A Love Letter to NPR

Pardon me while I geek out publicly: I love National Public Radio without shame. My favorite Sunday mornings were when our car ride to church coincided perfectly with Will Shortz’s Sunday Puzzle and the ride home featured The Splendid Table with Lynn Rossetto Kasper. At the time my husband and I would groan that we had to drive further than we were used to get to church, but looking back, we always enjoyed that time in the car because we had something so enjoyable to listen to.

Now that my husband and I bought a house not far from the church, we don’t listen on our way to and from church (but we do bike with the weather cooperates). However, the living in our new home means we am driving more to get my kids to school (when we used to be able to bike) and to get myself to class. Even though I am no fan of commuting, I do enjoy the excuse to tune in to one of my favorite stations.

I’m delighted that my drive time from class often seems to coincide with some fantastic interviews on Fresh Air or my local programming’s Think, I am always intrigued by the interesting people featured and the compelling insight they have to share. There have been times I have nearly snorted from laughing so hard at Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. And don’t get me started on my love/hate relationship with the Diane Rehm Show.  I have heard essays and experiences shared on This American Life that were so vivid, compelling and beautiful that I had to sit in the car for a few extra minutes so I could finish listening to them, and then spend the next few days digesting their richness.

I’ve borrowed ever so many book recommendations I’ve gleaned from reviews on the air. The “This I Believe” essay feature was where I first encountered poet Gregory Orr’s personal essay testifying of his belief and need for poetry. I’ve used that piece time and time again to introduce uncertain friends to the oft feared and misunderstood genre.  It is fantastic.

I am often pulling the car over to jot down a note about something piece or idea I just heard about that really strikes me. So many of these thoughts and scraps of wisdom have informed my conversations later in the day or writing late at night.

Some of the news topics have spurred great discussions with my kids and caused them to think about beliefs and cultures beyond their own tiny world tucked into our car on the ride to school. There have been conversations about political process, world religions and world hunger. While the topics are huge and the information available is often more than they can comprehend, I am thankful to have someone else bring up some of the topics I want to talk with my kids about, but don’t always know where to begin. Just a minute or two of NPR spurs a question or two, and then I can click it off and we have something beyond our routine discussion points. I appreciate it.

And while I thought talk radio was the most horrible thing I could think of when I was younger, I must admit that now I have been converted for years. Yes, I do love music (especially the listener-supported independent station in my area , but it is all the talk on NPR that I love best. No one is shouting (except for Diane Rehm yesterday when one of the guests went AWOL during their interview, which was hysterical) and generally the tone is calm and rational. For me it is the most intriguing, thoughtful and useful thing on the air. I am so often surprised and delighted by new information, ideas and entertainment I enjoy as I listen. It makes my time in the car so much more enriching than it was before I became an avid listener. I hereby shut the case on any question of my geekiness; it is now fully established: I unabashedly love NPR.

How do you enlighten and inform your day? What do you listen to in the car?

About Sandra

(Blog Editor and Prose Board) recently moved back to California by way of north Texas, Baltimore and San Francisco. She loves sunlight, color, and intense dark chocolate. She devours cookbooks like novels and writes a bit at www.section89.com.

34 thoughts on “A Love Letter to NPR

  1. I love pretty much everything on NPR except Diane Rehm (huge eyerolls from me), and Prairie Home Companion (I have to turn it off — sorry, folks).

    I won’t listen to anything else in the car (really frustrating when PHC comes on!). And I say this as a committed conservative, for those who are wondering.

  2. I’m not certain, but I think we started listening to NPR last November when our oldies station started twenty four hour Christmas music. I love it. The news stories are insightful. The station plays classical music 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm, and that has a way of soothing my soul when I’m bustling about on errands.
    The Sunday programs are fantastic. Unfortunately we’re only four miles from our church so we don’t catch very much of the programs.

  3. I’m with you- all about NPR. My new job requires a 55 minute commute one-way, NPR is the only thing that makes it bearable.

