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From NPR News, it was the talk of the nation.
March 29, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Talk of the Nation, NPR's beloved afternoon call-in show, is going off the air at the end of July, replaced by Here and Now, which is jointly produced by NPR and WBUR. NPR is running a $7 million deficit, but the organization says it is responding to demand for "a stronger news presence in the middle of the day". Host Neal Conan will leave the organization after 30 years. Science Friday will continue.
posted by jbickers (106 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Roger_Mexico at 7:35 AM on March 29, 2013


I'll miss the idea of it, but TOTN hasn't been must-listen for me for a while. Even NPR has attracted more of the angry-talk-radio crowd in recent years, and I find myself almost inevitably sighing and switching the channel within the first few minutes of stumbling onto TOTN. If they're keeping Science Friday, then I have no issues with this.
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 AM on March 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I always felt like something about this program was intentionally dumb-down in an ill-fated attempt to make it more popular, but I could never quite put my finger on what exactly caused me to feel that way. The whole thing just seemed so very middlebrow, even for NPR. I certainly won't miss its theme song, and I'll welcome a stronger news presence during the middle of the day. But too bad for Conan I guess.

Science Friday continues to be one of the best and most distinctive blocks of programming NPR produces, so I'm glad it's sticking around.
posted by whir at 7:44 AM on March 29, 2013


Like, yeah: the top story today is "catching up with the world's youngest human cannonball."
posted by whir at 7:45 AM on March 29, 2013


While my local NPR station is the one I mostly listen to, I seem to listen less and less. My local station has dropped all music shows and has turned into a mostly liberal talk radio. And Talk of the Nation is one I won't miss much.
posted by jgaiser at 7:47 AM on March 29, 2013


I really need to remember to turn off images when going to NPR - Ira Flatow looks absolutely nothing like I imagined. Worse, he looks just like the car salesman who sold my wife her Hyundai - really nice and charming guy with a big, booming voice and an RI accent so thick, you could spread it on toast with a butter knife. I'm having brain-spasms picturing Ira Flatow's voice coming out of that mouth.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:50 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a shame. 'Here and Now' is on daily here in Boston and it's awful in a gossipy-chatty sort of way, basically they read internet news to you. TOTN, for all of its faults, often supplies better information and conversation.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:51 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is an interesting response so far - TOTN is one of the few shows that still feels like "old NPR" to me, what with Morning Edition becoming increasingly cutesy and jokey. It's not hard news all the time, I suppose, but I'll miss Neal's style.

More and more, PBS Newshour feels like the last bastion of real news in the US, to me.
posted by jbickers at 7:56 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Damn. I feel part of me just packed up and left town.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:57 AM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I still picture Flatow with a mustache from when I watched Newton's Apple as a kid.
posted by hyperizer at 7:58 AM on March 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm reading this thread as I'm hearing a radio announcement on NPR newsbreak about TOTN leaving the air and I think it's causing me to travel backward in time.

No tears for TOTN but couldn't agree more with kuujjuarapik about the milquetoastiness of 'Here and Now'. Blah.
posted by Cook.Bot at 8:06 AM on March 29, 2013


I've often found myself interested in a topic on TOTN that I didn't think I'd be interested in. Until the point where they open the line to callers, at which point I generally start shouting SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP while stabbing the radio button.
posted by rtha at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2013 [42 favorites]


Can we justget rid of Warren Olney, please? The only thing worse than when a show "goes to the phones" is when he opens his mouth to come out with one of his asinine questions to spur conversation! It's like he made the list the night before and sticks with it no matter what ground they already covered.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:15 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still haven't gotten over NPR's replacement of the great Bob Edwards with those two annoying twits that now host Morning Edition. I find that show almost impossible to listen to now.
posted by JeffL at 8:15 AM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't listen anymore because my job circumstances have changed but for years, I was a daily listener. Neal Conan was likable, intelligent and a great host. The show would often have a fluff segment and I wouldn't listen to those but the political stuff was on point and a must listen for me. I hope Conan goes back to baseball and is happy.

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posted by saul wright at 8:16 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This kind of reminds me of when Bob Edwards left NPR or Car Talk announced they were going to stop making new shows. Even when NPR isn't at the top of its game it is still better by far than the alternatives, at least here in the hinterlands where I am. Whenever a long-time personality or show leaves NPR I feel like I have lost a friend. Of course, change is inevitable and over time even "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" has grown on me so I am sure I will get used to the new programming over time.
posted by TedW at 8:18 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Until the point where they open the line to callers

It's a universal problem of call-in shows:

"This is RADIO SHOW, and I am HOST who has been talking with EXPERT IN THE FIELD, now let's go to the phones for your UNINFORMED OPINIONS AND BLOVIATING."
posted by Panjandrum at 8:19 AM on March 29, 2013 [57 favorites]


I have the same response as you, rtha, literally. I can't even pinpoint what does it, but every time they go to callers and I don't have the presence of mind to switch stations I invariably hear something that makes me yell "oh God please shut up". Live call-in shows are just not a good idea, they're antithetical to the aims of providing thoughtful discourse. I will say though, Neal Conan does an amazing job at not being pedantic or condescending even when the callers so, so deserve it.

