NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn

NPR’s new President and CEO Jarl Mohn started his career in radio as a disc jockey under the name Lee Masters. He became a top executive at MTV and VH1, and helped found the E! Entertainment Network. Mohn says listeners need not worry about NPR’s public radio mission changing — but he says he’ll bring his commercial media expertise to shore up the organization’s finances. Mohn joins us to discuss his vision for the future of NPR.

Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR

  • Chris OConnell

    No, don’t increase corporate underwriting! Decrease it! Please. I hate the commercials and foundation promos on NPR, it really muddies and destroys the brand.

  • trite

    It is indeed important to put the NPR fiscal house in order. but it is also important to redress the dumbing down of NPR content. Increasingly I, and my friends, and indeed our children, are getting tired of the juvenile stupid content and presentation–NPR sounds like “talk radio.” today.

    • Whamadoodle

      I agree with Mr. Mohn–I don’t know what radio station you’re listening to, but it ain’t this one. It’s interesting content, intelligently and thoughtfully presented.

      • L A

        KQED is an NPR station but many of its programs are not NPR programs. Morning Edition, an NPR program is one where I here a lot of dumb stuff especially the attempts at humor. Here and Now is an NPR program. Can’t listen to it. ATC is another NPR program.
        KQED has some exceptional programs and Forum tops my list. I am from Seattle and we lost our two hour interview show, Weekday, because the program director thinks people don’t want to listen to in depth extended conversations. I listen to Forum a lot and contribute now to KQED.

  • Chris OConnell

    I have an idea to clean up the cesspool formerly known as the valuable NPR message board: Restrict ability to comment to members. Sure, that will cut down on volume but Quality not Quantity, please. (And it may get you some subscribers!)

    • ES Trader

      Why not just make it (NPR) pay radio then?

      I guess you never heard the testimonials of those that listened as non-members while as students and unemployed that later became members.

  • Chris OConnell

    Can we agree that US Presidential elections and the media coverage of them are woefully lacking and no service to a healthy functioning democracy? If so, regarding 2016: Please don’t be like all the other networks covering the celebrity and the nonsense; the commercials and the stupid stuff that the parties WANT you to cover. NPR should be different from the networks and substantive. It has a big chance to distinguish itself.

  • ardee

    I sit on an advisory committee for the new UCSF hospitals opening in Mission Bay in Feb 2015.

    We recently saw the new interactive system to be installed in patient rooms on a 65″ screen – and there was no ‘radio’ application in the entertainment section.

    When I asked, I was told patients could use music streaming like Spotify – I responded that folks over 50 think that is a dry-cleaning product.

    It suggests that most 20, 30 and even 40 somethings do not see radio as an essential source of news and entertainment – does Mr. Mohn agree and how can we bring the value of this wonderful medium to the younger generation?

    • Mrs. Eccentric

      oy, ardee – i was very pleased to hear Mr. Krasny present your thoughtful, pertinent comment with it’s clealy stated question…..and quite dismayed that Mr. Mohr didn’t even seem to grasp your question! When Mr. Krasny directed Mr. Mohr to the question at hand, Mr. Mohr provided a very glib, non-substantive response. All he had to do was say ‘S% of our listeners are in the 20-30 age range and yes we would like to increase that %” but he couldn’t even manage that. I love my radio, always have. This interview did not give me an optimistic feeling about where NPR is headed under Mr. Mohr’s guidance.

      • ardee

        yup Mrs. E ….. sure sounds like he doesn’t get it!
        It is a challenge – I, and likely you too, grew up in a generation when the radio was on all the time, and it was exciting and intriguing to crawl under the covers with a tranny (whoops – in its traditional meaning!) in the dead of night and listen to sports events from far away, or, as in my case commercial music radio on Radio Luxembourg.
        In today’s far more personal world of entertainment, radio’s role has been reduced to the car, at least in car commuter cities. Music streams – aren’t those what we called babbling brooks? –
        and personal playlists have become the sound of choice on personal ear buds.
        I too wondered about the age profile for NPR. Definitely a challenge – see ZeldoF’s comment below. Yup I love Click &Clack but have grown very weary of Prairie Home Companion. KCRW does have great programming – but Mohr won’t get that since he was on the board of KPCC.
        NPR needs to widen it’s listener base – that will no doubt upset some, but attract others. I too find here & Now fluffy and long for the depth of TOTN, but younger generations have a shorter attention span and prefer a more immediate and zippy pace.
        I’ve gone on too long – just hope Forum have the sense to print out all these comments on paper and forward to Jarl Mohn – I’m wondering if he’s tech savvy ;<)) ??. Thanks for bearing with me.

  • Lance

    I believe the comparison of dumbing down was the replacement of “Talk of the Nation” with what is in it’s slot now. Which I do admit isn’t much better than the brief news snipits on other outlets.

