NPR reporter props up hands-on news

Sable Riley

Arts & Entertainment Editor

National Public Radio’s listenership is growing steadily in spite of a stagnation or decline in the audiences for other news media, according to NPR correspondent Debbie Elliott.

“So, we’re kind of this bright spot,” Elliott said in a speech in Trojan Center on Wednesday, April 19.

Elliott said her theory is NPR’s loyalty to its original mission statement which is “to work in partnership with member stations to create a more informed public—one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures,” according to its website.

“If you have respect for your audience, you’re going to have respect for the people that you talk to and the stories that you hear, and I think that’s what sets us apart,” Elliott said.

Elliott is a reporter who primarily covers news and politics in the South.

During her discussion, she presented some “props” she brought with her, including a nutria tooth she kept after doing a story about the land-loss crisis in the Louisiana swamps.

Nutria are large, web-footed rodents that are more agile in the water than on land, according to National Geographic. Their front teeth are long and orange, which is a result of an iron-containing pigment.

“One of the problems they had were these nutria— these swamp rats—and they were chewing up the wetlands and creating more problems,” Elliott said.

She told a story about how, at the time, public officials tried to convince people to hunt nutria and sell it as food.

Elliott also brought a glass jar of various-sized tar balls which she collected while doing a story on the coast during the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in 2010.

She said her “props” are evidence that she “actually went out in the world to cover the news.”

She called it “touching the story.” She also played a clip of her interview with local residents affected by the spill.

She later played a part of an interview she did with the former governor of Mississippi, Edwin W. Edwards, who she described as a “colorful” character. In the interview, Elliott discusses his political career—he ran four consecutive terms as governor—and his subsequent stint in prison for extortion. At age 80, right after he got out of the pen, he decided to campaign again for a senate seat.

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