I don't know what Here and Now is, but it can't be as bad as Tell Me More, which makes me want to hack into NPR's bank account to get my $30 back.
posted by skewed at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


TotN lost me when Neal Conan cut off a guest who was going in-depth into his topic with "sounds like you're doing a PowerPoint presentation". Oh, great, the host is enforcing a glossed-over number-less view of the topics on the show, so the general ignorance shown by the callers is probably also a policy enforced by the screeners.

Frankly these days I listen to podcasts in my car, and on the off-chance I forget my MP3 player and end up listening to NPR I'm shocked and amazed by how bad "news" has gotten. Much better that I should be hearing from people passionate about their fields of study, in in-depth explorations, than yet another 5 minute segment with the radio announcer trying to pretend that the lines and questions the interviewee wrote for them are their own.

And NPR is the best of the bunch. Sigh.

(Don't get me started on the fact that donations to KQED are apparently a loss-leader to get inundated with junk mail targeted to affluent consumers for the next decade or two.)
posted by straw at 8:27 AM on March 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can I just say I liked the part of the show where they go to the phones? I am not a regular listener of the Diane Rehm show, but it seems like the questions from listeners are generally good.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2013


every time they go to callers and I don't have the presence of mind to switch stations I invariably hear something that makes me yell "oh God please shut up"

If I wanted to hear crazy people bloviating I'd be listenting to Pacifica, OK NPR?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even when NPR isn't at the top of its game it is still better by far than the alternatives, at least here in the hinterlands where I am.

Which makes me so very sad for the state of US media. Democracy needs an informed public. It needs places where contesting voices can interact in a sustained and reasonable discussion. NPR sometimes manages a pale shadow of this. What other media outlets, with widespread, free-over-air broadcast provide such a forum?
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2013


Can I just say I liked the part of the show where they go to the phones? I am not a regular listener of the Diane Rehm show, but it seems like the questions from listeners are generally good.

I get the same "oh god shut up" reaction from the Diane Rehm show, but I feel like it's significantly less often. Maybe she's better at focusing the conversation or maybe they just more aggressively screen the callers. Or maybe I'm just making it up.
posted by skewed at 8:35 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like others, I agree 100% with rtha. People who call into NPR are pretty much the worst people on the planet.

Christopher Lydon had a neat way around that on his show out of Worcester or Lowell a few years back-- they'd have a conversation going on their blog, and their producer would read a few highlights. That kept up the interactivity, without a caller droning on about his proposal to fix everything, and how he met the guest's father one time at a conference thirty years ago.

NPR stands out these days as relatively sober, given everything else. But I wonder how today's NPR would stack up against, say, Meet the Press or 60 Minutes from, say, 1965? Morning Edition is, as folks have noted on this thread, erratic and strangely jokey.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2013


At first I was saddened at the end of TOTN, but then I realized: that attitude is precisely the problem with public radio. How many shows have gone on well past their sell-by date, without any major retooling, simply because listeners (and donors) had gotten so used to them? And conversely, how many new and innovative shows haven't gotten the opportunities they deserve because stations are clogged up with legacy programming? My local public radio station devotes two whole hours on the weekend to Car Talk, a show no longer in production, but zero hours to up-and-coming shows like Bullseye. So bring on Here & Now, I say. A glance at their website suggests they have a good grasp of what stories are important and worth discussing.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:37 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I listen to less NPR than I'd like to admit, but Morning Edition has always struck me as being vastly superior to just about any other news program on the air.

Sometimes, it seems like they're the only ones doing actual reporting (and, notably, NPR seemed to be literally the only major news outlet that was providing any meaningful coverage of the two wars that we were just fighting).

Meanwhile, MSNBC seems to be tripping over itself to descend to Fox News' levels of discourse, whilst aiming to reinforce every negative stereotype that exists about liberals. It's painful to watch, especially because I know that Maddow's too smart for that shit.
posted by schmod at 8:38 AM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hate the call in part of shows too, but we must be in a minority. I think when they paraphrase from emails it can work better.
posted by shothotbot at 8:41 AM on March 29, 2013


Diane Rehm has both excellent call screening and a host who is absolutely amazing at firmly but politely cutting people off during natural pauses in speech. She can interrupt someone and redirect them in such a way that you never feel like she's being rude or dismissive.

I won't much miss TotN, but having listened to Here and Now a fair bit on our alternate NPR stream here, I'm not particularly thrilled that it will be the replacement.
posted by introp at 8:42 AM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


At first I was saddened at the end of TOTN, but then I realized: that attitude is precisely the problem with public radio. How many shows have gone on well past their sell-by date, without any major retooling, simply because listeners (and donors) had gotten so used to them? And conversely, how many new and innovative shows haven't gotten the opportunities they deserve because stations are clogged up with legacy programming? My local public radio station devotes two whole hours on the weekend to Car Talk, a show no longer in production, but zero hours to up-and-coming shows like Bullseye. So bring on Here & Now, I say. A glance at their website suggests they have a good grasp of what stories are important and worth discussing.

