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From: Tavis Smiley Sent: Monday, November 29, 2004 1:30 PM To: [Multiple recipients at public radio stations] Subject: The Tavis Smiley Show
29 November 2004
I trust that this letter finds you well and enjoying the spirit and splendor of the holiday season.
Let me apologize for the somewhat impersonal nature of this letter, but the sheer volume of addressees makes it a bit impossible to send each of you a personal greeting that would arrive in a timely manner.
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you of my decision to not renew my contract with NPR, which expires shortly. My last scheduled day on air is anticipated to be Thursday, December 16, 2004, when my previously scheduled holiday hiatus is set to commence.
I wanted to contact you personally and immediately to express my gratitude to you and your staff for giving me the chance to be heard by your listeners. I know the ridicule many of you had to endure when you decided to take this journey with me by adding my program to your line-up. I will always be appreciative of your confidence and trust.
With your support, I have come to care even more for public radio and its social, cultural and intellectual potential. Yet, after all that we've accomplished towards our goal of seeking a broader, more diverse and younger audience for public radio, NPR's own research has confirmed that NPR has simply failed to meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio, but simply don't know it exists or what it offers.
In the most multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial America ever --- I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future.
I sincerely hope you understand my position. I thank you, again, for all of your support.
With your help, this has been a remarkable journey, and I hope that in some small way I did my part to help make America better by the simple act of introducing Americans to each other.
Keep the faith,
From: Communications Sent: Monday, November 29, 2004 3:49 PM Subject: Memo from Bruce Drake Re: The Tavis Smiley Show
To: All Staff
Fr: Bruce Drake, VP for News and Information
Re: The Tavis Smiley Show
For several weeks NPR has been in negotiation with Tavis Smiley and his representative regarding renewal of his contract, which expires in January 2005. This afternoon we received written notice that Tavis has elected not to renew our contract, and he will be leaving in mid-December.
Looking back over the last several years, NPR can be proud -- and we are -- of what Tavis and the staff of the show have created. The program is a lively, informative program that has broken new ground at NPR. The Tavis staff has created a sound and built an audience. The program is what it is today because of Tavisâ€™ presence and talents and the fine work of those involved in the programâ€™s production.
Three years ago, NPR joined with a consortium of NPR member stations serving predominantly African-American audiences to envision what would later become The Tavis Smiley Show. It was an unprecedented effort to expand the reach and definition of public radio. The show has been one of the fastest growing in public radio history and has brought new and diverse voices to our air and new and diverse audience to our member stations.
Indeed, we see The Tavis Smiley Show as a building block for expanded service. Just two weeks ago, NPR held a summit with the African-American consortium to plan how to develop more programming that will expand the reach and diversity of public radio.
We thank Tavis for the great service he did for us and for our audiences and stations, and we are sorry that he has decided to leave. We stand firmly behind the program and what it means to public radio and to its listeners. Thanks to the insight, vision, and energy Tavis contributed to the foundation of the program, and to the contributions of the programâ€™s staff, it will continue and flourish in the years ahead.
Now NPR, along with the consortium of stations that were instrumental to the showâ€™s launch, will immediately begin an aggressive search for a new host who can build upon the success of the show. We have every confidence that we will be able to do so, and I am eager to hear from you suggestions for possible candidates for the position.
Tavisâ€™ last day will be December 16. He was already scheduled to leave for vacation after that date, and Tony Cox is scheduled to host for the subsequent weeks.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
March 10, 2005
CONTACT: David Brokaw (310) 273-2060 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TAVIS SMILEY RETURNS TO PUBLIC RADIO
Tavis Smiley is coming back to public radio and increasing his presence on public television. Today, it was announced that "The Tavis Smiley Show" on radio will be distributed by Public Radio International (PRI) to public radio stations with a launch date of April 29, 2005. Smiley also announced the first in a series of television prime time specials that will air on PBS in addition to his late night talk show ³Tavis Smiley.² Last December, Smiley chose not to renew his National Public Radio (NPR) contract and discontinued his weekday news and information program heard on approximately 90 public radio affiliates.
³The Tavis Smiley Show² will air weekends on public radio stations nationwide. Smiley will initially limit the broadcast to weekends to accommodate his increased obligations with the daily PBS program and specials, book writing and personal appearances. Under the new arrangement, Smiley will produce two hours of programming that stations can broadcast during the Friday to Sunday window.
³There is no place like public broadcasting for the critical conversations that help bridge America's cultural, political and social divide,² stated Smiley. ³Radio has been and always will be an important part of my mission to bring empowering and enlightening information to diverse communities. Coming to weekends through PRI allows me to continue that mission while maintaining a full slate of activities.² ³The Tavis Smiley Show² will continue to feature a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with the list of provocative regular commentators like Cornel West, Connie Rice, J.C. Watts and Michael Eric Dyson. The show will also feature new theme music produced by Grammy-nominated recording artist Meshell Ndegeocello. Sheryl Flowers will continue as the show's Executive Producer.
Eleanor Harris, senior vice president and head of PRI Marketing and Distribution, says, ³Tavis Smiley deserves to be heard on public radio. His show is extraordinary, and we are proud to partner with him to bring his much-needed perspective to the discerning public radio listener. PRI and our station affiliates are committed to broadening the range and reach of public radio programming, and OEThe Tavis Smiley Show¹ is a key component of this strategy.²
Additionally, Smiley announced the first of his prime time television specials on PBS entitled ³American Ascension² which will be broadcast this summer. The program will probe the notion of success and power as it tells the story behind the ascension of two of today's most intriguing political figures. ³American Ascension² will compare and contrast their unique paths to power.
³PBS is really excited to expand Tavis' presence with our viewers and is looking forward to these prime time specials with the fresh perspective that he brings to all of his work,² said Jacoba Atlas, Sr. Vice President, PBS Programming.
³The Tavis Smiley Show² is produced by The Smiley Group Inc./Smiley Radio Properties Inc. in association with PRI. The radio show¹s underwriters include Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente and Allstate Insurance. ³Tavis Smiley² on PBS is produced by the The Smiley Group Inc./TS Media Inc. in association with KCET/Hollywood. Television underwriters include Wal-Mart, Toyota and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
About Public Radio International® PRI is public radio's leading source for innovative programming and audio content. The Minneapolis-based network provides over 400 hours of programming each week, content that is broadcast and streamed online by its 727 public radio station affiliates nationwide, who reach 31 million listeners each week. PRI is the managing partner of the satellite radio company American Public Radio, LLC, established with Chicago Public Radio® and WGBH Radio Boston. PRI's cultural programming is available via XM Public Radio. Its news and information programming is available via Sirius Satellite Radio.