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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meet The New Voice Of NPR Underwriting

Sabrina Farhi will take over next month as the voice of NPR underwriting. (Jeremy Folmer Photography)

Sabrina Farhi will take over next month as the voice of NPR underwriting. (Jeremy Folmer Photography)

Big news for NPR junkies: The new voice of NPR funding credits was announced today. Starting next month, you’ll be hearing New York City native Sabrina Farhi on the air.

Farhi will be taking over for Frank Tavares who’s leaving at the end of the year after more than 30 years with NPR.


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  • Andy Laverghetta

    Bring back Frank Tavares! I don’t like how dramatic she is. I loved Frank’s enunciation. “This……is NPR.” Be more lighthearted please!

  • Asia Moorhead

    I am so sorry to hear that Frank Taraves has left. His was such a reassuring voice of steadfastness for so long. It seems to me that NPR could have found a replacement with his same spirit; instead you got this cloying voice that is so timid and frail that it makes me queasy every time that I hear her speak. What were you thinking NPR?

  • ntk

    Hearing her voice for a few weeks now, it sounds as though she is sad. I hope they do some updates on some of the announcements. Her voice lacks confidence, and seems very rehearsed. Hoping that things get better, and sound less sad. I’m not sad about NPR!

  • KarenLP

    Something jarring hit my ears when I heard the new young female voice that announces NPR’s funding credits. It’s not only the vocal fry, but it’s the monotone, the drone, and the 2-second pause after “This” at the end. I have nothing …………….. against Sabrina Farhi. But some intonation would help, as would eliminating that protracted gap before at the end of the announcement. THAT …… is my comment.

    • Frank Steltenkamp

      I liked the “this…..is NPR, pause. And I waited for it. A nice bit of “drama.” But someone has gotten to her, maybe the program director, or maybe you, KarenLP. Now she’s sounding like every other monotone announcer who has ever done the show. The vocal fry ending her sentences has gone. She’s heard from you. Unfortunately, now she is just that passive voice we’ve come to expect on NPR, announcing bored and placid donations. I, for one, am less likely to donate finding that a sliver of a voice on NPR has been “corrected.”

      • frankstelt

        The brass at NPR is probably laughing at our comments…like,”do they have a LIFE?” Sabrina will continue to do her good work. Donors will be acknowledged. And most NPR listeners probably don’t care that Tavares is gone and Farhi is the new voice.

  • Caleb

    I’ve never done voice-over work, but I’ve had interest in it for years. When I finally
    got around to googling “new voice at npr” just now, I found this top story. I’m surprised by the preceding comments. Yes, Sabrina Farhi’s voice is different, but goodness gracious, at least indicate some credentials in the voice industry before you write things like have been listed about her! The interest in and dedication to NPR exhibited by these comments lead me to believe everyone here possesses some elements of open-mindedness, flexibility, etc. that NPR promotes about itself
    and its listeners. So, it seems pretty contradictory to hear such purely negative reviews. You all could have at least framed your displeasure as questions: “Sabrina seems less/more XYZ than Frank; I wonder what NPR is trying to convey with this
    approach?” NPR is trusted, award-winning, etc., right? But – sarcasm alert – they probably only did one or two takes with Ms. Farhi before awarding her this high-profile job, right?! Giving an artist feedback is one thing, but these comments sound more like you all were losing contestants for Ms. Farhi’s new job.

    As for my opinion, Ms. Farhi: Nice work stepping up to the mic after a 30+-year veteran. That is not easy; it takes courage. I thought David Greene sounded a little like a high school kid lost in a radio station when I first heard him, but I immediately liked his voice. And liking him, altogether, soon followed. I don’t think you sound sad; I think you sound like you care. And consider that if a radio presence like Terry Gross’ can garner such acclaim in addressing a wide range of light to serious topics, then if for no other reason, previous comments can be ignored. Thanks for sharing your voice!

    - Caleb

    • kate oreilly

      Thank you Caleb. I’ve been listening to Sabrina’s voice and I hate to say it but she puts me in a trance. I love it, except that I’m driving. I thoroughly enjoy her voice and I think she may have missed her calling for hypnosis or relaxation recordings. Please know that I mean to be complimentary oddly enough.

