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National Public Radio: Just call us 'NPR'

National Public RadioMy friend and award winning documentary film maker Alan Snitow wrote to me a couple of weeks ago with a good question. How come you rarely hear anyone at National Public Radio call it “National Public Radio” anymore, just “NPR”?

I went over to NPR’s web site to refresh my memory on this. By golly, I wrote back to Alan, it’s true. The only place you see the full name is up top where the meta title is.

<title>NPR : National Public Radio : News &amp;
Analysis, World, US, Music &amp; Arts : NPR</title>

Everywhere else it’s just the acronym.

So what’s with that? Alan wrote to NPR a couple of days ago. Was this inspired by Kentucky Fried Chicken going to “KFC”?

To which an NPR spokesdroid offered this reply.

“Thank you for your question about NPR’s branding efforts.

Over the past few years, we’ve been gradually transitioning from identifying ourselves by our full name, “National Public Radio,” to referring to ourselves as simply “NPR.” We’ve found that most listeners – and other news outlets – refer to us as “NPR,” and the acronym is now well known. That trend took place with other media outlets years ago, for example today people refer to the BBC rather than the British Broadcasting Company, or to CNN rather than the Cable News Network.

We’d like to attract more listeners to NPR, and more supporters to our member stations, and to do that, we need to be consistent in how we refer to our identity on the air, online, and everywhere you see a mention of our organization. For that reason, this year we’ve decided to make a concerted effort to reinforce the use of “NPR” more consistently throughout everything we do. This is why you no longer hear the familiar “This is NPR: National Public Radio” during our programs. Rest assured though, that NPR is the same organization you’ve always valued. (And know that everyone who has been listening for a long time as you have, will mentally add on, “….National Public Radio” when you hear the acronym from now on!)

Thank you again for contacting NPR to ask about this change. We appreciate your time and interest.”

Fair enough. Goodness knows we wouldn’t want public radio to be outpaced by CNN and the BBC. The problem is,  don’t we want folks to remember that NPR is “public” radio, with all the good connotations implied? Those would be less focus on commercials or sensationalistic content, more emphasis on public interest programming than you get via commercial radio and TV, and a sense that NPR belongs to the public that finances  NPR stations with listener contributions.

To be fair, National Public Radio fulfills those goals to varying degrees. And sure, long time listeners like Alan and I will always remember that NPR = National Public Radio.

But what about younger fans? Or is the point to gradually forget those missions—to be less mindful of the “public” part of NPR? I hope not.

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