baghdad and Baghdad airport. It's about a seven mile stretch. It's multi-lane, divided, and it looks like an interstate. So it's got overpasses. As this car with these people in it was driving out and just about to turn off-- they were having an interview out at what's called Camp Victory where the big American military operation is, the headquarters are outside the Green Zone right next to the airport-- burst of fire.
The car withstood a burst of six bullets. One of them went right through the middle of the rear license plate and into the trunk. And one of the odd things about journalists-- not too hot-- is that they're very messy and they don't pay attention to anything. We had a very meticulous journalist, I guess, who had either been in the car or using it earlier, had put his laptop right on the center line in the trunk. The AK-47 bullet came right through, blew the thing apart, and stopped at the armor plate behind the rear seat.
If Joan Kroc had not made the bequest she made, I can't tell you what would have happened. It would not have been a story we can talk about easily. So we've been safe that way.
What I'll say to you is, we also have support. We created a series-- we call it the span of war. We said, we're going to talk about and report on the impact of this encounter through people's lives out from their service there. And whether they come back untouched and unmarked-- but have come back wounded-- or whether there is loss of life, we're going to keep reporting this story and its effects on our civil society as we go forward. Because that's part of who we are as Americans. We have an anonymous donor who, knowing about this series, provided I don't even know how much money in a series of anonymous gifts to NPR to help us do this work.
So there you get to an editorial issue-- Is it sort of pay for play, in effect? My answer is, we had decided we were going to do this series and we were going to do it anyway. But somebody came forward and helped us, so we can use some of the resources that we would have used on this series elsewhere.
But the commitment we have is to tell the story of this encounter. Because this encounter is going to go on for quite a long time, long after the American troops are withdrawn, we know that. Long answer, short question. Thank you very much.
Sir, as a journalist, what do you deem to be more important-- the immediacy of reporting the news in a venue like the internet or the quality of reporting the news in a produced program?
A very simple short answer-- we are often late on a story. We'd rather be right than late. That's our divider. It's about accuracy and that plays into how people come to public radio. They expect it from us. Yes, sir?
In the past, NPR has focused on being a provider of media to local stations. Now with the rise of internet and broadcasting, it's almost now you're provider directly media to the user. Where does that leave the local stations at and how are you going to manage that relationship?
No, it's a good question, it's a very complicated one. The stations pay us for our programming. We're a membership organization. They vote our board of directors, the majority of it. And so we're basically a complete creature of these independent, autonomous stations.
And we can't tell them, or order them, to put any of the stuff that we produce on the air. They make their own choices. So it's a very open system. It's a kind of '60s collaborative, really, is what it is. A little bit aging now but nevertheless a '60s collaborative.
We're working with the stations to get content-- our content-- more available to them so they can use it in different ways, and use it especially for their own purposes and to build their audiences in new ways. But you're exactly right. We have a website-- npr.org. Stations have, you know, KXYZ, WXYZ, website-- these are two different websites.
So people have a choice. They can get to us through the station. They can get to the station through us. We're trying to make that as lively a place as we can. I will say this, very proudly-- we and about 60 public radio stations have created a podcasting portal. It's now about three years old. This portal-- which has music, news, commentary, reporting segments, and so forth and so on it, from all these different stations and from us-- has become the single largest source of podcasting downloads in the first six nanoseconds of the era of podcasting. So it's very powerful for us.
And it's a big continuum and what we've been able to do is something which had never occurred to anybody before, because we didn't know how to do it. We've been able to do kind of a revenue sharing. If we get corporate sponsorship or foundation sponsorship, stations get a piece of the action depending on how many downloads of their material are logged across this space.
So it's a very interesting place for us and we see more of that coming forward. Together with our stations, we're going to be very powerful in the digital world. And I think one of the great things about us, is we are many different identities. So it's authentic America and not some centralized bureaucratic hierarchy.
Many of us have heard of Mr. Limbaugh's amazing contract, and I'm sure the budget of that is large compared to the NPR things. It seems to me, as someone in the media, that there's been an obvious trend towards-- that there's no longer a differentiation between fact and opinion the way there once was. And more worrying to me is that it seems that people are only listening to the viewpoint that they already expect to hear and anything that's a fact-based thing, that doesn't fit into that, it gets dismissed as an opinion. Can you just comment on this and how you try to combat this and reach the people that aren't actually wanting to hear something that doesn't fit into their opinion?
