Air raid

During a recent Web chat about the sacking (a.k.a. reassignment) of 24.5-year veteran Morning Edition host Bob Edwards, National Public Radio (NPR) Senior Vice President for Programming Jay Kernis dismissed listener concerns that corporate sponsors were beginning to tug at NPR’s strings.

“NPR News stands for independent, in depth journalism,” he argued. “If this were all about money, we wouldn’t have made any changes.” Somehow, Kernis’ responses were not entirely reassuring. Maybe it’s because NPR underwriting announcements have been pushing the irony envelope of late. One recently aired favorite tells us that Wal-Mart is “committed to providing its associates a variety of career paths, training resources and advancement opportunities. Information at” Combine that with an extended news feature on how Japanese folks are really taking to their shiny new superstores, and you get the feeling that NPR is no longer “your parents’ public radio.”

Or, you could just ask Mike Lazar. As the fleet commander for Capital Public Radio (CPR), Lazar has built a regional NPR empire, only to have it threatened by last year’s incursion of San Francisco’s KQED into the Sacramento marketplace. Though CPR’s fund-raising was down this last quarter, Lazar is confident that our “local source for NPR” will survive.

But to what end? As Cosmo Garvin points out in this week’s cover story, public radio may be losing touch with its original mandate. The on-campus landing of CPR’s multimillion dollar headquarters has student broadcasters feeling left out in the cold, and the community broadcasting ideal also is beginning to look quaint in light of the current business model.

Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to Clear Channel for alternatives. Left-of-the-dial stations in the area also include Grass Valley’s community-oriented KVMR and Davis’ indie-obsessed KDVS. And then there’s Air America over on the AM dial. Punch enough buttons on your car radio, and you, too, can have a commute that’s fair and balanced.