  • ES Trader

    the “humor” pieces daily on Morning Edition qualifies as “stupid and dumbing down”

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    “I don’t know what that person is listening to, it’s not us.”

    aaaargh! if Mr. Mohn is not going to listen to honest feedback, what’s the point of this show? i’ve listened to NPR for four decades, i still can’t get over how they started providing sports coverage – yeah, that’s one thing it’s impossible to get anywhere else in the media. /snark

    NPR still has some great reporting, but there’s a lot of just repetitive re-coverage of topics driven into the ground elsewhere. And re: corporate underwriting, it’s hard to think a story is objective or balanced when it’s followed by a big Monsanto plug.

    • Whamadoodle

      My honest feedback is that I agreed with him when he said that. Should he not listen to mine?

      I do agree about not becoming so beholden to corporate underwriters like Monsanto that the editorial content gets twisted.

      However, on the other topics, even if I hadn’t agreed with him that KQED is NOT dumbed-down listening (and I’ve been listening to it since my parents had it on when I was 10), does “listening to honest feedback” mean that he is ordered to agree with you? What if he doesn’t?

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        well no one is ‘ordered’ to listen to anyone. I’d be interested to know how you took that away from what i wrote? If i gave that impression it was my mistake, i did not have that intention and appreciate the opportunity to correct the false impression i apparently created.

        However, as the new head of NPR it would be reasonable for Mohn to at least acknowledge a listener’s point of view, instead of flatly dismissing it. This becomes even more disheartening when multiple listeners present the same viewpoint.

        I realize that listeners will have different points of view, and not all can be accommodated in one organization. But it’s disturbing when the head of a listener-supported organization refuses flat out to acknowledge negative feedback. He doesn’t have to agree, i would have been impressed if he had presented some type of information/studies which supported his position – and we know that the host would have let him do so. But instead he just smacked that listener down.

        The proof of a pudding is in the eating, and in coming months we will see where NPR goes and if indeed the quality of the content improves. But it is disturbing when a person at an organization which is supposed to reflect the interests and needs of the listeners is so dismissive of feedback. If this was Mr. Mohn’s private media enterprise i would expect such an attitude, but it’s supposedly for and by the ‘public’ – it’s National Public Radio, not National Mohn Radio.

        • Whamadoodle

          His reply was certainly brief, I agree–for my part, I assumed that that was because he thought the feedback itself was knee-jerk (which was, indeed, exactly the way it struck me too, present company excepted).

          And as far as presenting information or studies to support his contention that the programming here hadn’t been dumbed down, that strikes me as an assertion that is hard to quantify in that way. Is it asking him to gauge the logic of the arguments presented here, when Middle East experts convene every week to discuss Israel/Palestine? Is it asking him to gauge their qualifications to speak, quantifying each panel guest according to how many years of experience each one has in their field? Is it setting proportions for how much of their programming must be STEM, how much politics, etc.? The feedback was vague, not well-defined.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            hi – on the run so a brief reply. Radio management lives and breathes this type of info – how many minutes every hour is content vs. pledges vs. acknowledging corp underwriting etc.; and on a day to day or week to week basis how much programming is news, analysis, game shows, call in, opinion, and so on. They constantly pore over all this info. and look at how the various programming is ‘playing’ with the various audiences and audience segments (ie. drive time vs. middle of the nite; old vs. young, rich vs. poor – but much more detailed obviously).

            Instead of immediately assuming that the comment was from a troll, Mr. Mohn could have presented info. that NPR as a whole has the same or more amount of programming devoted to news and analysis compared to previous years; he could have mentioned new programs in development along those lines; and so on.

            Rochelle mentioned Mohn’s remarks about the Planet Money segment elsewhere on this page – i’ll give Mohn props for addressing the issue of quality programming here but again he really hit a sour note with some of us.

            Anyways i have a busy few days coming up so i’ll leave my comments at this. Again, i’m not ‘ordering’ Mohn to do anything, simply stating that his attitude does not seem appropriate for a person tasked with developing programming responsive to the listening public.

          • Whamadoodle

            Thanks Mrs. Eccentric–quoting Professor Krasny’s line as I always like to do, I will say: “and I’ll let your comment stand.” Have a great weekend, and I share your hope for intelligently-written programs to come.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Klick and Clack and wait wait are entertainment shows – please don’t confuse that with the news.

  • ardee

    The BBC has a long history of radio comedy and quiz shows – those are rare species on US radio.
    Why can’t we have more ….. especially on NPR?

  • ZeldoF

    Car talk and Garrison Keillor? Are you really still airing this stuff? While your 92 year old mother may like it, what about your audience under 50? Check out KCRW in LA – be creative – the programming people at the station take laziness to a new level. You have an opportunity to attract a whole new audience if you get rid of some if those programs whose best days were 20 years ago…

    • are you kidding me? i’m under 50 and LOVE Prairie Home Companion. not everything needs to be younger & hipper!

  • vickie

    I agree 100 percent with Lance ! Here and Now is so weak. Bring back Talk of the Nation.

  • Pete

    Mr. Mohn, “Here and Now” is the poster child of “dumbing down,” the “USA Today” of NPR and a shallow embarrassment compared to TOTN. I tried to listen for a couple of months and have finally just given up.

