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NPR And On-Air Credits: The End Of A Thank You

Starting Monday morning, you may notice something a little different about NPR's flagship news magazines. Morning Edition producer Jim Wildman sent us this essay about a little change that means a lot to him:

Today with little fanfare, NPR News ended its long tradition of on-air, end-of-program credits for employees behind the curtain — the producers, editors, engineers, librarians, and others who help create NPR's signature programs and signature reporting.

The network's Executive Editor for News Programming Ellen McDonnell told me and my Morning Edition colleagues last week that vast amounts of recent research indicates with clarity that on-air credits are a turn-off for listeners.

Thank yous are complicated. I mentioned producers, editors, engineers, and librarians — but what about the rest of NPR's massive staff? What about my colleagues in human resources? My colleagues in the mail room? How might all these names make it reasonably in to a form of on-air credits? How is it fair for me to receive periodic, on-air credit when they receive no on-air credit at all?

So a decision has been reached to end all forms of on-air thank yous because research says it's a turn-off and, in the end, all forms of thank yous are never enough. And I think I'm ok with all this.

It still doesn't mean that the decision doesn't sit well. It is — or was — a perk, however small. And to be honest, on-air credit fans the all-too-tempting flames of vanity. A colleague shared this morning how her brother had once been asked: "Are you the brother of Selena Simmons-Duffin?"

It's true, though, that I'm not jealous that my host colleagues at Morning Edition like Steve Inskeep, Renee Montagne, and David Greene are well-named throughout our program each day. Radio is an intimate medium. When hosts say "This is Morning Edition from NPR News, I'm Steve Inskeep and I'm Renee Montagne," it means "Good morning. I'm still here. We've had your back during the night. Here's a story I've got for you."

Intimacy is part of what makes NPR so good and why so many of us do what we do. We don't do our work each day for the periodic on-air thank yous, of course. We do it because we're all storytellers. And good stories often begin with "Good morning. I'm still here. Here's a story I've got for you."

So I dedicate these words to those who've gone before me — at NPR and in my own life. These are the storytellers now in my blood. Thank you for your stories and the gift you've given me — however known or nameless you are.

Jim Wildman, a senior producer with NPR's Morning Edition, has been with the show since 1997.

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