About Car Talk's afterlife (when it was an upcoming afterlife):
Ira Glass thinks it should go off the air to make room for new programs.
Eric Nuzum, NPR's VP of Programming, thinks it should stay on the air to support new programs.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:47 AM on March 29, 2013


I think when they paraphrase from emails it can work better.

Ditto. There are so many ways to get listeners to interact without forcing your audience to listen to other listeners. People can tweet or email questions! And a radio-trained person can read them without all the umming and ahhing and digressing and static! It's like we're in the future!
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now, if only Frrrrrresssh Air would stop doing interviews of has-been actors on book tours and obituary memorial reruns....
posted by ennui.bz at 8:52 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember liking TOTN when Ray Suarez was on, then Juan Williams totally lost me. I only ever bother for Science Friday now.

My local affiliate dropped The World and replaced it with more of Consider All the Things for another hour. They killed off Zorba Paster for the stilted, unfunny Ask Me Another.

Morning Edition is becoming the Today Show of NPR. I'd rather have an extended BBC World Broadcast until Diane Rehm (which is better when Steve Roberts hosts it).

One that can go away for good is The Splendid Table - known in our house as White People Cook.
posted by asockpuppet at 8:53 AM on March 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


One that can go away for good is The Splendid Table - known in our house as White People Cook.

I will cut you with my paring knife.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:54 AM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


every time they go to callers and I don't have the presence of mind to switch stations I invariably hear something that makes me yell "oh God please shut up"

It doesn't have to be this way, IMO, even though it usually is. The Brian Lehrer show on WNYC does a good job at screening for relevant callers-- so they'll do a segment on Syria and ask for callers who have family there, for example, to find out what their experiences are. It is a local show for the NYC area, but covers national issues also.
posted by matcha action at 8:56 AM on March 29, 2013


Another vote for good call screening making a big difference, which all comes down to the sensibilities of the on-air talent and their senior producers-- they set the tone of the conversation, and determine who's invited to join. I stopped listening to NPR regularly around 2001, and stopped entirely around the start of the Iraq War, but I thought Christopher Lydon had great callers on "The Connection" and thought Juan Williams handled his callers poorly on TOTN.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 9:04 AM on March 29, 2013


I'm glad that I won't have to listen to the sad intro music anymore. No more sad french horn playing the same eight notes over and over again, never reaching resolution.

In the last few years, it seems that the "call in" part of the show has yielded more cringing than nodding from me. I think it's probably the fault of the producers/screeners, but I also don't think that Neal Conan did a very good job of handling those poorly chosen calls.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:06 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


TOTN fell off a cliff into a cesspit when the great Ray Suarez left; Juan Williams was execrable and Conan the Episcopalian's whining right-tinged blandness is even worse.

I've told my local station (KUOW) I will never renew my membership as long as they are an NPR station-- thank God for KBCS and KING.
posted by jamjam at 9:07 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my market, TotN has been replaced by Here & Now for quite some time. I'm not a regular listener, but H&N seems to be OK generally.

My local PBS station also has a lot of material from the BBC, and if you think TotN callers drive you up the wall, try listening to World Have Your Say, where they'll talk to guys that essentially are defending Sharia law and burkas.
posted by LionIndex at 9:11 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I loved the Ray Suarez era of TOTN. At one point in the late 90s, I was digging through a box of old action figures that I found in my parents' attic and noticed that one of them had a head that looked a lot like Ray Suarez. So I mixed-and-matched pieces from different GI Joes and Inhumanoids in the box and made a full-on Ray Suarez action figure, which I then took to work and kept on my desk next to the radio. I emailed in this fact when Suarez had his farewell show, and he sounded very freaked out when the email about the Ray Suarez action figure was read on the air... at the time, it felt like a major triumph.

It's weird to me how much TOTN (and all of N/ or MPR in general) used to matter to me compared to how little they do now. I used to live and breathe that shit, now I'm meh. I've never been sure if they changed or if I did.

Actually, I think MeFi here fills a lot of that mental space now.
posted by COBRA! at 9:13 AM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


This calls for an update to "Good Radiation", aka that most excellent of rap songs about NPR.
posted by estlin at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2013


As long as Science Friday isn't going away, I'm fine with this. I won't miss Neal Conan's smarmy, self-satisfied fake centrism at all.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


IIRC it was down to Juan Williams and Brian Lehrer to replace Ray Suarez, and they went with Williams. Ugh.

I'm sorry to admit that I get my NPR fix from the CBC these days.
posted by Kinbote at 9:15 AM on March 29, 2013


One that can go away for good is The Splendid Table
You have to admit she packs A LOT into her shows - like 10 segments.
posted by shothotbot at 9:16 AM on March 29, 2013


What the living fuck? Are you kidding me? How can this --

"Science Friday will continue."

