Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Eric Nuzum, for 11 years VP of Programming at NPR, will leave the network in early June for a new job at  Eric will be missed within NPR and at NPR stations across the nation. He made positive and lasting contributions to public radio and public media during his tenure.


Nuzum more than filled the shoes of his predecessor Jay Kernis.  Kernis, when he was in charge of programming at NPR, was a brilliant strategist and coach but he also had a tin ear.  The Bryant Park Project seemed to be his Waterloo. A revolving cast of senior executives led to Kernis’ exit.

Eric Nuzum has a great ear and an intuitive feel for strong communicators. Kernis could be aloof and scientific  Nuzum is so approachable he seems like someone you’d like to invite to your next party.

Now Nuzum is going to – a major player in the online book biz.  He will become Audible’s Senior Vice President of Original Content Development.  He is a great choice for the gig.

I love to hear about folks who are successful in both noncom and business.  The two worlds feed each other knowledge, survival skills and perspective. 

Eric has been in public radio since he was 19. Take it from someone who has been in the commercial media fast lane, this may be an adjustment for Eric.  But, I am sure he will swim with best of them.


I first met Eric about twenty years ago when I was Director of News at PRI.  Eric was at WOSU and produced a national show called Body Talk – a doc talk advice program.  He invited me to be on a panel at the old Public Radio Conference (“PRC”) about creating successful radio programs.  As I recall, it was a packed room and it went overtime.

That’s when I thought to myself: Eric Nuzum totally gets it.  He thinks nationwide. He’s got the ear of a customer.

We talked often at conferences.  Both of us are fans of writer Chuck Klosterman – a friend of Eric’s. Fargo Rock City – one of the greatest rock n roll books ever written – was out then.

Eric then released his own book: Parental Advisory: Music Censorship In America.  It is still the definitive reporting on the congressional hearings on music lyrics. They were championed by Tipper Gore and featured testimony from Frank Zappa and many others. I recommend the book which is available at [LINK].

All of us who have worked with Eric wish him well.


Did you know that Eric owns a painting by serial killer John Wayne Gacy? Yes, it’s true.  I didn’t believe it until he sent me a photo.  Creeped me out, man!

I think it was this one:

1 comment:

  1. Ken, I join you in praising Eric Nuzum for his accomplishments, as he departs for what I expect will be his next success at

    But, I disagree with praising Nuzum by dumping on Jay Kernis. First, to correct some factual errors – Nuzum’s predecessor was not Jay Kernis. Jay was a Senior VP, and his successor was Margaret Low Smith for whom Eric worked. And Jay did not leave because of “a revolving cast of senior executives.” He left because of serious disagreements with one – Ken Stern.

    But, beyond these errors, you accuse Kernis of having “a tin ear” despite acknowledging that he was “a brilliant strategist and coach.” You base your charge on the failure of the Bryant Park Project, which you call his “Waterloo.”

    I have known Jay for more than forty years and have worked directly with him, especially when he was a very young producer of on-air promotion at the startup NPR. His smarts and his talent, and his GREAT ear for radio were unsurpassed. He almost single-handedly invented Morning Edition and, with Scott Simon, Weekend Edition. He is the guy who “greenlit” such projects as StoryCorps. He brought stature, passion and great programming chops when he headed NPR programming. Yes, he presided over some programs that failed to make it in the marketplace – but they were important experiments that helped NPR grow and figure out much of its future. They included Bryant Park Project -- the network’s first attempt at a combined radio-digital project, and Day to Day -- the network’s first program from its brand new West Coast production center in Los Angeles. It is important to remember that experimenting, risk-taking and failure are the prices of invention.

    If anything led to Jay’s departure from NPR and the aforementioned experiments that failed, it was a sea change in the way new programs were created at NPR. Gone was the tolerance for big budget launches of new programs – this tried-and-tested approach was simply too risky in a period of limited funding and a lack of station consensus about what was wanted next. In place of this approach came a lighter, more nimble and considerably cheaper strategy … one aptly named “agile” by its proponents, many from the Silicon Valley of California. Eric studied, learned and applied this new approach to mostly positive effect, backing programs like Ask Me Another and The Ted Radio Hour. Even Nuzum didn’t always succeed: John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders failed. Eric also had the opportunity of timing and the growth of digital media to begin conceiving and supporting the much-lower-budget development of Podcasts.

    As for Jay Kernis, he went on to even greater heights after he left NPR, as a producer for 60 Minutes and then NBC. He is currently a producer for CBS Sunday Morning. Instead of a “tin ear,” he has consistently demonstrated his aptitude for hearing (and seeing) the human story in the productions he has created.

    The bottom line is this: I agree with your praise for Eric, but not at the expense of your denigration of Jay Kernis.