  4. I started listening to our NPR station in 8th grade. Why? I’m not sure. But I love it. I love the news, science friday, wait, wait, car talk, This American Life, The Moth, and Radio Lab. I could go on and on…

  5. I try to coordinate driving out to the dump with yard mess with WAIT WAIT, just because it makes my Saturday so much better.
    This made me happy. I hate the radio so for me it is NPR or cds.

  6. I love NPR. I learn so much. I “meet” so many new people and learn to look at things in new ways. “Wait, wait don’t tell me” always makes me laugh. This american life has amazing stories.

    I guess I should just say I agree with you. :)

  7. I still have fond memories of my dad driving my sister and me to early morning seminary listening to NPR. I learned a lot about the news of the day and other issues that way.

    I used to listen to NPR a lot more, but for the last year I’ve been on a cheesy pop music kick. I think part of the problem is that I’m only ever in the car for about 10-15 minutes at a time, and I hate to start programs in the middle or end them abruptly. I also don’t like to listen to anything at home because the noise and stress of kids are enough input for me (I don’t do audio multitasking well at all). Your post has inspired me to maybe try NPR again for a while.

  8. NPR is my absolute favorite radio treat! I also listen to Dr Laura regularly – not always100% in agreement but I so appreciate her championing of children, motherhood and the sanctity of marriage.

  9. I grew up with my mom listening to it in the mornings in the kitchen. I loved it when I commuted. But now that I don’t I love all the podcasts from my favorite shows: Wait, Wait, TAL, Radiolab, Plant Money, The Moth.

  10. I am an NPR junkie. I try not to miss StoryCorps that are featured every Friday on Morning Edition- they are amazing.

    The news and information I get from NPR is excellent but I don’t love all the programming. Diane Rehms isn’t my favorite. One day someone she was interviewing had their cell phone ring TWICE and Diane lost it on the air. I laughed out loud for a couple weeks about that one.

    And I REALLY don’t like Terry Gross. I feel like she has strong biases that bleed into all her interviews. Last week she interviewed someone who left the lds church after serving a mission. Some of the questions Terry asked were ridiculous and she casually mixed facts with fiction to paint the picture she wanted.

    That being said-my radio is tuned to NPR. Thanks for the post!

  11. I am an NPR junkie. I try not to miss StoryCorps that are featured every Friday on Morning Edition- they are amazing.

    The news and information I get from NPR is excellent but I don’t love all the programming. Diane Rehms isn’t my favorite. One day someone she was interviewing had their cell phone ring TWICE and Diane lost it on the air. I laughed out loud for weeks about it.

    And I REALLY don’t like Terry Gross. I feel like she has strong biases that bleed into all her interviews. Last week she interviewed someone who left the lds church after serving a mission. Some of the questions Terry asked were ridiculous and she casually mixed facts with fiction to paint the picture she wanted.

    That being said-my radio is tuned to NPR. Thanks for the post!

  12. I started listening to NPR because every other news source was so biased, either one way or the other (I’m a moderate), that I found myself getting angry every time I listened.

    I am really bummed Talk of the Nation is coming to an end; I will especially miss the Political Junkie. My first choice to get the axe would be Fresh Air (I cannot stand Terry Gross), followed by The Diane Rehm Show. No one has yet mentioned Radio West, but it’s a real favorite of mine. Love Doug Fabrizio.

  13. I would also add that I’ve found NPR a crucial lifeline to the outside world since I’ve become a stay-at-home mom with little kids. When I listen, I feel like I’ve had a dose of adult conversation!

  14. I’ve been listening to NPR for 20+ years and agree with all the comments about how great it is. I feel my knowledge and understanding of the world have been greatly enlarged by things I’ve heard. That raises one question–I’ve heard a couple of people speak of NPR tangentially as they explain what led to their disaffection from the church. Not that anything they heard specifically brought that about, but that seeing the world from a wider perspective somehow had the effect of causing them to question what they came to see as a provincial, church-oriented worldview. Concerns about this haven’t affected my listening habits, but I’m curious if anyone else has experienced any similar feelings.

