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NPR cancels its summer internship program

The network has to make $10 million in budget cuts.

I hope you all had a great weekend. We have a lot to dive into today, so let’s get to it: NPR cuts its summer internship program, Proof leads to justice, and SiriusXM keeps a longtime podcast in the fold with a new deal.

Facing $10 million in budget cuts, NPR axes summer internship program

NPR, which instituted a near-total hiring freeze last month, is taking another drastic step to save money by canceling its prestigious summer internship program. 

The news was first tweeted out Tuesday morning by All Things Considered technical director Stu Rushfield. “This makes me truly sad,” he said. “@NPRinterns are part of NPR’s lifeblood & a pipeline of great talent.” Former interns chimed in that many owe their careers in radio to the training and connections they made through the program.

About one-sixth of current staffers at the network started as interns, according to NPR’s internship page (which is still up). All internship postings have been removed from the careers site. The company confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the program has been canceled for the summer.

“We are seeing a worldwide set of economic challenges that have weakened the advertising industry and negatively affected media and technology companies. A major portion of NPR’s revenue comes through corporate sponsorships, which are sensitive to changes like this in the economy,” the network said in a statement to Hot Pod. “Unfortunately this means we have to make hard choices and, in addition to a near hiring freeze, we made the difficult decision to cancel this summer’s internship program. We are committed to providing a positive intern experience and hope to be able to reinstate it soon.”

This is not the first time NPR has canceled the summer internship; it took the same step in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But while that was likely due to a variety of pandemic-related factors (such as safety and the transition to remote work), this cut is purely for financial reasons. Two weeks ago, NPR CEO John Lansing sent an email to staffers saying that the network is anticipating a $20 million decline in corporate sponsorships, and will need to make $10 million in budget cuts this financial year. That accounts for about 3% of NPR’s annual budget.

While the program will hopefully return, there is a time pressure for young graduates. Currently, you have to have graduated in the past year in order to be eligible for the internship, meaning that 2022–2023 graduates could miss out on a major pipeline to public radio careers. NPR did not respond as to whether they will extend the eligibility window moving forward.

Beyond the impact on current NPR staffers who rely on intern labor and the would-be interns in need of experience, the move is another worrying sign for the state of the media business. Between the layoffs at CNN, Spotify’s podcast studios, Gannett, and others, it feels like the walls are closing in.

Have you heard rumblings of layoffs or other staff-cutting measures at your company? Feel free to hit me up at ariel.shapiro@theverge.com (anonymous is fine!).

Another true crime podcast leads to long-overdue justice

Proof: A True Crime Podcast debuted earlier this year, and has already had some major real-world impact. The show unearthed new evidence in the 1996 shooting of 15-year-old Brian Bowling, exposing the false grounds on which two Georgia teenagers were convicted for the murder. Those now-43-year-old men have been exonerated thanks to the spotlight Proof shone on the case.

Cain Joshua Storey and Darrell Lee Clark were released last week after the Rome Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office dismissed all the charges against them. According to the Georgia Innocence Project, which represented the pair, interviews conducted by Proof hosts Jacinda Davis and Susan Simpson in 2021 ended up being crucial for the case’s outcome. They found that one witness was coerced by the police into giving false testimony, while another witness had been misunderstood by the judge and jury due to his speech and hearing impairment.

“I’m just glad the truth finally came to light after 25 years,” Lee Clark said in a statement. “I’m so thankful for the Georgia Innocence Project and Proof podcast for what they did. Without them, I would still be in prison.”

The situation is reminiscent of the recent developments with Serial and its main subject, Adnan Syed. But while Serial was initially ambivalent about whether or not Syed was innocent and there was an eight-year gap between the show’s run and Syed’s release, Proof managed to help deliver justice in about a year.

I am generally not big on true crime podcasts (especially ones that gawk at violence), but clearly some are worth their salt as investigations! And when done right, they can provide a powerful platform for stories that would otherwise go unnoticed.

How Did This Get Made? renews deal with SiriusXM

I reported yesterday exclusively for The Verge that comedy podcast (and personal Ariel Shapiro favorite!) How Did This Get Made? is sticking with Earwolf. The show has been under Earwolf’s banner since 2010, long before the studio got into broad fare like Office Ladies and its parent Stitcher was acquired by SiriusXM. Even if HDTGM is not a chart-topper (though it does generally rank respectably in the top 50 comedy podcasts on Apple), it is still a hit at 40 million downloads a year. As audio companies scramble to license top shows, it’s in SiriusXM’s interest to keep the podcast in its roster rather than lose it to a competitor.

That’s all for now, see you next week!