All the News That’s Fit

Andrew and I do not own a television.

My father, devoted follower of CNN that he is, has never understood our small act of Ludditism and is continually querying as to how we survive in the twenty-first century without this iconic home appliance.  He is convinced that, because we lack a tv, we are oblivious to events beyond the borders of the farm.  This has led to some amusing phone calls.

In the lead up to last fall’s superstorm Sandy, my dad made sure to call and warn us of the impending hurricane (we know dad..we’ve been battening down the hatches all day!)  Additionally, whenever a report of snowstorms anywhere along the eastern seaboard filters back to Georgia, he calls to check in and make sure that we’re alive (It’s snowing in upstate New York dad, sunny and warm in Maryland!)  We know that we are loved, if not entirely understood.

The truth of the matter is that we are all too aware of the latest comings and goings in the strange 24-hour news cycle, thanks to our trusty radio and good old NPR.  Whenever we’re inside, butchering chickens, working in the barn, or seeding in the greenhouse, we are probably listening to the radio, and that almost always means we are listening to NPR.  The extent to which we consume more than the recommended daily allowance of radio became clear to me recently when Andrew and I were processing chickens.  I was excited by how quickly we were working and I exclaimed to Andrew, “Wow!  We’ve already finished 75 and it is only ten ’til Diane Rhem!”  That’s right, I expressed the time in terms of NPR.

Perhaps we need a little variety in our media diet.

As a result of our excessive consumption of radio, we’ve developed some observations and strong opinions on radio programming, kind of like how people who are stranded on desert islands think a lot about what makes for the best coconut.

Point the first: Maryland morning, while on occasion moderately interesting, is often fantastically boring.  A few days ago, for example, we turned on the radio and were dismayed to hear that they would be spending the entire hour talking about flags.  Really.  I can only imagine a few more boring intros: “Today on Maryland Morning, we will be watching paint dry and reporting to you on the progress!”  We changed over to the classic rock station.

Point the second: Multiple NPR programs often interview the same person.  Now sometimes this is a good thing, as when an author I really enjoy keeps popping up on various programs over the course of a week.  I could listen to Mary Roach, author of the recent book Gulp, any day, and if the Lonely Island crew were interviewed by everyone from Morning Edition to Marketplace, I’d be in heaven.  But of course this can go both ways, and sometimes we are dying for them to find someone else to talk to, please.

Point the third: There really is very little news that is worthy of hourly updating.  And yet, every hour, on the hour, we hear the same news blurbs, albeit with incremental adjustments.  It is a bit like watching the world from space, in real time.  Sometimes I feel a bit like a day trader, what with the hourly stockmarket updates.  I like to imagine one of us calling a broker while the plucker bangs away in the background and yelling “Sell!  Sell!  Sell!”

Final point: Without a doubt, the worst puns in broadcasting history are made in an effort to segue smoothly from the headlines to the regular morning traffic report.  I vote that they instead take a line from Monty Python and just say, “And now, for something completely different…”

But really, I owe NPR a great debt of gratitude.  Sure, the pledge drives are boring and the puns can be painful, but it only take about five minutes of listening to regular radio, with its jewelry advertisements and inane personalities, for me to come crawling back to Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne.  Besides, without them, I might not know that a hurricane is coming.

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