Thursday, November 06, 2008


My friends have been hassling me about not listening to NPR (it is, perhaps, my greatest point of deviation from my demographic). So I decided to give it a shot.

Yesterday it was all election rehash, nothing I hadn't read in the newspaper, plus I listened three times (driving in c. 7 a.m.; driving from one place to another c. 2 p.m.; driving home c. 4:30 p.m.), and basically they said the same thing each time. This morning I listened driving in. First I heard Norman Ornstein, then I heard Bob Kagan, both talking about how people's high expectations for Obama are going to be dashed (talk about the media driving the story) then I heard John Weaver (scroll down) talking about where the McCain campaign went wrong. Later, driving from one place to another, I turned it on again, and I heard some woman whose identification I missed talking about how race doesn't matter because we are colorblind and if we're not we should be, and she just voted for Sarah Palin because she identified with her. This is our liberal radio? This I need? I put on Smile and gave up on NPR once again.

Now before you go all "Don't make judgements on so little evidence" and "But what about Terry Gross?" and "You didn't listen to the right shows" on me, I know all that. I know why I'm supposed to like NPR, but seriously, every single time I turn on the radio, determined to give NPR a chance, it's either offensive or boring (OK, the last time I gave it a chance was 1987, when I tried listening in the mornings while getting dressed, but the time at which I got dressed was apparently the Reviews of Pretentious Cultural Events Across the Country a word: boring).

What I realized, though, as I switched to the CD of my choice, is that my dislike of NPR is more about my...hmm, what's the word...aesthetic? sensory? I think sensory and aesthetic proclivities.

#1: I'm just not an aural person. About the only thing I like to listen to on the radio is baseball. Listening to music is fine, but I rarely put it on myself unless I'm in the car and most of the time, frankly, I end up spacing out. Same thing with books on tape. If they're great, I can engage, but listening just isn't my preferred way of taking in information. I'd much rather read. Which leads to #2: I think, I realized this morning, that I like to control my information too much for radio. I'm totally down with serendipitous discovery, and I'm always reading things I didn't expect to read, but I like the way that, with text or the internet, I can survey what's out there and choose what I want to consume. Whereas with radio, you're a captive audience. It goes where it wants to go, for as long as it wants to go, and you can't go away and find something else (I mean, obviously you can turn it off, like I did, but you can't skip to another page).

Oddly, this preference, I believe, puts me firmly out of my demographic and into the entitled media demographic, which is generally, I think, considered to be younger than me. So maybe that's why I don't like NPR: because I am such a fashion-forward media consumer!


Dawn said...

You're hilarious! (So do you like This American Life?)

Phantom Scribbler said...

I don't listen to NPR, either. But it was always, always on when I was growing up.

Yeah, there's probably a causal relationship between those two statements. Because the thing about radio is that your second point applies not just to the person who is actively consuming the program (by making the decision to turn it on) but also to everyone else who happens to be in the car or the room. At least if I'm reading doom-and-gloom on teh internets, the kids don't need to get depressed along with me.

jackie said...

I don't listen to NPR either-- it's my secret shame, as my husband and most of my co-workers love it and are always referencing it.

Listening is for music, for me, not talking. I'd rather get news from print, whether it's online or paper-- I love magazines and newspapers and blogs, but listening to an interview? with no images? I'd rather a transcript anyday.

Libby said...

This is funny! I space out, too, which is why I *can* (and do) listen to NPR. It doesn't bug me because I'm not really paying attention, but I like to have it on in case they do say something I need to hear. It's very bizarre and I don't particularly recommend it. My kids hate it and Mariah always puts her iPod on in the car if I'll let her--which I usually do, because after five minutes of actually *listening* to NPR I'm usually done. (Still, still, I like to hear the news at the top of the hour. Just in case. Because I don't read the paper...)

addy said...

I hate that I can't get to NQS (not quite sure) from behind the firewall at my place of employment. It's nice to catch up at night though. This had nothing to do with your NPR post.

dance said...

I'm also one of the few people I know who doesn't listen to NPR. Like you, I'm not a fan of the medium of talking voices (love to read, don't do audiobooks), and every time I give NPR a chance, it fails me.

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