It's a very interesting question. Sure there is that. I mean, there's a kind of opinionizing going on, and a kind of polarizing going on. And I thought the internet helped create that some years ago when they began describing the United States of America as a nation divided into blue states and red states. That's complete fiction. We're not divided into that kind of dynamic. Every one of those states that voted either Republican or Democrat came very close to voting the other way.
It's not that kind of dividing line. And I think we don't view this country that way at all. We view it as a varied, complicated, amazing mosaic. We've had in covering the primary elections, starting in January of-- when was it anyway? It's been nonstop journalism.
We've had 20 reporters and producers on the road continuously since the beginning of this year to handle the load of the primaries. If we thought it was divided red into blue, and it was just stationary, and all people were doing was yammering at each other from unchanging positions, we wouldn't have done it. We believe that there is a lively, vibrant, complex-- very complex-- fabric of ideas passing across this country at any one time.
I'll just say one other thing. When the Soviet Union lost its hold on power in Eastern Europe-- remember, until 1989 the world was divided into two camps. It was a kind of Manichean world, very simple. And we-- this country of ours and a lot of other countries-- put a lot of effort, energy, and what have you into holding that line. When the Soviet Union fell apart and the rockets weren't going to fly anymore, we justifiably took a hike from some of these responsibilities.
I don't think any of us understood what was coming in the new century. Nobody predicted what happened quite early in that new century. And so I think we're justified to have said-- you know, we did a big struggle. We succeeded. We held ourselves and our values intact. And now we're going to do something else for a while. Let's party for a while. And I think that's, to some extent, what happened in this society.
Now-- because of 9/11 and because of all the sequences thereafter-- we have to look at the world in a much more sober-minded way. And I think that's what's happening. Democracies, as I think Churchill said, democracy is the least worst form of government. And it takes it a long time to get its attention and to make it step up to the line on tough things.
We're starting to do that in new ways. So I think that's a dialogue that is not about politicized positions. It's about Americans doing what they put on the license plate at the state of Missouri-- "show-me." Very practical.
My question kind of follows up on some of that previous question. In thinking about Jefferson's warning about how a nation can't be both ignorant and free, I'm wondering, for me, the threat today is that we have a new kind of ignorance where we have all these soundbites, all this supposed information. But a lot of the information that we get is manufactured for us, sometimes by the government, by the agencies. We've heard stories of the government actually paying to have certain things produced that weren't really news but were really advertising. And that kind of troubles me.
I'm wondering if you could comment, not so much on NPR's role, but on what you see as some of the threats to democracy and freedom that are actually coming from our own government in the name of freedom and democracy, that are maybe more subtle than actually not being informed, but maybe not really getting the real story.
It's really interesting. Again, one of these very troubling and complex questions. Let me say this. First of all, one of the things that we know about ourselves as Americans is that we're basically an ahistorical society. We don't remember anything.
We don't remember that in the 1970s we were on the one side of the Kurds, supporting one group of them against another. We dropped them, then we came back again. Then we came back again, we came back again.
We'd forgotten the thread that says that Hezbollah-- which morphed into and supports Taliban-- that we helped create them because the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. We provided shoulder-fired infrared homing missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, to a lot of these irregular tribesmen to bring down the Soviet helicopters, which were making the Soviet army have success in Afghanistan. And once this close air support was driven off by the arrival of Stinger missiles, the Soviet offensive collapsed.
That's actually true. There's a movie called Charlie Wilson's War, from a book. It's a kind of rough version of what actually happened. But we gave a lot of Stinger missiles to these people and next thing that we were worried about was when the so-called Tanker War occurred in the Persian Gulf. That these Stinger missiles, some of them, had made their way to the Persian Gulf and were going to be fired against tankers passing through the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow choke point of getting oil tanker traffic in and out of the Persian Gulf.
We forget all that stuff. So we're ahistorical. That's one thing. But there's something else about us-- we have the capacity to organize ourselves, to organize our thinking in new ways. And I think that's what's happening. And one of the things we're seeing-- and we're finding out about it, irrespective of what is happening to all other media-- we ourselves, when we hear a story that the government has, in effect, created fake news conferences with fake news people from the Department of Labor to ask fake questions and so forth and so on, or whatever the department it is, and that stuff actually gets on television.
A lot of commercial television, local channels were putting that stuff on the air. Why? Because it was free. They didn't care. They didn't have to pay for the production. They could just get it for free and put it on and it looked like the segment purported to be independently produced. They were produced by the government for the citizens and masquerading as something else.
When we hear those things, we have a responsibility. We can call or write a general manager of that radio or television station-- or all the way up, up the line to the highest figure we can think of who is connected to that thing-- and say-- I'm not looking at you anymore. And I'm telling all my neighbors not to look at you anymore, because what you've done to me is an offense. We can do that. We can stand up for our own rights.