Oh, I see. Go on then.
posted by brundlefly at 9:21 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are only a couple of programs on OPB I like anymore, and I can get podcasts of those. (as jgaiser mentioned at the top, they got rid of all the music programs, which used to be the main reason I regularly listened). Hate the call-ins and the attempts at "balanced" reporting.
posted by curious nu at 9:23 AM on March 29, 2013


Did anyone ever like Juan Williams in anything? I listen to a lot of NPR and find it hard to keep the men's voices distinct in my mind, but remember actively disliking his feeble analysis before the whole Fox news thing. I've always wondered how promotions and hiring decisions are made at NPR.
posted by skewed at 9:31 AM on March 29, 2013


("balanced" in quotes there re: the practice of: one sane person who may or may not be a miserable, weasel-y person talking about a subject that they clearly at least know something about, and then someone who is DEFINITELY a miserable, weasel-y person who doesn't have a fucking clue about the subject but is most definitely opposed to it because. Because of reasons. That are insane.)
posted by curious nu at 9:31 AM on March 29, 2013


If Neal Conan's no longer tied down by his Talk of the Nation duties, I hope he'll finally get back to his true calling: traveling the world reporting on the X-Men with Manoli Wetherell.
posted by The Tensor at 9:55 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will miss political junkie (but not the terrible puns). The rest of the show was fairly hit or miss, but I think Neal Conan is a great host.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:55 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Science Friday will continue.

Damn straight. They can have my Science Friday when they pry it from my brown, nitrated hands.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:04 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


One that can go away for good is The Splendid Table - known in our house as White People Cook.

I believe you meant to say America's Test Kitchen, which is The Splendid Table minus all personality and charm.

(I got to have dinner with Lynne Rosetto Kasper several years ago, and it was an amazing experience. She really is that bubbly and happy and charming in person.)
posted by jbickers at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Talk of the Nation" is the only radio show I have ever called in to. It was for one of those in-between segments where they play short messages from callers. In my case, they were soliciting people to talk about why they like the city they live in. It hadn't rained in Pittsburgh for two whole days, so I thought "What the hell?" and called the number and left a short message about why I like my city. I didn't think any more about it and went in to work and found my inbox flooded with "YOU WERE ON THE RADIO" messages from friends and coworkers, which was pretty fun.

My local NPR station stopped broadcasting that show the next week, so I took it as a sign that I should not call in to any more programs.
posted by Alison at 10:19 AM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ugh. KPCC has gone downhill enough that I actually look forward to Talk of the Nation.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember liking TOTN when Ray Suarez was on, then Juan Williams totally lost me.

Amen. Suarez (who, if I remember correctly, originated the show) was a great host. Tremendously knowledgable, a good interviewer, and quick on his feet. Anyone following him had an unenviable task, but Williams totally bungled it.

Add me to the list of people who find call-in shows cringe-worthy, but Suarez made it tolerable. I like Conan well enough, but not enough to make up for the horribleness of the call-in segments.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:27 AM on March 29, 2013


No surprise. NPR has been testing out new formats at scene for sometime but it was going to have to be a link-up with a big station for a new program to take a foot-hold. So many stations are going with BBC World at One and The World (BBC with WGBH) that the syndication of TOTN was falling, despite hefty interest in work like Science Friday.

NPR deficit probably will not be closed unless CPB can improve the ability of NPR to market shows outside of the USA, like PBS already doing, finally sending content to the UK and Europe people want to watch like Ken Burns' documentaries, America's Test Kitchen and Nova.
posted by parmanparman at 10:28 AM on March 29, 2013


Did anyone ever like Juan Williams in anything?

No. What Brent Musburger is to sports broadcasting, Juan Williams is to the news.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


What are the criteria for NPR/PRI/APM cancelling shows? Only thing I could think of is which shows local stations are buying (and maybe podcast subscribers?) and I don't think I've ever been sent a simple survey from any station of which I have been a member over the past 15 years or so asking for my favorites.
posted by thefool at 10:51 AM on March 29, 2013


The past few years I've been listening mostly to podcasts rather than live radio, but probably about 80% of my podcasts are public radio programs. Including Science Friday, but not otherwise Talk of the Nation. Years ago, I would occasionally listen to Science Friday live.

And years ago, the call-in questions on Science Friday very often annoyed me, for much the same reasons people have mentioned for other shows above, but I think SF has gotten a lot better at screening callers, or maybe they just have more to choose from now, so they can set a higher bar. These days most of the caller questions on SF seem to be good, interesting questions. Although you still get the occasional person who rambles on, whom I wish Ira would cut off sooner. But mostly good. It probably also helps that they take some of their listener questions via Twitter too.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:53 AM on March 29, 2013


I also miss The Connection with Christopher Lydon. On Point is OK. (Both were/are pretty Boston-centric shows though, produced by WBUR.)
posted by thefool at 10:53 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


When Obama was inaugurated the second time and mentioned Stonewall, NPR had a report about "gay rights" where they did their level best to not mention any letters after the G. They carried it on that whole week, making occasional mentions of Stonewall but only ever as "gay rights". As I've said before, Stonewall wasn't primarily about cis gay people's liberation. Any time you hear someone say Stonewall was the beginning of gay liberation, and they don't mention trans people, you're experiencing erasure.

