Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio

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Public radio stands as a valued national institution, one whose fans and listeners actively support it with their time and their money. In this new history of this important aspect of American culture, author Jack W. Mitchell looks at the dreams that inspired those who created it, the all-too- human realities that grew out of those dreams, and the criticism they incurred from both sides of the political spectrum. As National Public Radio's very first employee, and the first producer of its legendary All Things Considered, Mitchell tells the story of public radio from the point of view of an insider, a participant, and a thoughtful observer. He traces its origins in the progressive movement of the 20th century, and analyzes the people, institutions, ideas, political forces, and economic realities that helped it evolve into what we know as public radio today. NPR and its local affiliates have earned their reputation for thoughtful commentary and excellent journalism, and their work is especially notable in light of the unique struggles they have faced over the decades. This comprehensive overview of their mission will fascinate listeners whose enjoyment and support of public radio has made it possible, and made it great.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Mitchell, the first producer of the National Public Radio program All Things Considered offers a behind-the-scenes look at how public radio evolved from being funded by the government to being supported by listeners. Chronicling the progressive movement, Mitchell details the early days, when pioneers were able to sneak into public broadcast legislation provisions to promote public radio….A revealing look at a respected national institution."



"Surely some of the people involved in Mitchell's account would disagree with some of his facts and viewpoints about the development and history of public radio in America. But Listener Supported is not merely a collection of anecdotes. It contains a significant number of endnotes and a large bibliography section. It is written in a conversational style and is very easy to read. Mitchell obviously is a fan of public radio and a true believer in its value to society."


American Journalism

"[M]itchell's work provides a distintive look at the institution from his long-term perspective. This well-organized history is essential reading for all NPR fans and is suitable for all libraries."


Library Journal

"In an enlightening way, he tracks NPR's mission back to the Progressive era of the early 20th century and the movement to create nonprofit newspapers free of the corrupting influences of 'commercialisM&Apos;….[M]itchell's is a valuable history of how and why so much talent assembled down on the left end of the FM dial."


New York Times Book Review

"[A]n inside account of NPR's rise and programming. A one time Wisconsin public broadcaster (and later faculty member at the University of Wisconsin), Mitchell draws on his own long experience (he was the first producer of All Things Considered and later served as chair of NPR's board) and that of others to tell this story….[p]rovides a useful record of an increasingly central public institution."


CBQ Communication Booknotes Quarterly

"Mitchell takes credit for being the first employee of National Public Radio, and in this volume he provides a first-person account of NPR's creation and early history….Written in a readable, conversational style, Mitchell's book has been released at a time when funding for public broadcasting has again come under fire in Washington. Mitchell hopes to provide readers with an understanding not only of why this form of broadcasting was created but also of why the federal government should continue to support its voice in the marketplace. Highly recommended. All readers; all levels."



"He usefully reviews the role of some of the pioneers of educational radio (including the BBC where he worked for a year) and what they accomplished….[t]his offers useful insight from a man present at the beginning."


CBQ Communication Booknotes Quarterly

"Jack Mitchell, public radio veteran, offers unparalleled insight into public broadcasting in his book Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio….Mitchell's book inspires a great deal of gratitude for the determined movers and shakers, employees, and advocates of NPR and the local agencies that make up our country's public radio network."


Against the Grain

"Jack W. Mitchell has added an insider's perspective to the substantial body of literature on public radio in the Unietd States."



Library Journal
Today more than 23 million listeners tune in to National Public Radio (NPR) each week. However, as revealed in this insightful history of the evolution of public broadcasting in the United States, this beloved cultural institution did not always enjoy such widespread success. Mitchell (journalism, Univ. of Illinois), NPR's first employee and first producer of the iconic All Things Considered, paints a colorful picture of the personalities, economics, and politics that shaped public radio. He divides his work into three parts: a history explaining how public radio stemmed from the progressive movement of the early 20th century, as well as from university-run educational radio and England's BBC; an analysis of the people who developed the mission and philosophy of public radio and its programming; and an overview of the criticisms public radio currently faces. While other books have charted the history of public radio (e.g., Listening to America: Twenty-Five Years in the Life of a Nation, As Heard on National Public Radio, edited by Linda Wertheimer), Mitchell's work provides a distinctive look at the institution from his long-term perspective. This well-organized history is essential reading for all NPR fans and is suitable for all libraries.-Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275983529
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/30/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,462,002
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

JACK W. MITCHELL was the first producer of "All Things Considered" and served three times as Chair of the NPR board of directors. He is now a Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches courses in public broadcasting, broadcast journalism, and mass media and society.

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Table of Contents

1 The progressives 3
2 Pioneers 11
3 Public radio 27
4 Purposes 43
5 All things considered 59
6 All things reconsidered 75
7 Morning edition 93
8 Weekend edition 107
9 Performance today 119
10 Talk of the nation 135
11 Marketplace 145
12 Critics on the right 161
13 Critics on the left 177
Conclusion : the ideas network 189
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