The Day I Quit Caring about NPR

Posted on November 23, 2010
Filed Under podcasting, radio | 2 Comments

I have posted before about how I spent my adult life as a public radio financial supporter and devoted listener, but since the beginning of the podcast era I have completely stopped caring about NPR, its affiliates, and practically all of its programming. If you look at the comments on that linked post, there is a guy who takes me to task because some of the programs I talk about are NPR, some are PRI, etc. He feels that invalidates my point but I think his nitpicking actually supports my larger point, which is that public radio has systematically ceased to interest me. It’s not a single point of failure.

If you want to be specific about when NPR news programming lost me, I can pinpoint the exact date, and in fact the exact story. July 28, 2006. The story was called “Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind.” It was an exploration of the role of the front porch in America. This was the story I am thinking about when I state that modern day NPR news reporting “explores the intersection of the uninteresting and the irrelevant.”

When I hear people talk about how good the NPR reportage is, it seems to me like this is residual karma. There was a time when the reportage was very good indeed, but that time is passed. For people that do think this is the case, are there stories from the last few years you can point to?

One of the things spurring this post at this time is that I just decided to stop listening to the News from Lake Wobegon podcast. I had been finding it a step up from listening to the whole of Prairie Home Companion because truth be told, it is the only part I cared about. The podcast was a step up because there was a lower risk of hearing Garrison Keillor singing. Over the last few months, I’ve just realized that I just don’t care anymore. A few minutes ago I erased that line from my bashpodder subscription list and now it is gone. This thing that once was so completely essential in my life is now barely even present. Part of this is a direct line from podcasting changing my tastes but a lot is the programming itself. It’s like a what used to be a favorite meal at my favorite restaurant that one day I just lost the taste for. It’s sad, but things move on and now so do I.

Update: Here is Roger Ebert waxing rhapsodic about how much he loves NPR. He sounds like me, 15 years ago. The bloom is off this rose for me. I don’t care about the news, the entertainment programming, any of it. I want to buy a new car stereo that includes an auxilliary input jack which my current one doesn’t have. If I could save $10 on one by having no radio in it at all, I’d take that option. I truly don’t care.

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2 Responses to “The Day I Quit Caring about NPR”

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  1. Linda Mills on November 23rd, 2010 5:24 pm

    I, too, have been a long-time supporter of NPR, and I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Sadly, most of the best-known programs have simply become parodies of themselves (I’m looking at Ira and Garrison here). I still contribute, because I appreciate their feed from the BBC and the interviews that come from Fresh Air, but the amount dropped precipitously when I realized that the chief executive for WHYY here in Philadelphia takes home more than $400,000 a year. wow.

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  3. Drawmeat on December 9th, 2010 8:46 pm

    Ira Glass and his team at this American life will never lose me. I’ll admit that they do from time to time fall off my radar, but the pod catcher always makes sure to find them and on some lonely road trip i have tens of hours of quality radio to listen to. As far as NPR as a whole, I guess after 10 years of listening, I’m still listening and enjoying it. My morning drives to work wouldn’t be complete without the mix and match news of morning edition. My “nothings on the radio” or “mp3 play list is getting old” moments are always filled by Terry Gross, or The World, or who ever is talking. I almost never listen to whole shows, but I’m glad for the partials I do receive. NPR is like that magazine in the waiting room. It’s the perfect amount of information and entertainment for the moments when there is nothing else. And those moments always come.