And their coverage of so many topics is just irritating... They don't mention Taiwan more than once every few years, when there's a presidential election; any time geeky topics come up, the announcers fall over themselves trying to prove how ungeeky they are; they continually talk about poor people like we're some kind of bizarre species that they've heard of but never seen; their coverage of technology issues always seems to be reading last week's Slashdot articles; so much of their coverage effectively amounts to "Baby Boomer radio"; and I could go on. If I had to rely on NPR, I'd be ignorant about so many important things. During a recent pledge drive, one of their local folks actually said on air "if we don't report on it, it's not important". That confirmed to me that I shouldn't give them any money -- they certainly don't have my best interests, or even interests, at heart.
posted by jiawen at 11:17 AM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Amen. Suarez (who, if I remember correctly, originated the show) was a great host.

He certainly made the prior hosts entirely forgettable, but he once held a show that included all previous hosts, and I recall John Hockenberry as the aboriginal.
posted by jamjam at 11:21 AM on March 29, 2013


"NPR is running a $7 million deficit" I guess I should quit sulking about their dropping music and increase my contribution. NPR is a valuable asset.
posted by Cranberry at 11:27 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


NPR had a report about "gay rights" where they did their level best to not mention any letters after the G.

A few years ago, they managed to do a story about the Bechdel Test, including a short interview with Alison Bechdel, without actually naming the strip she draws, Dykes to Watch Out For, and which introduced the larger public to the concept. Still annoys me.
posted by rtha at 11:40 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Probably a good idea — NPR is due for a good once-every-ten-years style clean out and shake up. But I hope they find a place for The Political Junkie. Yeah, bad puns, but Ken Rudin's breadth and depth in political knowledge is impressive.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:45 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


NPR: White people $verb.
posted by spamguy at 12:50 PM on March 29, 2013


Cranberry wrote: "I guess I should quit sulking about their dropping music and increase my contribution."

Note that your local NPR affiliate and the NPR organization are separate, and then, of course, there are all the WBUR and PRI and what-have-you affiliations, often between shows. Those of us who listen to a few select podcasts often have to think a little bit to figure out which organizations we want to reward.
posted by straw at 1:00 PM on March 29, 2013


A few years ago, they managed to do a story about the Bechdel Test, including a short interview with Alison Bechdel, without actually naming the strip she draws, Dykes to Watch Out For, and which introduced the larger public to the concept. Still annoys me.

I hear you and wish they had named it, but in fairness, by the time of that report, Dykes to Watch Out For (which I loved) was suspended and Bechdel was much more widely known for her memoir "Fun House" and, in fact, the Bechdel Test itself -- which was discussed on Sex In The City (as quoted in the story).

The word dyke obviously carries a lot of baggage -- I'd bet it's generally banned on NPR -- and also runs the risk of distracting the audience away from the point of the story, as a red herring.

I have no idea how Bechdel herself feels about it, but for someone breaking out of a niche/cult following to a much wider mainstream audience at that time, basic career strategy would say to leave the word Dykes out of the story if not strictly needed. This may have even been the preference of Bechdel (or at least her manager). I certainly wouldn't judge her for that, if true.
posted by msalt at 2:00 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


But Terry Gross still has a job? Inconceivable!
posted by LarryC at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Terry Gross?!? OK, now that's fighting words. Who do you consider a better interviewer? Are you KIDDING ME?
posted by msalt at 2:02 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who do you consider a better interviewer?

Someone who doesn't pepper their sentences? With, like, question marks? And the word like? That's the kind of interviewer I would prefer?
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


yea I'm not a big Terry Gross fan.
posted by sweetkid at 2:59 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


They don't mention Taiwan more than once every few years, when there's a presidential election

And neither does Dissent or The New Left Project or the New Left Review or CEPR or any number of established, progressive, academic magazines and think tanks. You know who else doesn't recognize Taiwan in its remarks? The UN, at least not since 1971. Most of Taiwan's politics concern its economy (its GDP is under that of the Czech Republic's) and reunification, at which point they inevitably have to bring up the PRC. And it is hyperbolic to say that NPR doesn't cover Taiwan more than once every few years; a search of their aired audio shows they run a story about Taiwan about once a month and that's only the material that they put on air.

Additionally, here are the aired audio searches for the terms 'transgender', 'dysphoria', 'low income', and 'poor'.

This isn't to say that NPR's coverage is perfect or progressive past social democratism but its output is more comprehensive than any other major media corporation. There's already niche news sites if you want niche news. Like you said, jiawen, there's already Slashdot for your tech coverage (or HackerNews if you're into neoliberal onanism) just like how there's SCOTUSblog for the Supreme Court or Language Log for linguistics or EuroGamer for games. NPR has none of those writers and none of that knowledge but they do occasionaly branch out and cover something like a Starcraft IIs progamer's bout with major depressive disorder or a Pakistani protest against drones, which is beyond the typical navel gazing American coverage of CNN or MSNBC or Fox News.

