- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Newspaper columnist George E. Curry was on the radio Friday, trying to make a point during a panel discussion of Temple University’s suspended men’s basketball coach, John Chaney, when another panelist began to interrupt him.

“Hold on now,” Mr. Curry said. “Yo. My time. You’ve been talking.”

An exchange like this wouldn’t seem out of place on commercial radio, particularly the shout shows that revel in “crosstalk.”

But this is National Public Radio.

NPR is polite.

People don’t interrupt each other on NPR.

Until now.

“News & Notes With Ed Gordon,” the program that featured the discussion, represents a slightly different NPR. It is as intelligent as brethren such as “All Things Considered,” but it’s livelier — and more soulful.

The hourlong show, which debuted Jan. 31, is NPR’s latest attempt to target black listeners. It succeeded Tavis Smiley’s talk show, which the host quit in December after three years.

“Obviously we’re coming at this from what is generally called the black perspective, but I’m just trying to do good radio,” Mr. Gordon said from Los Angeles, where the program is produced.

It would be a shame if the show were known only as NPR’s “black show,” he said. “Would you say ‘60 Minutes’ is from a white perspective?”

Since its debut, “News & Notes” — which airs locally weekdays at 11 a.m. on WETA-FM (90.3) and Tuesdays through Saturdays at 2 a.m. on WAMU-FM (88.5) — has devoted segments to such topics as the commercialization of Black History Month, the role of race in college admissions and the United Nations’ ruling that the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, is systematic abuse, not genocide.

The daily “round-table” segment, in which Mr. Gordon and three guest panelists discuss the day’s top stories, occasionally gets rowdy. He said this helps distinguish “News & Notes” from other public radio shows, conceding that he hasn’t always been an NPR listener.

“There were times… I thought NPR was a little too highbrow for me,” he said.

Mr. Gordon moved to radio after a bright career in television. At Black Entertainment Television, he was the person newsmakers — including President Clinton and O.J. Simpson — turned to when they wanted to reach black viewers.

Mr. Gordon now contributes occasional reports to “60 Minutes Wednesday,” and he has been mentioned as a candidate for anchorman on “CBS Evening News” if the network takes an ensemble approach to the newscast.

Mr. Gordon, who is black, said the broadcast networks have been too slow to put minorities in the anchor’s chair.

“Those who sit in power are typically slow to give up power. … Most of the people who still run news organizations are middle-aged white men,” he said.

When Mr. Smiley walked away from his show, he complained in the press that NPR didn’t support it. Mr. Gordon has no gripes but adds that the show is only a few weeks old.

“The honeymoon is still going on,” he said.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to [email protected]

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