Sunday, May 21, 2006

Irrational Public Radio

I am not an NPR listener.

Most, if not all, of the people who know me, some well, are surprised. Let's say, dismayed. Borderline distraught. Because I am the prototypical and stereotypical NPR listener.

It's not that I don't like NPR. I do. A lot. In fact, I love the very idea of NPR. I am, after all, a borderline socialist. Yet I never, ever listen to national public radio -- which represents three things I believe in and love whole heartedly. How come?

I'm not often in positions where NPR makes sense. When I wake up in the morning and shower -- the one time during which I listen to the radio as such (not online; I listen to online radio at other times) -- I want music, energetic music. Not talk, not news, not views. I read several newspapers every day during my time on the train, so I don't need radio for news. And because I don't drive to work, I don't have the luxury of drive time with the radio, during which I would listen to NPR -- or books on tape, something else I just don't do. (For different reasons. I also love the idea of books on tape, but outside of the great courses or old-time radio MP3's, I've yet to delve into audio books.)

I also associate NPR with a very specific time of my life. During the summer of 1991 (as well as other successive short periods), I worked for the Milton Courier, a weekly newspaper in southern Wisconsin with a circulation of less than 4,000 (shout out: Doug Welch!), as an intern.

As an intern for the small-town weekly, I wrote stories, edited stories, copy edited stories, took photos, developed photos, wrote captions for my and other photos, designed ads, wrote ads, laid out papers using a waxer (!!!), took papers off the press, loaded papers in the van, delivered papers to vendors, and collected unsold papers from those self-same vendors.

While down in the deep-dark basement, chock full of mouldering piles of the tabloid's back issues, of the Courier's offices, developing said film, I could listen to one of two things: NPR on the tape-playing radio or Harry Chapin cassettes (Doug's fave). I listened to both, in great abundance. Of the two, I tired of NPR, but not of Chapin's music. (Even though I did have a negative reaction to Chapin for awhile, just as I did the pancakes I cooked at Camp Indian Trails.)

What's the diff?

NPR is timely. Chapin is timeless. And one, more than the other, fit into my broader interest of music -- while, as a fledgling media dietician, I was enamored by current events and commentary, but not radio outside of music.

(Regardless, I still consider both in the light of unhealthy photographic development chemicals, many to this day unknown -- and doused on my hands and poured down an ill-designed sick sink. Both NPR and Harry Chapin will always be associated with somewhat-conscious local environmental pollution because of the Courier's photo-chemical sink setup.)

For the last hour, at the behest of my newly formal and totally awesome girlfriend, I listened to what I thought was NPR. It wasn't "This American Life," but it was WNYC-FM, and I was taken back in time -- and rhyme -- because of Net radio.

Do you listen to NPR? How come? And how so?


Monkey said...

I am an WPR-a-holic. I am a 30 something and I have it on from morning throughout the day. I work at home, so it is great company for me. I love the issues talk, but I like University of the Air best. I learn quite a bit. I even listen to things in my "real life" I am repelled by- ex. I listen to "Calling All Pets," but I hate animals.
And my secret crush? Not George Clooney- rather Tom Clark.
I am a geek!

Micah Christensen said...

I listen to NPR daily, via Internet. Its a convenient way to hear what is going on in the world. Because I work in front of a computer all day and have a number of impromptu conversations, I often miss what is being said. So, listen to archived shows of Fresh Air, the Diane Rhem Show, and On the Media. (I guess that makes me hardcore. But, I drive an SUV, which maintains my street-cred.)

In a time when we can choose what we listen to--and, as a result, we can only hear/read opinions we agree with--I believe it's important to be challenged by ideas that I normally wouldn't agree with or be exposed to. Often, I don't agree with what someone is saying on NPR, but I need that.

I don't just listen to NPR. I read the Wall Street Journal and ten other newspapers daily. That's not bragging, its part of my job as a marketer.

At the same time, I realize NPR isn't for everyone.