      • Frank Steltenkamp

        Kate, Sabrina’s voice is perfectly suited to put one in a trance, if anyone, like Sabrina or my friend Jeannette would let us to do that.

    • FormerRadioGuy

      Caleb, You don;t need credentials from the voice over field to have an opinion of the new announcer. Unless NPR’s entire listenership is made up of persons from the voice-over field? We’re consumers and listeners. It didn’t take certified mixoligists to put an end to “New Coke” becase the public did that. They said “Yuck”

  • sandyds

    I cannot tell you how much I miss Frank!!! I have been a long time supporter of NPR and have the radio on 24/7. I’m sorry but the “new voice” is like fingernails on the blackboard. I have had to turn off the radio when I become sick of her pause. CNN already did that!

  • Rich Stadler

    I don’t complain a lot, and especially not to NPR, but Sabrina just isn’t cutting it for me, and I wanted to let you know.
    It’s true that you’re all getting younger over there at NPR, and we’re all aging and ailing out here in listener land,
    so I suppose I’ll just have to take it lying down, because I know you’re not about to change anything just because of my opinion.
    Sabrina sounds like someone’s teenage girl who visited on Bring Your Daughter To Work Day and was allowed to stay.
    Just how much dead air can you put between “This”, and, “is NPR”? Sabrina seems like she’s trying to find out.

  • Gail

    Unfortunately her voice and intonation are so distracting and off-putting. Not to mention cloying. Is this NPR trying to be sexy?? Please NPR, there is enough of sexy and cute out there.

  • Doug Wellington

    My first reaction when I heard the new underwriting voice was the thought that national level underwriting was now being handled at a local level. (Is that the intention?).

    I have been an announcer on terrestrial radio and have done a fair amount of voice over work. I have two suggestions Sabrina, please try a de-esser to reduce the mild sibilance issues, and try to say “dot com” less through your nose.

    You are very different from the previous announcer; given a bit of time, we will get used to you. Good luck!

  • Frank Steltenkamp

    I’ve noticed all these comments. Mine is that I appreciated Sabrina’s sign-off of “This…..is NPR. Sorry to see that has changed. Sabrina’s voice is a fresh of honey and wine. Love her voice. I turn the volume up when she is announcing. Someone also got to her about ‘voice fry’, sort of letting the voice stringy after an announcement. She has also corrected this. But I shall always miss her “This…….is NPR. Whomever took her off that should examine their own career with NPR.

    • Giuliana S

      And I change the station. A chacun son gout…

  • rjsparrow

    First time EVER posting a comment on any site, but couldn’t take one more day of having to quickly turn off NPR every time their new announcer comes on, due to the absolutely bored, weird-accented delivery she gives her scripts, without googling to see if anyone else was made so uncomfortable by her style. Seems many are. Whether it’s her own choice or that of her director’s, she re-enforces the NPR stereotype of “I’m cool, you’re not.” Dropping NPR from my radio drive times because of her.

  • Stacy S

    Although I find Sabrina’s voice pleasant enough, I don’t feel she is a good fit for NPR. I find her voice rather girlish and generic. When I am listening to NPR, I want to feel like I am in strong, capable hands; a richer, more unique and mature voice would have been a much better choice. Perhaps I will grow more tolerant of her voice over time. I hope so!

  • John

    I want to hear strong female voices not the little girl voice that Sabrina has. Give me a woman with a deep voice with power behind it! I often hear young announcers on NPR, many with annoying voices and word pronunciations. I would think NPR would screen these people out but it seems that maybe NPR is actually choosing them – trying to attract a younger audience. It is really hard to listen to some spots, sometimes I just change stations for a bit until the coast is clear.

    • Rich Stadler

      I agree with your observations, John. I couldn’t figure out why NPR would intentionally choose a voice like Sabrina’s. But then I can’t figure out why young people talk the way they do these days anyway.
      I read a comment here earlier that lamented that, since being ‘corrected’, Sabrina’s ‘vocal fry’ was now toned-down, and that the dead air between “This…” and, “is NPR” was entirely removed. I think either extreme is a problem; at one end of the spectrum, too much artificial correctness…at the other end, amateurism.
      The real solution is to find someone who doesn’t need to be coached, someone who simply has the sound.
      Sadly, I do what you said that you do: change stations or turn down the volume until she’s done.

    • Giuliana S

      I don’t mind if a h journalist doing his or her job has an unusual or even difficult to take voice, and some of the younger women do—oh that fry. Content is the important thing. However, the staff announcer is an aural logo, it has to be just right. I agree, a strong female voice would be wonderful.

  • D Dobs

    I did a search to find out who the new voice belongs to. I’m glad to see that so many people share my opinion. I clap my hands over my ears every time I hear her. I don’t mean to be unkind to Ms. Farhi, her voice quality is typical of many teenagers today, but she simply does not have the level of professionalism that I expect from NPR.

    • Celia

      I agree. I have to turn off the radio every time I begin to hear her speak. She’s just awful.

  • Wrench

    This is a wonderful voice. It is the voice of a girlfriend that still loves you, and she’s saying, “I have to go to work sweety, but you can stay in bed and listen to NPR.” I could listen to this voice all day.

    • susan

      i will say Sabrina is getting better but my god why did they choose someone who needs to be coached? she still sounds like a little girl best of luck though lets give her a chance to polish and become a credible professional on the air

      • susan

        i mean – we have to listen to her get better – ON the AIR!!?? – yikes

  • olivia

    I keep trying to adjust to the new voice. There are so many wonderful female announcers who could do this job with less grating of nerves.

  • moro51

    I don’t care for the new voice of NPR. ( For the longest time, I thought it was the actress Amy Adams.) I don’t care for the sweet childish tone; it just seems out of place in this application. And it’s not that it’s a female voice. I LOVE NPR’s Ann Taylor’s voice, for example. In fact most female voices already on NPR would be completely acceptable in the “voicing funding credits” roll. Please NPR, make a positive change away from this fingernails-on-a-chalkboard voice. I’m sure Miss Farhi has a future in voiceover work, but this just isn’t a good fit for her voice.

    • sketchgrrl

      I thought it was Amy Adams, too!

      • FormerRadioGuy

        Funny, I thought it was Jenna Fischer from “The Office” but after listening a bit more I decided it wasn’t because “Pam” has more inflection and personality in her voice. Thumbs down to Sabrina.

        • Rich Stadler

          Poor Sabrina. That is, if it’s even still her doing the sponsor announcements. Between Here And Now and All Things Considered, I get a bit confused. Either way, I turn the volume down until she’s done.

          I’ll tell you what it is, for me: it’s like she’s thirteen years old and she’s doing her best to imitate the way big people talk.

        • Beth

          I thought it was Jenna Fischer, too, and couldn’t understand how Jenna Fischer could sound so unprofessional on the radio. She just sounds serious and completely uninspiring. No inflection, like you said. I’m glad to finally realize it isn’t Jenna Fischer. But I wish they would replace Sabrina.

          • Rich Stadler

            I don’t think they have any intention of replacing her. It seems as though someone at NPR offered her the position and they have no intention of changing their mind about it, no matter how amateurish she sounds. Apparently, it’s more important for them to be ‘right’ than to do the right thing.

          • Adrienne Najjar

            That’s exactly how I see it. over the past week, I’v noticed a slight change in her delivery. Her announcements have a less pronounced tonal drop off at the end. Nevertheless, the voice is still annoying.

  • Andrew Grossman

    I think some people became too used to listening to Frank’s manly man voice over the years and can’t handle a female announcer…..yet. This is not a difficult voice; It has no up-talk, odd intonations, condescension, or stuffiness. I too miss Sabrina’s “This……is NPR”. More Voice!, More Cowbell!

    • Giuliana S

      It has breathiness, an affectation nearly exclusive to women (I call it “nice lady” voice and I can’t stand it) which can be corrected with either speech therapy or vocal coaching. It appears she’s been getting a combination of coaching and sound engineering, “dahcom” is now an insufferable “dawt.cawm”. There are wonderful female voices out there. WCPN in Cleveland has the marvelous Dee Perry. Cynically, I believe NPR picked out a youthful voice to attract a youthful demographic. Well, not youthful, puerile really. It’s one thing to not be looking for “the voice of God” but who on earth wants the voice of My Little Pony.

