Sunday May 15th, 1994: The New York Times ran an AP article "From Death Row: A Radio Show" highlighting the next day's premier of Mumia Abu-Jamal's radio commentaries on All Things Considered (ATC). Most major dailies ran the article. That same day, NPR News Managing Editor Bruce Drake (who was left in charge while his boss was on vacation) stunned NPR weekend staff by single-handedly--without editorial consultations--canceling the debut. This was after NPR had selected, recorded, and launched a nationwide publicity campaign highlighting the debut of these "unique" commentaries. In fact, NPR does not usually set an air date for commentaries but the press interest was so high they scheduled an air date of Monday May 16th.
Since July of 1992 as the director of the Prison Radio Project I have been recording and producing Mumia's commentaries for public radio (heard in the S.F. Bay Area on Flashpoints, KPFA 94.1 FM, Wednesdays). In February 1993, I went to Washington D.C. and scheduled auditions of Mumia's demo tape with Gail Christian, Executive Director of Pacifica National Programming and Ellen Weiss, Executive Director of All Things Considered. I was accompanied by Jane Henderson of Equal Justice USA. NPR was immediately interested. Ellen Weiss was very impressed with Mumia's work. She said "I am honored, let's make this happen ... my audience needs to hear about these issues, this is a unique perspective... thank you."
NPR offered a producer, an engineer, and a commitment to air the material. Pacifica did not get back to me or pick up the series until the media ruckus hit. It's interesting to note that local Pacifica stations WPFW in Washington, D.C. and WBAI in NYC as well as KPFA have been playing Mumia for years. All Things Considered has an audience of 7 million people. It is heard on 490 stations across the US, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and Hungary.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an insightful and brilliant analyst of the American condition. He was the minister of information of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia in 1968 at age 16. As a trained radio journalist, he filed for ATC in 1981 while he was a reporter at WUHY (now WHYY), the Philadelphia NPR affiliate. Mumia won a Peabody, the highest award in public broadcasting, for a report on the pope's visit to Philadelphia that year. He has been on death row for 12 years, having been unjustly convicted of shooting a Philadelphia police officer in December of 1981.
Call NPR at 1-800-235- 1212: Demand that All things be considered! Fax, e-mail or Write Bill Buzenberg, VP, NPR News at (fax 202-414-3329) 635 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20001-3753. For more information, contact: Noelle Hanrahan, Prison Radio Project 415-648-4505 or write 2420 24th St. San Francisco, CA 94110.
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