    • LF

      It is an obvious attempt to sound like AM talk radio. The announcers do a good job of imitating that type of voice pattern.

  • KMS

    “I don’t know what that person is listening to, it’s not us.” I agree completely!

    I am a huge NPR fan and honestly wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. I’m glad they have sports segments; they help draw in my husband, who isn’t the typical NPR listener.

    But please, bring back “Talk of the Nation”. Please!

  • darqmyth

    I started listening to kqed over 20 years ago when I still lived in the Bay Area. After I moved, when I was able to stream it from the internet I did. I listen now with the npr app. Watching these comment I am wondering, what is so terrible? If KQED is so bad, so empty of content, so “dumbed down” why are you listening and commenting and not watching FOX or MSNBC or the ghost of news past CNN?

    KQED provides a fair variety of “news and information”, you know, like they constantly say, news and information, not just news, news and information, not news tailored for my personal political or ideology, news and information.

    If you want dumbed down and content free FOX is easy to find. If you want snark and polemics MSNBC is easy to find. If you want to remember what news was, CNN is easy to find.

    And those of you who are so emotionally undone by the thought of underwriters, how would you propose paying for KQED. Rent isn’t free. Utilities isn’t free. Human beings generally get paid for work. equipment isn’t free.

    No underwriters, OK. Now propose a concrete way to create the same amount of money without underwriting. Generalities don’t feed the bulldog. detail and specificity please.

  • Bob Fry

    I understand the need for corporate money, but please don’t read the corporate-written happy-crap blurbs they provide. Just state the corporate name.

    • Mrs. Eccentric

      “…but please don’t read the corporate-written happy-crap blurbs they provide. Just state the corporate name.”

      i like this!

    • Mason Gibb

      There are of course other problems with corporate underwriting besides the happy-crap blurbs. A very recent case in point: NPR’s 5-Hour Energy puff piece while being underwritten by its makers. Hopefully this journalistic gaff is well-known throughout NPR now, and they will vigilantly monitor content, esp. ‘puff pieces’, that may relate to underwriters past and present.

      And, to be fair, without “happy-crap” blurbs, how else would I know there are chairs available with “true black” upholstery? or that five-hour energy drink has no sugar and no calories?

  • baylaurel

    I agree with many of the listeners below who were unhappy with the way the question of corporate underwriting was glossed over in this interview. Underwriting is a complex issue and deserves more discussion.
    In addition, as a college student, I find it very frustrating how Mr. Mohn and many others talk about reaching out to my generation. My friends and I do not listen to NPR for “fun”; we have many other places to seek out fun. We listen to NPR for informative news programming.

  • Janice Wolfe

    Corporate underwriting may pay the bills, but there is ALWAYS a price. The credibility of NOVA has been compromised since the Koch Brothers Foundation foots that bill. Their piece on the Super Hurricane that hit the Philippines shocked me when it came to discussing the influence of the human practice of dumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere. They trotted out the tired line of “weather” not being directly influenced by “climate change” ( the “Kock preferred” terminology since global warming is now a term they also refused to use). So if the integrity of NOVA has succumbed to deep pockets, how does NPR escape the same fate? Especially since there will be the same numbers of corporate sponsors, BUT individually they will GIVE EVEN MORE MONEY to NPR!

  • Rochelle

    Thanks for insulting the financial intelligence of women by insinuating that “wives and adult daughters” normally wouldn’t take the time to understand loan financing, but can now do so with a Planet Money program that “simplifies it” enough for them. What about husbands and adult sons? Apparently they don’t need it simplified? You don’t make a good first impression Mr. Mohn.

  • Jonnie

    Did anyone else get this feel that this guy is a dumb as a sack of rocks? First he starts out with the liberal shibboleths about not enough minorities in radio and it’s NPR’s job to see that there are more of “those” people working in public radio. Then he goes on to feign concern that not enough ‘hood people listen to NPR and that this is a concern. How about just saying that we’re not a ghetto hip-hop network and that if said folks don’t like our middle-upper class programing they can stay tuned to BET. When these population cohorts have the same college graduation rates as the rest of the nation, they will start to tune into programing like NPR has to offer. Until then, who gives a flying…!

  • JMS

    one name for juvenile content… Steve Inskeep

    Seriously, he think’s NPR hasn’t dumbed down? as others have mentioned, Talk of the Nation is only a recent example, but look at all the personalities on the flagship programs. Sure, there are still very good presenters, but Morning Edition is nothing but some clown trying to be entertaining and having to impose his self presumed wit on his audience.

    He doesn’t know what we’re listening too indeed…

    Oh, and please forward this to Mr Mohn

    • Ardi Hominid

      I like Steve. He has reported in some very dangerous places in the world and still comes back humble and humorous.

  • Guest

    We enjoy some of the interactive moments with NPR. Every time my husband and I see the Boeing commercial during Washington Week we talk back to the television. When the woman in the ad says, “We know why we’re here”, we say, “to suck up taxpayer money”.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor