I hate NPR.
OK change that. I hate some people who love NPR — specifically those who think that because NPR is tuned to their presets, they’re better than others who prefer the generic top-40 pop station. I hate you if you’re washed over with warm smugness when Robert Siegal’s voice flows into your ears.
An article on Slate.com addressed this, with the author decrying the stodgy NPR listeners who write in whenever the station deviates from its usual dose of worldly events and decides to touch on pop culture.
The author looked through NPR’s archives to see the letters people sent in response to less-newsy topics covered on “All Things Considered.” After a segment on Bristol Palin, one listener wrote: “The only thing this story provoked me to do was change the station.” And after Mel Gibson: “Shame on the producers of ‘ATC’ for allowing such a scrape at the very bottom of the barrel.”
Now obviously these are a minority of the listener; at least I hope they’re a minority. Hell, I like NPR myself. But these snobs give the rest of us a bad name. It’s like fraternity brothers who are busted for drinking, epitomizing the drunken frat guy stereotype, all the while ruining it for the majority of them who are stand-up guys.
As for myself, I don’t want to labeled a liberal elite, just because I share some characteristics of those in that camp.
My parents have a few college degrees between them, and NPR is almost always on in my mom’s kitchen. The New York Times is delivered to my apartment’s doorstep every morning (even though I rarely have time to read it before the evening).
I’m even the editor of a student newspaper that a reader has said only “placate[s] to all those left-leaning progressive professors.” To some, I might be creeping into liberal elite territory.
But I’ve done my best to avoid it, especially at The Free Press; I’ve tried to push for a broader coverage of ideas and topics. For instance, our Arts & Entertainment section generally leans towards the “Arts” side of its name. See: Our five-part series on artists in Portland, a review of an art exhibit made up entirely of jars and last week’s profile on the hipster-friendly DIY art venue, the Apohodian.
Someone complained to me last semester that the A&E section seemed to be for the “Robie kids” (a reference to the dorm Robie-Andrews Hall that typically houses many studio art, music and theater majors). He’s right. In fact the last two A&E editors even used to live in Robie-Andrews.
However, it’s easier to cover things that fall in your comfort zone. We constantly struggle finding writers, so often the editors at the paper end up covering and writing many stories. And we can’t control if everyone if writes for our section loves Radiohead.
When I’ve mentioned doing reviews of the bar scene around Wharf Street in Portland to the other editors, there’s a tendency to scoff at the idea.
No matter your political views, socioeconomic standing or any other characteristic of yours, you should never put you and your views on a higher pedestal than others.
Sure, NPR is more intellectually stimulating than MTV. And yes, you will be better informed by reading The Wall Street Journal than Gawker, but you don’t have to put it higher on whatever “brow” scale you create.
A larger vocabulary or a better grasp of global affairs is nothing to be ashamed of. But don’t think that just because I’m fascinated by the Charlie Sheen fiasco (or any pop culture phenomenon) that you’re better than me.
I’ll return the favor when you can’t name that Kanye West song.
Some good stuff on NPR’s listener’s politics in this article. It really surprised me. http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/20/what-s-killing-npr.html