Sunday, January 23, 2005

Egotists on NPR

A quarter-inch of ice here in the Raleigh-Durham area stranded 3,000 kids, closed the roads, and left us, activities cancelled, with too much time to listen to NPR.

The longer these on-air "personalities" have their gigs, the more they talk and the less their interviewees talk. The personalities clearly feel they deserve the tongue-in-cheek industry designation: Talent. Do you notice that when editing they leave their own witticisms on tape, and that their insightful musings consume more and more of the interviews? Their questions are often several sentences long, and in fact can only be identified as questions (rather than pontifications) by their eventual question marks. The mostly mute interviewees only get to say: "absolutely!" as in: "yes, brilliant commentator, your analysis is so perfect, I myself can not possibly have anything to add!".

What is with this word "commentator"? This is not a word.

Have you noticed the interviewer usually says: "Interviewee, I am wondering why you made this choice?" The question COULD have been: "Interviewee, why did you make this choice?" From the interviewer's point of view, though, his/her own state of wonderment merits inclusion. After all, the more often the interviewer is the subject of the sentence, the better.

When I first heard the Ira Glass interviews on NPR, his voice was never heard. He was like an on-air Studs Terkel - he put his subjects at ease and asked them good questions, then edited the responses into wonderful stories in which he did not intrude at all. Now he has his own show and is a "personality" and spends an awful lot of the time talking about himself.

There was a lovely, non-egotistical guy on NPR but they fired him. Why fire Bob Edwards, who was one of the less obtrusive and more humble and pleasant people they had? Why not fire Scott Simon instead, or LeeAnn Hanson, both of whom think they are just the most amusing people on air? They laugh uproariously at their own jokes.

How about Garrison Keillor? He is a wonderful storyteller but one of the worst singers ever. The more voice lessons he's gotten, the worse he sings. And the more he sings. Hasn't anyone ever had the nerve to tell him how awful it is? Well, it's his show. The price of admission, for real singers, is that they have to do duets with him. What a Faustian bargain! If Garrison weren't so obviously taken with himself it would be kitschy fun.

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At 4:20 PM, Blogger AJ said...

Did you know that Bob Edwards can now be heard on XM Satellite Radio?

I think it was unconscionable the way NPR handled him.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger ZeNeece said...

I don't know. I've been listening to NPR for ages, and I don't mind the way they interview people. I will have to pay more attention.
But Please, you have to admit, at least it's not Fox News and all that rubbish! I mean, at least it's relatively unbiased NEWS and information!

At 11:56 AM, Blogger bbmoe said...

And what about Daniel "Dinosaur" Schorr? He and Garrison Keillor should be forced to sing a duet together, a long, long ballad written by Calvin Trillin about the Vietnam War and Watergate and quagmires and Dick Cheney and Halliburton and on and on and on.... or maybe just a rousing little ditty about ill-fitting dentures.

I. too. listen to NPR very regularly. They are beginning to come out of their election funk and reporting good news like it is good news instead of just another set up for major disappointment.

I found your blog on the Carnival. I'm at

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hah! wow. you have waytoo much time on your hands.

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garrison Keillor and Ira Glass don't actually work for NPR. They do their own shows which people like and that's why they are picked up by individual stations. Simon and Hansen are on during the weekends, where, one would guess, people are more open to hosts having a personality. You'll notice the programming and stories are a little lighter; or maybe you don't notice.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its national patrician radio.. ever promoting the government line. Poor S. Simon, a Quaker, abjured his religion to support the u.s. invasion of iraq. The news programs are state dept. handouts, and Noam Chomsky is not considered a safe interview. . Pacifica makes NPR appear a wing of Fundamentalist Christianity.
Bob Sommers, Chicago

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the Iraq invasion it was National Pentagon Radio complete with their very own embedded (in bed) "journalist" breathlessly cheerleading Rumsfeld's shock and awe
as it rolled through Iraq maiming and decimating the civilian population.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Red Thread said...

four years after your posting and things have not changed-Leeann is still unlistenable with her intolerable laugh and thin commentaries, and Scott Simon seems to love himself even more and never stops talking sports.


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