      Lastly, I have to wonder whether NPR selected someone with a nearly apologetic delivery is to take our minds off the increasing presence of conservative undewriters like the Walton Family Foundation. What we should be watching out for is the accent of money.

      • David W.

        I first really noticed her off-putting voice when NPR started doing the “Pajama-Gram” commercials around Christmas. It became an earworm that I, unfortunately, couldn’t throw back.

        • Jackhauser

          I change the station when she comes on. “Apologetic” is a great description for her delivery. I also wonder why they would hire some that needs coaching. I really thought it was a computer generated voice early on.

          • Michaela Bancud

            I moved to BBC after this change. Music to my ears. If NPR is so listener supported how come we can’t vote on such decisions before they’re made? I would not have voted for this voice.

  • J__o__h__n

    I waited a while to give her a chance, but I really can’t stand her robotic delivery. She sounds like Pam from the office but without any warmth or personality.

    • David W.

      She does sound like Pam from The Office. I’ve been trying to think of a good comparison, and I think you’ve hit it. Someone else compared her to a kindergarten teacher, reading a story before nap-time, which I think is a pretty decent description, too.

  • jdaddy

    love her voice

  • eggbertfan

    Sabrina’s voice is so incredibly grating! Every time I hear her speak (way too frequently) I literally cringe. I no longer enjoy NPR like I used to because of Ms. Farhi. That is just sad.

  • spyderhuff

    All you folks can jump in the lake. I love her!

  • Kate

    My local NPR station has been doing some fundraising this weekend. But I just can’t bear the thought of contributing when I get so totally annoyed by NPR voices as of late. So I Googled and found, OMG, that I am not alone! There’s the weak girly voice that forces me to change the station when credits are announced. At first I thought it was “take your daughter to work” day. Thankfully the “This (pause) is NPR” has been fixed. It was never cool to begin with. How did it happen in the first place????? What next? “NPR – the future of awesome”? Even worse is the little girl announcer for WBUR – this is N (pause) P (pause) R – sounds like something from “take your preschooler to work day.” NPR needs to hire professionals, with pleasing voices and with stronger delivery. There are plenty of folks already on air who can do the job. On the other hand there’s Eleanor Beardsley’s perfectly awful voice and manner of delivery … the worst of the worst. So, please, NPR, be kind to your listeners. Make these awful noises go away so we can contribute again. Geez.

  • catharine

    I , too, was convinced this was Amy Adams, and that alone made my blood boil. Thought it was a Hollywood-ization of NPR, and I wasn’t happy. I find myself turning down the volume during the announcements, to stop cringing. Now to learn it is actually another woman, I feel sorry for this new announcer. What large shoes to fill replacing Frank Tavares…this aside, I absolutely do not think she is a match for NPR. I agree that a woman’s voice could be a nice change, but one of the more seasoned broadcasters would be preferred.

    • Rich Stadler

      At this point, it doesn’t even sound like Sabrina Farhi anymore. Either they switched her out after receiving so many complaints, or they coached her into submission.
      Whoever’s voice it is, it still sounds too Valley Girl, which, sadly, is how everyone is beginning to sound in our new, up-speaky America.

      • Giuliana S

        So I have noticed. They seem to have gone full-out Henry Higgins on her which strikes me as both desperate and mean—”coached into submission” sounds about right. In a given day you will hear her delivery changed one way or another, whether by engineering or rehearsing. The worst of it is that she doesn’t even sound like she’s enjoying herself; she just sounds dutiful and tired.

        NPR needs to try again, and yes, go look for that extraordinary voice personality—honeyed tones, crisp diction, something distinctive and for pity’s sake sonorous!

  • Michael

    Wow. Who knew people could care so much about the voice that communicates NPR’s u n d e r w r I t i n g for goodness sake. However, that said I have been wondering for months whose voice it is and knowing that it couldn’t be Amy Adams though it sounds like her. I love the voice.

  • Aimee M.