I don't think anybody is saying that NPR should be your only source of news, and it definitely shouldn't, but as far as huge media companies are concerned, they do good work.
posted by dubusadus at 3:01 PM on March 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


I really dislike Terry Gross. Part of that is for her speaking style (like, I want to eat her for lunch and pick my teeth with her bones) but it's also because I feel like she's the sort of interviewer who wants to sound smart but doesn't want to put any work into preparation or critical thinking (which I'm actually sure she probably does a whole lot of). So in many ways she PERFECTLY represents most NPR listeners but it drives me batty when she fails to challenge someone or ask the the most obvious and MOST INTERESTING follow up questions possible.
posted by marylynn at 3:30 PM on March 29, 2013


It seemed to me that Ray Suarez was getting increasingly cranky and impatient with the phone-in portion of the show. I didn't fault him for this, but I was happy for him when he announced he was leaving. I think it was a relief.

It took me a year or so to warm to Juan Williams, and I think it took Williams a year or so to find his stride, but I did come to appreciate him as a host. I never did adjust to Neal Conan but he did do a couple of good shows before I stopped listening (mostly due to a change in schedule).

As much as I liked the idea and topics of the science Friday I found Ira Flatow frustrating and seemingly deliberately obtuse.

.
posted by wobh at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been an NPR junkie for a long time but I find myself often listening to the BBC on satellite radio. At least until they start raving about whatever sport "Manchester United" plays ;)

My local station carried "World have your say" for a while. What a truly awful show!
posted by double block and bleed at 4:42 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for the call-in portions of talk shows, ignorant opinions are already in bountiful supply. All I have to do is open facebook and they are all right there.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:45 PM on March 29, 2013


wants to sound smart but doesn't want to put any work into preparation

Wow. I could not have a more opposite opinion. I rarely hear interviews where the interviewer has put in even as MUCH research to their subject, much less more.
posted by flaterik at 4:50 PM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like Terry Gross as long as she's dealing with popular entertainers, really enjoyed, for instance, her interview with Trent Reznor, but get her on an interview with some doctor-with-a-crusade on a book tour and it becomes painfully obvious that in those sorts of interview she's just reading the questions from the PR packet.

To be fair, it's damned hard to be an informed interviewer, especially about a wide variety of topics. There's a reason that all the niche podcasters... uh... charitably: do not have broadcast voices. On the other hand, since the net allows us to have nice media, we're not trying to fit things into FCC mandated artificially restricted numbers of broadcast channels, part of the rise of the new media is going to be that we'll have to give up the polish for the content of value.

I've no doubt that the masses will continue to have their circuses, I'm just glad the rest of us are finally getting an alternative.
posted by straw at 5:03 PM on March 29, 2013


I think it's more likely that NPR will start to invest in local news correspondents doing enterprise reporting in their own communities, taking a note from the Patch network. Its $7 million deficit will only close if they engage local donors who both want better news coverage from radio stations and want better news coverage everywhere from radio networks.

NPR could consider doing a hybrid of the relationship with WBUR, but I am guessing they would need people to take the same level of employment available at NPR in DC: freelancing required before full employment is considered. NPR better start getting its invoicing payment team together if they stand a chance with bloggers now.
posted by parmanparman at 5:39 PM on March 29, 2013


This thread seems to have a strong subthread going of complaining about NPR shows that are perceived as bad. In an attempt to push things in a slightly more constructive (and selfish) direction, could people who think that a particular NPR show is much worse than some podcast or other show please mention their preferred alternative.

For instance, I would be delighted if my local NPR affiliate could pick up Backstory because it's a pretty solid history podcast that seems to be getting up to the critical mass of episodes that could make it a weekly show.

Sorry if this is taking things in an AskMe direction, but I like specific examples and I also like listening to things, so I'm goin' for it.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:45 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love Radiolab, if that helps.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:59 PM on March 29, 2013


Someone who doesn't pepper their sentences? With, like, question marks? And the word like? That's the kind of interviewer I would prefer?

Fair enough. I guess my top criteria for interviewers is getting the interviewee to say interesting, in depth, and often heartfelt things, as opposed to the interviewer's speaking style. Ideally, the interviewer speaks as little as possible anyway.

Her style that a couple of people dislike is a distinctly woman's style of her generation. And forgive the stereotyping, but many of us are conditioned to associate that style with active listening and empathy, which both seem to bring out the human and not-canned side of interviewees.

I'm curious. By my standards, who would you say gets better results? Krista Tippet? Jian Gomeshi?!?! I don't think so.
posted by msalt at 7:40 PM on March 29, 2013


For anyone like me who will miss the Political Junkie, get the It's All Politics podcast.
posted by Gotanda at 8:52 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Terry Gross... My perception is that she does do her homework, and based on her research she goes into the interview with a picture of how the interview should go. That itself is fine -- I think many hosts probably do that -- but she's too attached to her storyline. With the guests who respond as she expects/wants, it's like, wow she asked just the right questions and got so much out of them! While with the ones who don't, she sounds either pushy or clueless, sometimes hanging on to a topic that the guest has clearly decided they don't want to talk about and getting nowhere (e.g. Quentin Tarantino).
posted by bread-eater at 9:14 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


... get the It's All Politics podcast.

Thanks. It looks tailor-made for me. So how come I'd never heard of that before?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:37 PM on March 29, 2013





I'm curious. By my standards, who would you say gets better results? Krista Tippet? Jian Gomeshi?!?! I don't think so.


