Tavis Smiley won't re-sign with NPR

Posted: November 30, 2004

National Public Radio, which already lost veteran newsman Bob Edwards to satellite radio, is going to lose Los Angeles-based newsmagazine host Tavis Smiley, too. In an e-mail sent yesterday to undisclosed recipients and posted on Jim Romenesko's media page on the Poynter Institute Web site (http://poynter.org), Smiley says he won't renew his contract with NPR, making the Dec. 16 edition of The Tavis Smiley Show his last. His show is on 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on WHYY-FM (90.9).

Smiley seems concerned that NPR has not been aggressive enough in courting minority listeners. "With your support, I have come to care even more for public radio and its social, cultural and intellectual potential," he writes. "Yet, after all that we've accomplished towards our goal of seeking a broader, more diverse and younger audience for public radio, NPR's own research has confirmed that NPR has simply failed to meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio."

Smiley informed the network yesterday that he would not be renewing his contract, NPR spokesman David Umansky said. Smiley brings in NPR's most racially diverse and youngest audience, Umansky said. Twenty-nine percent of its listeners are African American, and 40 percent are under age 45. "This is a show we have put the most and best of our resources into promoting," he added. NPR will begin a national search for Smiley's replacement.

Smiley's show also runs weeknights at 11:30 p.m. to midnight on WHYY-TV (Channel 12) in Philadelphia and from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on NJN (Channels 23/52). Art Ellis, a spokesman for WHYY, said it was too soon to tell what Smiley's announcement would mean for its programming.

Di had an abortion?

* There's a new book (they seem to crank these out in some gossip-infested opium den every three months) which smudges the storybook - yet very human - image of Princess Diana, claiming she had an abortion in '94, when she was separated from Prince Charles. According to the Scotsman newspaper, socialite Lady Colin Campbell's The Real Diana says the baby was conceived with Diana's then-lover, art dealer Oliver Hoare, forcing Diana to consider whether she could have an out-of-wedlock baby. Campbell's book, which relies heavily on unnamed sources, said Diana was so overcome with grief over the loss of what was to have been a daughter that "she wasn't responsible for her actions" (before or after the alleged deed?). Prince Charles' office has refused to comment on the book's claim.

Meanwhile, NBC was set to air a special Dateline last night called "Diana Revealed," which promised some other unseemly dish on the princess' life. The show was to reveal tapes made by Diana's publicist and vocal coach, Peter Settelen - a man perhaps not too familiar with the concepts of confidence and discretion - that show Diana speaking frankly about her sex life with Prince Charles. You say tacky? We say that's not even a start for this lot.

Aniston is queen of the world

* Jennifer Aniston, who has flexed her acting muscles with some decent roles in indie films during and after her Friends days, is facing her greatest challenge yet: Friends With Money. Jen is in negotiations to star in the Nicole Holofcener-helmed pic along with Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the comedy is about, um, rich friends.

Meanwhile, a new poll by Britain's Ananova.com Web site has confirmed what we knew all along, that Aniston is more influential in American culture than those bores John Dewey and Susan B. Anthony. Jen's latest contribution to the zeitgeist? The hairdo named for her Friends character, the Rachel, was voted by a sampling of 2,000 women as being the most influential in all of history. Others on the list: Farrah Fawcett, Princess Diana, designer Mary Quant and Marilyn Monroe. The sound is muffled, but somewhere in the universe, wethinks we hear Rapunzel sobbing ever gently into the night.

No overdose for Long?

* Shelley Long's publicists are in high gear fending off a New York Post report that the 55-year-old former Cheers star took an overdose of painkillers last week because she was depressed about the breakup of her 22-year marriage to stockbroker Bruce Tyson. Long's manager Martin Michelson tells USA Today the actress had a bad reaction to an extra pain pill for her back, adding that she "is now home and she is fine," after having been released from an L.A. hospital last Tuesday.

A Farrell-Hilton merger?

* Perhaps it was like the time Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer first met. Two geniuses; two giants in their field; two international heroes. According to the New York Post, some atomic sparks did fly last week when, followed by an ABC camera crew for the taping of Barbara Walters' Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004, Paris Hilton (featured on the show) was spied hooking up with the second most oversexed pretty face in the cosmos: Colin Farrell. We knew such a merger was inevitable, foretold as it has been in Nostrodamus' writings. We're just shocked at how quickly it happened. At how quietly the event came and went. They were like two ships in the night. Reps for the pair were unavailable to comment to the Post over the holiday weekend.

Contact "Newsmakers" at 215-854-5797 or newsmakers@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Daniel Rubin and wire services contributed to this column.

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