Tavis Smiley & Kweisi Mfume have announced that they're leaving NPR and the NAACP, respectively.
I'm kinda surprised that Tavis is leaving his NPR radio show before his PBS TV show. I had assumed that his listenership for his NPR show was much larger than his PBS show. Perhaps not. And while my assumption that his NPR foray was well received, I never thought that despite its quality and content focus that it was reaching a critical mass of Blackfolk. I always assumed that there was a small, but hardcore subset of curious white liberals and negrophiles among NPR's overwhelmingly white audience.
I enjoyed Tavis' radio show, though I hadn't been listening to it as regularly as I'd like. I've never watched his TV show, primarily because his first guest on his debut show was none other than the right-wing congressman (R-GA), Newt Gingrich. I found Tavis far too conciliatory a host to such an evil man. What can I say? It just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big, big fan of Tavis. I think he's a trailblazer and often speaks truth to power. I am particularly proud of his exit statement confirming his departure from NPR, in which he rebuked NPR for not . . .
"meaningfully reach[ing] out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don't know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future."
Tavis, as my uncle Arthur once told me: "Don't sell soap to people who don't wash." Perhaps the current leadership of NPR is a bit funky. I don't know. But money talks. So, the next deal you get where you try to integrate a market, make sure your lawyers make your employer/partner agree to an adequate marketing budget upfront. But I trust that you've already learned this by now.
Whatever you ultimately decide to do with this new free time, promise me, Tavis, that you won't go to CNN or UPN -- they're both beneath you.
As for Kweisi Mfume, I am neither surprised or upset that he is stepping down as president of the NAACP. It's time that he run for governor of Maryland or maybe for the U.S. Senate (assuming Sen. Sarbanes decides to retire soon) -- particularly, if Mfume has the opportunity to defeat the cheap, GOP imitation of Sen. Barack Obama, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in the process!