  15. Great post. Have listened to NPR almost my entire life.

    At Brad, I haven’t heard anyone directly implicate NPR in their disaffection with the LDS church. However it will broaden your worldview and expose you to new ideas, philosophies, and experiences from people all over the world in a way KSL won’t. If this is challenging to a testimony, then that testimony may be based on cultural norms rather than doctrine, and could happen from anything – movies, podcasts, radio, a conversation at a coffeeshop. I love NPR and never hear anything there to challenge my testimony that I don’t hear, you know, interacting with friends and family from around the country/world.

  16. In fact much of what I hear is very faith affirming, in a – wow, what a beautiful and complex world, and God finds ways to manifest Himself in remarkable details – way.

  17. I adore NPR, but my young kids don’t like having any radio in the car, so I’ve been huge on their podcasts. I regularly download Wait Wait, Planet Money, the TED Radio hour, and All Songs Considered.

  18. I love, love, love NPR. I’m allowed to have headphones on at work, so I usually listen in podcast form. RadioWest is my favorite, but I also love Talk of the Nation, Fresh Air, This American Life, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and Wait Wait.

  19. Me too, me too! I actually even friended Heather B. On Facebook because she said something quippy on another Segullah staff’s post about NPR so I just knew we had to be friends. Love, love, love it! Sometimes I do have to exercise some discretion in what I listen to with the kids in the car, because they listen and are engaged as well and some topics are depending on the child are not always developmentally appropriate. I even had to call home one Saturday and tell my teens to turn off the radio because though the topic was important it was just too sad and complicated for them to listen to and process on their own even passively listening in the background.

  20. me too me too me too! I am such a geek about it I paid good money to see “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” recorded live. I have a crush on NPR!

  21. I do like a lot of NPR, but I have to say that I have, on occasion, laughed out loud during their news broadcasts because of the liberal bias. I’m not even that conservative (by Utah standards, anyway), but the way they sometimes approach stories, or choose them, seems to veer pretty far left at times. The fact that they seem to be unaware of the bias seems funny; I wish I could think of a good example, but it’s happened more than once. I figure if I listen to NPR and read the Wall Street Journal the truth is in the middle someplace.

    I’m a fan of Prairie Home Companion, though; when my husband recited a Garrison Keillor monologue to me on our second date it was very impressive to me.

  22. Emily M.- Yes, I’ll agree that they are no perfect middle of the road- who is anyway? But I’ll still take it. I usually like their style and approach.

  23. I too love NPR, I subscribe to many of the podcasts. This American Life makes even a long run seem enjoyable. I have to admit it has taken me a few years to warm up to Diane Rehm though, but I really like Terry Gross of Fresh Air. Here in Utah, I also love the RadioWest program out of the University of Utah which is also available on podcast from KUER.

  24. “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” is coming to the big screen on May 2nd. Check their website to see if any of your local theaters have it.

  25. I’m not even sure what band NPR is on in my community. I avoid talk radio like the plague—it’s all over the radio here in southern Utah.

    Mostly, I’ve been listening to a mix CD I made which includes “Come Get Your Love” “Why” by Annie Lennox and “Beast of Burden” by the Rolling Stones. Some Crystal Bowersox. I boogie down the road.

    Denise, you should call me. I don’t define myself as lonely, but I’m a devout Mormon with liberal leanings. You’re right, though, there aren’t a lot of us out there. Or a lot who will admit it.

  26. I appreciate NPR just for the fact that they take their time with news topics; none (or relatively little) of the standard 30-second news-bite coverage of stories that leave one less informed on a topic than they were at the beginning of the “newscast”.

  27. We’re such hardcore NPR junkies that my oldest son had baby dolls named Nina (Totenberg) and Cokie (Roberts)! I don’t think any of my kids knew there was more than one station on the radio until they were about 10.

  28. I am also a huge fan of NPR. However, I take issue with your categorization of NPR as “talk radio”. It is much more civil and informative than talk radio ever could be.

  29. I am an NPR addict as well. When the army wanted to move our family to Fairbanks Alaska 25 years ago, one of the first things we looked into was the availability of public radio. It was a wonderful station, KUAC. I just want to make sure all you NPR addicts out there are making a $$$ contribution!

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