WASHINGTON – Like the Holdingford,Minn.,cafeteria workers who vowed to keep their jobs after winning a $95.5 million Powerball jackpot,National Public Radio declared Thursday it will stick to the same reporting standards it has used since its conception in 1971.
At a news conference Thursday,longtime NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg shook a tea tin high above her head,making the coins inside rattle.
Back in the 1980s,NPR had a financial crisis.
“We found ourselves $9 million in debt. We did special on-air pledge drives. And at the time,a listener brought this and left it with the receptionist,” Stamberg said,as she shook the tin that still carries the sign the listener made asking for donations.
But thanks to a $200 million bequest from Joan Kroc,the widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc,NPR will be able to continue its commitment to “the highest quality broadcast journalism” without worry of financial challenges caused by state and federal budget cuts,said Kevin Klose,president.
The gift is believed to be the largest monetary gift ever received by an American cultural institution and is nearly double NPR's 2002 budget. Klose said NPR is still thinking about how to use the money.
Veteran NPR personalities such as Stamberg,who has been with the organization for 32 years,acted as if they had won the lottery.
“I screamed,” Stamberg said with a laugh. “Yesterday,Ken [Stern,executive vice president] asked me to his office. … You could hear my screaming,although he said be quiet. I wasn't allowed to tell anybody.”
NPR member station KPBS in San Diego also received a $5 million bequest from Kroc,a longtime supporter of the station. In 1996,Kroc gave $3 million to the station,which it used for television production facilities.
Stephanie Bergsma,associate general manager for KPBS,knew Kroc for 20 years before the “woman who saw with her heart,” as Bergsma described her,died of cancer last month. Kroc was 75. Ray Kroc died in 1984.
Bergsma said she knew Kroc was planning to leave money to NPR,but had no idea how much.
“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I wasn't surprised … but the magnitude of this gift is beyond belief,even for me.”
Klose said the money will be used for the research and development of the organization's Web site and to create new ways to provide live,late-breaking news to its 750 member stations.
NPR has an audience of 22 million U.S. listeners per week,or 10 percent of the population. It serves 30 million listeners all over the globe.
“This just gives us another generation,at least,of security like we've never had,” Stamberg said.