Monday, March 29, 2004

Is NPR Ageist?

Not everybody listens to the National Public Radio's "Morning Edition", but those who do are familiar with the name Bob Edwards. Edwards has hosted the news program since it began twenty-five years ago. Last week he was forced to leave this post. Why? Linda Ellerbee believes that the reason is ageism. Edwards is 56 years old. Other than his age, what other reason could there be?

Were the ratings sinking, perhaps? They were not. "Morning Edition's" audience grew by 41% in the last five years; Edwards' is the most-listened-to morning radio program in the U.S.
A spokeswoman for NPR said only that the change was "part of a natural evolution." She said a new host would "bring new ideas and perspectives to the show." Uh-huh

According to Ellerbee, NPR's thinking might have gone something like this: We want to attract a younger group of listeners. Younger listeners don't want to listen to boring old ways of presenting news. Old fogies present news in the boring old way. Therefore, we have to get rid of Edwards: he is too old.

If this scenario is true, NPR is ageist. It associates concepts such as rigidity and inability to evolve with the concept of physical age, and it also assumes that younger listeners are uniformly ageist themselves. I sure hope that Ellerbee is mistaken and that NPR has some other reasonable explanation for this firing, especially as I have always liked Bob Edwards. He has a voice like whisky-flavored honey.