NPR, the non-profit vs. NPM, the for-profit

This week I began working as the Finance and Special Projects Intern for National Public Media, or NPM for short. NPM is the for-profit branch of NPR, that primarily focuses on sponsorship and advertisement sales. While I will be working in the NPM office in New York this summer, I traveled to Washington DC on Monday to participate in an intern orientation process for all the interns that will be working for NPR this summer. This experience gave me the chance to compare the organizational culture of NPR, the non-profit, journalism tier against the organizational culture at NPM, the for-profit, sales and marketing tier.

One of the first things I noticed on Monday, was how relaxed the environment at NPR was. Not only were people dressed in a fairly casual manner of mostly jeans and sneakers, but even the structure of the building was designed to bring everyone together. While there are many different teams at NPR, working on different programs or more administrative tasks for the company, everyone works in the very open newsroom. Even people whose jobs do not directly relate to journalism are included in this open space, part of the team. There were many different communal work areas, and events designed to bring everyone together. Even during our time there on Monday, everyone was thrilled to have the new interns join them in cramming around Bob Boilen’s desk to see Lizzo preform at Tiny Desk.

On Tuesday, I entered a different type of work environment at the NPM office in New York. Everyone was just as friendly as at the NPR headquarters, however the culture was much more formal. The dress was closer to business professional than business casual and the office, while still open had clear distinctions between the different departments and further, cubicles separating those within each department. Due to the role NPM plays in NPR’s success, I am not surprised that the two companies have different cultures. NPM resembled a more typical structure for a corporation focused on sales and profits, while NPR followed a more flexible structure of a company focused on journalism and entertainment. These distinctions allow both companies to succeed in their role, without infringing on the other’s values.

NPR’s goal is to produce news and podcasts that not only entertain their listeners but inform them about the world around them. Since the operations of NPM are run separately, they can sell sponsorship opportunities for the show and make the money that helps support the journalists but they have no power in what goes into the podcasts themselves. This keeps NPR’s news and discussion clear of promotions and other advertisement that might blur their value of presenting unbiased news.

One value that seemed to remain the same through both companies, was the desire to teach. On my third day working for NPM, I spent most of the day working and learning directly from their CEO. The finance team was out of the office for the week working at the NPR headquarters in DC with another branch of NPM. Instead of letting me sit at my desk with nothing to do, the CEO took it upon herself to explain different aspects of her job to me. This matched the excitement everyone at NPR showed to include the new interns in the company events. In both locations, it was clear that interns were welcome and encouraged to ask questions, learn and absorb as much as they could. While NPM might have a more formal corporate structure, both companies showed an openness and even an excitement towards interns. My week at both NPR and NPM left me excited to see what else this summer will bring.

One thought on “NPR, the non-profit vs. NPM, the for-profit

  • June 6, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Really interesting to be able to compare/contrast the two ‘arms’ of this organization. Sounds like separating the sponsorship/sales from the reporting portion of the organization is a tremendous strength. What a wonderful environment with the CEO spending significant (and meaningful) time with you as a new intern.

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