Is There A #PubRadioVoice That Sounds Like America?

January 30, 2015

Chenjerai Kumanyika, a professor at Clemson University and aspiring public radio journalist, sparked a challenging conversation with his commentary about the “whiteness” of public radio voices. We hosted a Twitter chat about his essay and invited listeners and public radio professionals to share their thoughts using #PubRadioVoice.

Moderated by our lead blogger, Gene Demby, #PubRadioVoice explored whether the journalists on NPR truly represent the “public” in public radio.

Gene started by asking our diverse panel — professionals from across the public radio system — how listeners respond to their voices.

Many shared their perspectives on public radio diversity, whether there’s a lack of voices from people of color — POC — and the ways that could affect content and audiences.

Some listeners and panelists embraced the idea of hearing a standard, broadcast vocal style but think that diversity should still be a goal. For them, diversity must go hand in hand with professionalism.

Others felt the issue goes beyond race and that public radio diversity should embrace regional, cultural and gender differences. For many, the solution begins with opening the system to new ideas and voices.

Finally, many asked where public media should go from here and how diversifying public radio could go beyond hashtags. Most agreed that adding new voices is only a part of the solution. What also matters is diversity of coverage, commentary and perspectives.

And just for fun, we asked: “What is NPR’s typical voice?” Like Kumanyika’s commentary mentioned, many people likened the standard vocal delivery on NPR as warm milk, tea or coffee. Some even shared pictures.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

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