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.