    Please, please, please, please, please, please: Get.Rid.Of.Her. She is learning to minimize the fry, but the gasping for air in order to do so is nearly as annoying. She still has the horrendous nasal accent, the lisp (she cannot pronounce final d’s or t’s, and s’s are a disaster). And, she just sounds unintelligent. I turn off the radio whenever she comes on, which is a lot (part of the plan so we notice the underwriting?) And, if you want to reach a wider audience, why not, just for a change, a faint southern accent, if you must have one? If you want to represent the entire nation, not just the east coast, that is.

  • cathy kulka

    She sounds like she’s reading from cue cards and doesn’t understand what she’s saying. Like a temp stand-in until they hire the right person.

    • Rich Stadler

      Re: cathy kulka
      16 hours ago

      “She sounds like she’s reading from cue cards and doesn’t understand
      what she’s saying. Like a temp stand-in until they hire the right

      Yes, Cathy. I keep waiting for them to replace her with someone who sounds authentic. For instance, Science Friday’s sponsor-reader is articulate and is an utter pleasure to listen to.

  • VermontPhilsFan

    I have been annoyed enough by Sabrina Farhi’s voice to look up who it is that does the “support for NPR” announcements. The specifically annoying trait is that after ending each sentence or ending each supporting name, the last word trails off on a sad mid tone note instead of a normal downward note. Drives me crazy!

    • Megan

      Me too! I googled “terrible new npr woman” and then when I found her name I googled “hate sabrina farhi”. . . that led me to this thread. I am cancelling my monthly automatic contribution to NPR—I find myself turning the radio to a different station every time she comes on (which is a LOT). . . so now it just makes no sense to support them any more. Such a weird, robotic, nasal monotone. Also terrible: Zoe Chase, Allison Aubrey, and Eleanor Beardsley when she reads her reports—not so bad when she’s just talking. Listening to NPR used to be a pleasant distraction during my daily commute—now it just makes me mad.

  • Julie Weeks

    Although I initially agreed with most of these postings – I now find Sabrina’s voice a pleasure to listen to. The lack of intonation, higher resonance and neutrality have me hooked!

  • Kate

    Okay. The experiment is over. Let’s get someone new. Now.

    • Rich Stadler

      omg, Kate!
      I’ve been thinking the same thing for the past six months!

      I can’t imagine that anyone over at NPR reads this thread, or cares.
      The state of the spoken word in the media has been gradually unravelling,
      from upspeak, to starting answers to questions with “So…”.
      Here’s another one: “for free”. Drives me nuts.
      I could go on, so I won’t!

      • Gordon Hogg

        Where is Lake Bell (voice-over pro and “In a World” director/actress) when we need her??!! If Sabrina can’t be improved by a few sessions with Lake, then show her the door–sad, but true!

  • Jim Talens

    If the sponsors’ announcements are Farhi’s voice, then she is to blame for me no longer listening to NPR unless I encounter its programming astride the sponsorship messages. I find her voice anything but conversational and authentic, the apparent standard voiced by NPR management. In fact, I find it so annoying that I no longer use WAMU as my default news and information source. In response to my email to NPR about this, it was suggested (by Erin, Audience and Community Relations) that I keep listening for a; month as Farhi hones her craft, that they are very proud of her, etc. Of all the possible voices they pick one that is just so unusually deficient.

    • Rich Stadler

      I hate to pile-on, but I agree with everything you said!

  • Rich Stadler

    Sabrina, it’s pronounced STAY*SHN, accent on STAY, not STEE*SHUN.

  • Rick

    Anything is better than the adenoidal Englishmen that seem to be so popular at every NPR station.

  • Kate

    On a happy note, just listened to Tess Vigelund of NPR West – she was subbing for someone else. I remember her from Marketplace Money, where she was a great host. Vigelund has an absolutely glorious voice – so easy to listen to, a friendly tone, not old or stuffy sounding, yet with a sense of authority as needed.

    Then all was interrupted with the Farhi NPR credits (where I automatically turn off the radio). But with Vigelund on air I made a point to turn the radio back on when the coast was clear. Nowadays I have no idea who supports NPR.

    I used to donate annually to at least two NPR stations, but with Farhi and some of the other new, untrained “announcers” who show up on various shows with up talk and vocal fry it’s hard to have much confidence in NPR, including the idiots who make hiring decisions and the higher ups who tolerate the alienation of a huge listener base. Local stations should raise a stink.

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