I'm a Walden's student but I also teach graduate level courses in counseling. And it occurred to me one day how often I was saying to my students, I heard on NPR about a book, a discussion on ethics, a statement, all kinds of things that come from NPR. Because that's the only station that I ever listen to.
I would like to especially thank you for Krista Tippett's Speaking of Faith. It is absolutely my favorite. It is unparalleled. There's nothing like it any place else. And some people tape the soap operas for me. It's Speaking of Faith, I have to have it every week.
The other is StoryCorps. The snippets of people's lives, the intergenerational dialogue, is phenomenal. This would not have occurred in many circumstances without the opportunities provided by NPR. So thank you.
Well, thank you. I should say, we're in Minneapolis. We're in the capital, the home ground of one of the great public radio enterprises in the history of this country-- it's Minnesota Public Radio. It's not only about A Prairie Home Companion. It can be only about A Prairie Home Companion, that would be fine too. But they're very powerful, very smart, very, very carefully run by a guy named Bill Kling. And if any of you ever run across him, he's a really considerable, unique figure in the history of public broadcasting in this country.
One other thing. People have asked me-- what's with journalism? How do you do it? You all-- and there are many people who are going to be teaching or bringing other people into educational sequences. I believe strongly that the simple, declarative American-English sentence, this happened today, is the essence of what we should be about.
That gets us to one of the questions about politicizing and finger-pointing and so forth. If we can keep to the facts, ma'am-- as Joe Friday said, just the facts. If we can just get to those, and if we can commit ourselves to say-- I'm going to respect somebody who brings those to me, and I'm also going to test the facts. I'm not giving up my rights and responsibilities. I'm going to find out more myself. I'm going to make up my own mind.
But if we can do the simple declarative sentence, this happened today-- Edward R. Murrow, from the top of Bush House in central London-- this is London. You know, describing it as the opener for describing the blitz all through the early part of the Second World War. Set a standard for simple practice that responded to what Jefferson wrote. And what we all know instinctively is what we have to do. You have every right to expect it from us. It's our responsibility to give it to you. We're going to try to do that.
Let me say one thing in response to you. You are so much a part of the fabric of what our aspirations are as a democracy. I want to thank you so much for being with us, for being with me today, for allowing me to appear before you.
I want to tell you a brief story and then let you go. So we're on a bus from Beirut. We went out into the Bekaa Valley-- this is some years ago-- with this crew of reporters. We went out just to look at Baalbek-- which is an ancient Grecian and Roman ruin-- and our great senior foreign editor Loren Jenkins-- a colleague of mine from The Washington Post days, who runs the foreign staff, and was a Pulitzer Prize winner-- he wanted everybody to go out there and look at the different layers of culture which had moved through there.
There were vast Greek temples which the Romans had repurposed. And then when Islam arrived, some of the temples were rebuilt into Islamic mosques. And then when the crusaders started to rise, the mosques were rebuilt into forts. So all this stuff is all jumbled up. It's the same marble down through the centuries being reused.
So we're out there, just looking at this, because it's a kind of human seismic zone. And a lot of the world are those kinds of seismic zones, where nothing is ever stable for very long and conflict and chaos and rebuilding is all intermingled.
So we're driving back and the light is going down and the Syrians had retreated from their hold on the Bekaa and on Beirut-- this is before the Harare assassination of several years ago and all the other instabilities which have occurred since-- so it's quite peaceful and calm. We're driving back and people are in a reflective mood. One of our correspondents said, I got to talk to you. In the middle this rattletrap bus, flying along this road.
He said to me-- I can't go back to Baghdad. I can't do it anymore. You can send me to northern Iraq, Kurdish Iraq, where it's a little bit calmer. I just can't face it anymore.
I said to him-- It's all right. You don't have to tell me this. We know why you're doing this. And nobody who listens to what you put on the air would ever demand anything more of you than whatever you care to deliver to us. Your commitment to do any of this, at the levels at which we're trying to do it, is giving back to everybody who listens what they really are expecting from us. No one can ask any more of you than that.
I wanted to tell you that story because there is a direct connection, because we are a nonprofit and because we are citizen-based and citizen-supported. It's a direct chain of relationships that tied this person-- this correspondent of ours, courageous, thoughtful, brave, sensitive person-- to tell me that. Because he wanted me to tell you that maybe you wouldn't be hearing him from Baghdad again and why that was so. That's the relationship. Thank you.