When someone one knows dies suddenly, most of us react with a sense of shock. How could this have happened? We usually also experience a rush of “what I should have said, or what I would have wanted to have said to that person, that I can not say now”. It is almost like a feeling of being cheated.
The sudden death is a situation where regardless of ones grief, you remain in charge. It was the other person who died suddenly. “I was not not responsible for having unfinished communications”.
It is different when someone is diagnosed with a terminal condition. The shoe is now on the other foot. There is time to make contact and share what ever there needs to be said. And when the allotted time has passed and death has occurred, this time the words unsaid haunt us. Now it is “why didn’t I make a greater effort to have communicated?” And the time for excuses like “I thought death would not have come so quickly”.
So it is with a similar feeling that has struck me with NPR’s announcement that they will end production and broadcast of “Talk of the Nation” after 21 years of life. The terminal disease is not clear but death is schedule to arrive July 1, 2013. But how does one speak to a dying show? What does one say?
Neil Conan, the show’s host will leave NPR indicating that the show’s death was not welcomed. NPR suits have spoken of a wonderful replacement “Here and Now”. And in my opinion, Robin Young has been a wonderful show host and will most likely continue when “Here and Now” replaces “Talk of the Nation”.
So what would I like to say?
A few years ago NPR’s management dirtied their underpants when they dismissed Bob Edwards. While many excuses were put forth, there is little doubt that Edwards had gotten under the skin of too many GOP Congressional leaders including Vice President Dick Cheney. Edwards represented too much liability for NPR’s desire to retain government funding. Ironically, time has shown that Edwards was fair in his news reporting and NPR was weak in its defense of the 1st Amendment.
Now it is Neil Conan’s time to die (at least on NPR). Conan, himself, is relatively uncontroversial. He asks good question and tries tirelessly to question his guests fairly. On Wednesdays when Ken Rudin joins Conan for a session of the “political junkie”, the audience is treated to 30 minutes of stimulating political discourse without anyone shouting at anyone. The end of this combination will leave radio less rich.
Hopefully, like Edwards, Conan will rise again and find a spot on Sirius radio.