The following is a response to a Twitter conversation of sorts and mostly hasn’t been edited at this point; just bear with it:
Your collective comments about NPR gave me pause, and I had to take awhile to figure out first what the reason for that was, and then how best to express the conclusion to which I’d come. So, this is that.
So, of course my first reaction was, “La-la-la, you’re wrooooonggg”, but after that initial seven seconds, I started to wonder why it was I felt that way. Honestly, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty sure the difference in our thinking is MPR. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Carl the Stick Guy prolly listens to MPR, and he wasn’t impressed.” Well, I’ve got news for you: Twitter isn’t real.
Just kidding! I thought about this, too, and found that when I consider NPR, I consider the whole of MPR (Minnesota Public Radio, for those of you just tuning in) programming, as well as my past experience with the NPR programming of other states. Conversely, I would dare to guess that when my good twitter friends consider NPR, they consider strictly the news portion, and they find it to be lacking in a certain respect. If such is their opinion, this is a point of view with which I am obliged to agree. It was only by considering what I had to presume were the differences my friends and myself held in terms of perspective, expectations, ultimate purpose, and what I like to call goal alignment.
Setting aside the fact that it is somewhat shocking to recognize we have reached the time in which Public Radio is quite rightly placed within the same circles of mainstream media as are containing broadcasting corporations the likes of CBS, NBC, CNN, and FOX, it should indeed be recognized that when it comes to journalism and reporting, there are other, more independent sources for news which are, for lack of a better word, ummm… better. Of course, there is the question of what any given listener personally values about their news sources, but in this context I think we can generally make the assumption that “better” journalism is meant to imply a focus which is global, big-picture, and more worldly. There are plenty of arguments against that general idea, not least persuasive the fact that no one organization – no matter how large – could give proper, in-depth coverage of and representation for every thing that truly matters on any particular day. Regardless, the given has been given.
If we take a minute to consider this as the Other’s possible perspective, I believe the argument has merit. There are independent journalists all over the world who do things that NPR just generally can’t provide. This could be broken down in terms of the expense of journalism as a concerted, organizational effort, but the reason behind the difference is just as perceptible in terms of incentive, motivation, personal circumstance, and communal responsibility. A journalist employed by NPR is ultimately an asset. The company has invested – in terms of salary, travel, skills and knowledge, etc – just as much in their journalists as the journalists have invested in the company, in regards to time, loyalty, product, etc. Let’s not get sidelined by specifics; that’s the general idea behind the fact that NPRs journalists aren’t nearly as close to the heart of a situation as a local resident with any ability to record a developing situation. NPR has insurance on their employees and maybe even likes them. If only in regards to legal liability, there is an entire suite of reasons not to allow a paid journalist to be subjected or subject themselves to imminent danger the ways in which independent journalists might so be compelled.
When our news content can be sourced by people who live in the immediate area and have an intimate understanding of the situation, the opportunity for empathetic understanding and potential resulting action by related viewers is far more powerful than the more general, gossip-like, recitationist regurgitation of all those three-second network news clips that make for such super-hilarious compilations on The Daily Show. They all really do say the same thing, all day. Regardless, the point is that organizational journalists, I’ll call them, must usually travel to an event upon hearing about it first through local news. Before the Internet, this made a lot of sense, and was the fastest way to disseminate verified (see also: corroborated) news to mass audiences. Today, we still need that verification, but there are so many outlets for news that the “official story” doesn’t exist the way it used to. In this way, I would agree with those who would say that NPR is not an outstanding source for news.
Once I came to the above conclusion, there was no way I could ignore asking myself the reason for my thorough enjoyment of KNOW radio. Quite simply, it’s the programming. I think that I am not looking at it as a news resource, only. Or, even the news that I do enjoy is delivered outside of the standard report context. Whether it’s discussions or trivia or interviews, I feel like it’s the variety and scheduling of MPR programming – rather than its top-of-the-hour news, for example – that makes me value the NPR brand as much as I do. I think that was the difference in our opinion.
And it’s not to say that MPR doesn’t do in-depth coverage, either. It really all depends on what you’re looking for, and I guess that’s pretty much the point of the entire post. I’d like to elaborate there, too, but it’s late and this is long. Let’s just agree to disagree as we seek to better understand the opinions of the Other :)