I like Krista Tippett, Diane Rehm and Brooke Gladstone quite a bit for good questions, but then I also don't particularly have issues with Terry Gross. That said, I think that's partly a function of who they interview and not their style. That is to say, they interview people in areas that interest me. Terry Gross interviews a more diverse crowd, so the good gets tempered with the bad.

Correspondingly, Jian Ghomeshi does less than nothing for me, though it's hard to pin down precisely why aside from the fact that I don't really want to listen to the people whom he interviews. (Your multiple question marks and exclamation points make me think you sympathize with this vie.) I'm pretty disappointed that Q is becoming a new NPR staple. I suppose it's supposed to be the new show that's hip & with it for the cool kids, but I kind of like listening to NPR for wonkishness and would rather have it not try and keep up with the times, even if that's bad business in the long run.

(I will say that JG looks much better than his voice sounds, which goes against the stereotype.)
posted by Going To Maine at 10:08 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


dubusadus: "This isn't to say that NPR's coverage is perfect or progressive past social democratism but its output is more comprehensive than any other major media corporation."

It sounds like maybe we're agreeing from different sides of the question. I don't think NPR is worse than CNN or Fox News, certainly. But I guess I hold them to a higher standard; I don't think that just aiming to be better than CNN is a worthy enough goal. And I certainly don't want their 'on-air talent' telling me that if NPR doesn't report on it, "it's not important". (Yes, they actually said that.)

Also, you said: "You know who else doesn't recognize Taiwan in its remarks? The UN, at least not since 1971." You say that like it's a good thing...? Or like it excuses NPR?

And, I should note, a lot of the articles that show up in those searches are loosely related to the topics, at best; this one that shows up in a search for Taiwan is primarily about a Japanese architect, for example, and this article makes only cursory mention of trans issues.
posted by jiawen at 1:59 AM on March 30, 2013


Diane Rehm is too much Washington CW for my tastes.

I love Warren Olney; his show on LA is particularly good.

Haven't liked TOTN much since Suarez was there. He was great.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 4:11 AM on March 30, 2013


Klangklangston: can you get KVCR where you are? It's doable on the east side.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 4:14 AM on March 30, 2013


I was another big Ray Suarez fan - his leaving seemed to be part of the general shift of NPR to the right. I only listen to TOTN now if I'm in the car and the topic is of interest.
I love Diane Rehm - and one thing I love about her is when the guest dodges her question, she'll keep coming back to it.
posted by AnnElk at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2013


Good to hear Science Friday continues, if only to keep a dedicated block of science content on the regular schedule, but Flatow is frankly a very poor host, lacking in both insight and charisma. They can do much better.
posted by Typographica at 2:37 PM on March 30, 2013


I’d love to hear from these Terry Gross haters who they think is a good interviewer. To draw out interesting and unique responses, an interviewer has to be provocative and probing, while leaving the subject feeling comfortable enough to drop their guard. To do this consistently on a daily basis with a wide variety of subjects is an impossible task. I don’t know anyone who does it better.

Brooke Gladstone is the only one who comes close, but she has the advantage of topical focus and her own very deft editing skills.
posted by Typographica at 2:50 PM on March 30, 2013


Brooke Gladstone is just too ideological for my taste. Axe-grinding, that whole show is.

Jian Gomeshi is gorgeous but he's just way too affable. He runs the risk of becoming his generation's Larry King if he's not careful. It might be his background in full-on showbiz rather than journalism -- that's the culture there. I heard him moderate a pretty tense debate the other day though and he was quite good at that.

I heard that Quentin Tarantino interview, and I read it as her being firm if not a bit tough with him, which is great and something he's clearly not used to. I might just agree with her take though -- I think he's gotten away with peddling bullshit, pandering feel-good violence as art for way too long. yay! Nazis and slaveowners get hurt! yay!
posted by msalt at 3:26 PM on March 30, 2013


I love NPR. This piece was hilarious.

In Paris, A Hunt For Those Who Dodge Dog Duties

I don't know what to make of Eleanor Beardsley's voice.

NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley: ‘My tags wash out in the rain now’

posted by Golden Eternity at 4:35 PM on March 30, 2013


One that can go away for good is The Splendid Table - known in our house as White People Cook.

The most hilarious NPR listener call I ever heard was on The Splendid Table. Some guy called in about how his daughter was studying abroad in a European country (maybe Germany) and he flew over to see her, and then they took a trip to see one of her friends in Paris. The eventual question was actually about whether one should buy a coffee capsule coffee maker like the questioner's daughter's friend had, but it was preceded by a breathtaking display of financial and cultural privilege.
posted by grouse at 8:55 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, for one, strongly disapprove.
posted by typical npr listener at 12:31 PM on March 31, 2013


How is it they are in a deficit, when they had all that money from Joan Kroc?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:31 PM on March 31, 2013


How is it they are in a deficit, when they had all that money from Joan Kroc?

They spend $7 million more than they take in annually. A $200 million gift ten years ago does not change this fact.
posted by grouse at 8:33 PM on March 31, 2013


I don't know what to make of Eleanor Beardsley's voice.

