Prominently displayed in NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. is a poster of longtime NPR host Michel Martin invoking Shirley Chisholm to describe NPR’s independent status. “We are ‘unbought and unbossed.’ The listeners own us.” The reality of ownership is slightly more complex for the public radio network, but its dedication to independent journalism in service of the public is deeply ingrained in the organization. It is evident in NPR’s formal mission, in its strategic plan and priorities, and in the day-to-day work of people throughout the building, from journalists and archivists to programmers and executives. As both a lifelong listener and an MBA intern, this was incredibly heartening to witness firsthand, especially during a busy summer that featured significant developments around the world and just down the street on Capitol Hill.
For my part, I served as a summer consultant with the Strategy & Business Partnerships team, which does everything from high-level strategy to business development to internal business excellence. Thanks to the team, especially my boss Michael Lutzky T’06, I worked on substantive, challenging, impactful projects that touched all of these areas and had the opportunity to share my findings with executive decision-makers. I learned more than I thought possible about the media industry, public media, nonprofits, and journalism. Through cross-functional discussions of acquired content, marketing strategies, and more, it was clear that NPR is not just dedicated to its mission but also has a strong sense of itself and its core competencies, which is critical for a legacy organization in the midst of a continually shifting environment.
One of the most rewarding parts of my internship was exploring the complex relationship between media and technology through the lens of NPR’s unique capabilities and position. It was exciting and challenging to examine emerging and potential future technological innovations, identify the opportunities they create for NPR and competitive media organizations, and consider how to leverage those opportunities to build on competitive advantages and address potential gaps. While questions about what the future of NPR looks like and how audiences will engage with it underlie almost everything happening throughout the organization, the opportunity to take a broad, high-level approach to these big questions was enlightening. At the same time, by working closely with the Digital Media team, I gained insight into the tactical efforts underway to advance and bolster NPR’s position in the digital marketplace.
I was already interested to see how the media landscape—and NPR’s place within it—continues to evolve but after my experience this summer, I’m even more attuned to shifts in technologies, resources, and partnerships that may represent new avenues for media organizations.
During her summer internship at NPR, Meghan McDavid T'18 attended to a number of Tiny Desk Concerts.