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Ageism rears up at NPR

J.R. Ewing is back in the saddle on "Dallas" and it's making youngsters uncomfortable.

I remember “Dallas” from the old days. I was a newspaper reporter and editor and freelance writer, a teacher of writing at the local university and a single mom. Thank-god-it’s-Friday-night often meant pizza, a few friends, feet up on the coffee table, and “Dallas” — a diverting confection that I likened to a good boxing match. We cheered for the good guys and guffawed at the meanies when they (occasionally) got their comeuppance. My happy memories of Friday-night “Dallas” persist to this day.

After 20 years “Dallas” is back. To reinforce this point I see J.R.’s face staring up at me on my doorstep. He’s featured above the fold in this morning’s New York Times and it so happens that The Arts section, not the front page, was on top. Hello Larry Hagman!

My “Dallas” morning continues, though not nearly so happily, when I step out of the shower mere minutes after fetching my paper. I catch a feature on this morning’s Morning Edition on NPR that turns my stomach.

The upshot of the piece is that the new “Dallas” might, like “Murder, She Wrote,” be aimed at a target market that is not known to be a big spender. The spenders are much younger. The two reporters agree that “Murder, She Wrote,” while an award-winning show, was imperiled by its demographic handicap. And J.R. at — gasp — 80, is a liability that sounds a death knell. No problem, jokes one of the reporters. “Dallas” is known for its gunplay, after all. Bobby, J.R. and Sue Ellen are surely not long for this world. Kill those suckers off and give the show to the spenders. This gleeful remark is meant to be a prediction of plots to come in the very near future.

That’s right. Kill off the oldsters so “Dallas” has a fighting chance.

Capitalism in its meanest hour, with NPR stoking the fires of ageism. NPR also propagates a grossly simplistic, cynical and inaccurate premise — that business must invest all its resources where the biggest potential exists at the expense of other, perhaps lesser, but clearly lucrative markets. This is how movies are made, targeted as so many are to the 18–34-year-old male. And we wonder why the movie business is tanking.

“Murder, She Wrote” ran for 12 seasons, and, according to a quick check on Wikipedia, it was one of the most successful and longest-running television shows in history with close to 24 million viewers. Not only are the reporters on NPR inappropriate, they mislead their listeners by making it seem as if “Murder, She Wrote” was an abysmal failure at gaining and holding an audience. It was an international favorite with a long and healthy life.

It’s the unabashed ageism that makes this NPR segment on “Dallas” target markets so vile. The reporters mock the type of products “Dallas” will have to sell to support it — life insurance and denture cream are their suggestions, which they make laughingly.

“Dallas” is not nearly in as much trouble as NPR is. That a news segment like this plays to the very target market who supports it with their shrinking dollars is appalling. NPR has lost its ability to research a story properly, has succumbed to cheap ageist shots, and has wasted valuable member contributions on a story that is mean, ignorant and inaccurate. It’s a permanent stain on their ethics and veracity.

Instead of switching off “Dallas” because it features older folks, I suggest you switch off NPR. They have insulted a sizable percentage of their supporters and they are too stupid to even realize it.

Posted in books & entertainment, Free Fall Now, news, other topics.

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4 Responses

  1. Lesa Holstine Lesa Holstine says

    I don’t listen to NPR near as much as I did when Bob Edwards was on the morning show. When they let him go, they were already indicating they wanted a younger demographic, not those of us who loved and supported Bob Edwards and his show for years.

    1 like

  2. Generic Image RamblinRedhead says

    I wouldn’t take it all too personally – the folks on NPR are condescending to most people,  and consider themselves vastly superior to nearly all groups pf people (groups they often helpfully define for us).  I find it ironic that a bunch of people who think of themselves as so open-minded and inclusive are really very elitist, and categorize and stereotype people in such superficial ways.

    I quit listening to their patronizing drivel a long time ago.  I am atrracted to the intellectual content, and some of the complex and unique issues they take on, but I found I just could not tolerate their attitude, and their packaging of the information, not to mention the non-stop bias in most of their staff.

    I don’t like being talked down to, or mocked for not agreeing with them in every way on every issue.  Like many women here, I have a lot of experience to draw on, and I have passionate convictions on certain issues, which I have put a lot of time and thought into.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I expect to bring everyone around to my opinions.  But I think it is reasonable to be respected, and maybe a little more tolerance would back up all their talk with a little more “walk”.

    Anyway, I have gone back to reading the paper, and rely heavily on the internet for my news.  I can find out all kinds of things there, without the pressure to be or do or believe anything, just because they put a pseudo-intellectual veneer on it.

    2 like

  3. photogirl photogirl says

    I like NPR.  The only thing I don’t like about them is that they have started devoting a lot of airtime to stories & issues of gay and lesbians.  Way more info than that minority represents in the general population.

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  4. Rae Francoeur Rae Francoeur says

    I welcome and read you comments with great interest. They caught me by surprise, this time,  in that the extreme-ageist remarks by the young male and female reporters delivering the business segment on “Dallas” did not cause the same degree of outrage I felt. My first thought when reading your comments is that by the time we reach 60, we’ve seen so much ageism (especially in the media), that, out of necessity, we let it go. I don’t know if this is what’s happening. I, myself, never called or wrote NPR after hearing that news story on “Dallas” and I should have. I think we have to find ways to help society face its ageist ways. There are seriously bad implications for older people living in an ageist society. In the case of “Dallas,” the reporters’ solution was to kill off JR Ewing to improve ratings and get more lucrative advertising (and make the plot more interesting). My significant other Jim said, “Oh, like death panels.” It was hilarious and sort of true, virtually, at least. I could go on and on. The bottom line is: fight back against ageism. It’s embedded in our society and it affects everything in our lives from the way we’re treated in the doctor’s office to the way we’re seen, or not seen, in the supermarket.

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