Am I the only person who mentally bursts into "Lonely People" every time her name is mentioned? And yes, I know it was Rigby, by Beardsley slips in there oh so well.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:34 AM on April 1, 2013


jiawen: Also, you said: "You know who else doesn't recognize Taiwan in its remarks? The UN, at least not since 1971." You say that like it's a good thing...? Or like it excuses NPR?

No, I don't think it's a good thing but it is a pragmatic thing. It always pains me to hear someone say "What like there's a finite supply of empathy?" because it seemingly doesn't recognize that there does happen to be a finite number of hours in a day which means finite coverage by finite beings of finite topics, all of which has to be filtered out in some way due to some sort of standard practice.

This is just to say that while Taiwan has been in the midst of political crises and revolutions since the Nationalists fled from China back in the 50s, it is not a mainstay of our current news cycle because its effect on global politics or economics is not nearly that of the BRICs or the potential Eurozone collapse or the effects of austerity measures or sectarianism in the Middle East or any of the other issues of our modern lives that will spell out meaningful consequences for our future. Except for the continuing animosity between China and Taiwan, which is usually duly wrapped up in a story about China and East Asian politics as per the usual generalizations, there's almost no reason why the typical American would be interested in Taiwan even if they are a liberal(ish) post-hippy who is still interested in social change but at a much slower pace (which I presume is the typical NPR audience based on my experience with approximately three different families who all had NPR playing in the kitchen at breakfast).

And the issues with the news cycle, and just how inwardly focused Americans are these days, is a problem with the population at large, not with NPR. Sure, they do have a responsibility to keep us outwardly focused and they do a much better job of it than just about every other news source, but this calls for NPR as the standard in news, not as an outlier. If NPR were the standard practice, I think they would deserve the criticism that you've given them but that's not the world we live in. The world we live in wants to defund NPR and PBS because they are apparently slanted towards human interest stories instead of non-stop partisan politics. We don't recognize, anymore, the importance of a historically grounded and scientifically educated public institution as opposed to a private one that is subject to all the short-term free-market rules that neoliberalism entails.

Yes, we can fight for the ideal source of news that offers a million stories about everything there is to know but there aren't nearly enough reporters with nearly enough time to cover all of it. It's a great pipe dream but there's not philosopher kings in the world who could yet make that into reality.
posted by dubusadus at 8:09 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh. KPCC has gone downhill enough that I actually look forward to Talk of the Nation.

What’s happened to KPCC? I haven’t listened in a decade, since I lived there.

Terry Gross?!? OK, now that's fighting words. Who do you consider a better interviewer? Are you KIDDING ME?

Larry Mantle, on KPCC, was the most informed interviewer I ever heard. I learned a lot from his show. It was quite common for guests to express surprise at how much he knew about the subject going in to the discussion. I don’t know how anyone could read that many books.
posted by bongo_x at 10:00 AM on April 1, 2013


I’d love to hear from these Terry Gross haters who they think is a good interviewer. To draw out interesting and unique responses, an interviewer has to be provocative and probing, while leaving the subject feeling comfortable enough to drop their guard. To do this consistently on a daily basis with a wide variety of subjects is an impossible task. I don’t know anyone who does it better.

Terry Gross is a fabulous interviewer; she has been my Vergil when it comes to the world of the Broadway musical, for example, taking me by the hand and guiding me past the great figures and through the many layers of what had been closed and obscurely frightening, spinning on a sharply tilted axis all its own, before-- and her interview with Gene Simmons is a veritable Olympus Mons, overtopping everything else in the entire radio solar system by at least a mile for humor and sheer he-couldn't-possibly-have-said-that-could-he? delighted incredulity.

But the true incomparable in the field, as far as I'm concerned, was/is Marcie Sillman, former main and current fill-in host of KUOW Weekday, who often used to find herself in the position of interviewing guests who had been on Fresh Air a week or two before, and were now at the Seattle endpoint of a long and evidently exhausting national tour, and it was a very amusing parlor game for my partner and me to wait for the point at which the guest would stop mailing it in and almost go into shock at the depth and perceptivity of her questions, more than occasionally heralded by a pregnant pause and a wondering exclamation to the effect of 'no one has ever asked me that' or 'I hadn't thought of that', and sometimes toward the end of the interview a guest would seem to grow almost fearful about what might be coming next, but I cannot recall a single instance of Marcie confronting a guest or seeking to undercut them-- it was thrilling.
posted by jamjam at 1:43 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I miss it so much.
posted by jamjam at 1:45 PM on April 1, 2013


KUOW? Where on the dial? (I thought Seattle was a non-NPR city for a long time because their main NPR station is not on the "left of the dial.")
posted by msalt at 3:36 PM on April 1, 2013


Up here in Canada, we have the beloved CBC Radio 1, but I still listen to NPR via my iPad app regularly. Gotanda mentioned "It's All Politics" -- that show freaking rocks. Informative, entertaining, and bad puns -- what else do you need?
posted by anothermug at 9:20 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


@msalt 94.9
posted by Typographica at 10:09 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


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