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NPR Top Executive Visits SLU and NCPR

CANTON — The President and CEO of National Public Radio, Gary E. Knell, made his way to the North Country on Wednesday to visit with listeners and members of North Country Public Radio at St. Lawrence University.

As the top executive of NPR for nearly two years, Knell said he is trying to visit as many of the NPR affiliates as possible.

"It's good to find out what's happening in the country and to learn what it's like for the local stations," he said. "NPR has three-and-a-half million members, and that has grown a lot in the last decade. Plus, we have more than 35 million listeners every week."

Knell said the biggest challenge to NPR — and traditional media in general — is the rapid access to information, which can make nearly anyone with a computer or smart phone a content producer. The trend, he said, is defining a new compact for public radio.

"There's a firehose of information coming at us constantly," he said. "People aren't just picking up their newspaper or watching the evening news one time a day to get their information. It comes at them in a 24-hour news cycle of snippets and headlines. Our role is to give context to the complexities of the world we live in."

On Wednesday, Knell participated in a call-in with local listeners at NCPR's station in Canton, met with NCPR members, attended NCPR's annual public meeting and also attended a reception with St. Lawrence University President William L. Fox '75.

Referring to NCPR and General Manager Ellen Rocco, Knell said the station does a remarkable job of representing the region's interests.

"Ellen and the team at NCPR are notable standouts," he said. "The station often punches above it's weight. It knows its mission is to connect issues affecting the Adirondacks and the North Country to its listening audience."

Knell also took the time to thank St. Lawrence University for its ongoing support of NCPR.

"The University's support has allowed the station to run a robust community service that touches a huge geographic area from Vermont to Watertown to Canada," he said. "St. Lawrence has let NCPR blossom into an important megaphone for important issues affecting the local community. It's a tribute to the leadership of the University."