Chayes Lounge

(With apologies for the title.)

When I first heard the heroic Sarah Chayes on NPR, heroic was not a word that leapt to mind.  I used to make jokes about her tough assignment: Paris, France.  Her uniquely pronounced tagline, “this is Sarah Chayes in Parizz,” always caused my wife and I to try to guess to whom she was related to land such a cushy and sought-after post.  But Karma must be bad at NPR, because suddenly she was datelining from war-torn regions of Afghanistan.

One minute, after putting to bed her report on the adopt-a-tree program at Versailles, she’s at the charming boulangerie on the corner selecting fresh baguettes to feed to what I presume was an endless stream of visiting friends and family.  The next minute she’s dodging mortars and IEDs on her way to interview a warlord.  I imagine dealing with guests became less of an issue after that.

Then her story gets even more amazing.  I’ll let her website tell the rest:

In 2002 she decided to leave journalism to help rebuild the shattered country, whose fate will help determine the shape of the 21st century.  Currently she runs a cooperative in the former Taliban stronghold, producing fine skin-care products from local fruits, nuts, and botanicals. (www.arghand.org) The aim is to discourage opium production by helping farmers earn a living from licit crops, as well as to encourage collective decision-making. From this position, deeply embedded in Kandahar’s everyday life, Ms. Chayes has gained unparalleled insights into a troubled region. Her book about Afghanistan since the Taliban is The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (New York: Penguin, 2006)

I bring this all up because after Obama’s can’t-please-any-of-the-people-any-of-the-time speech there’s a (destined to be short-lived) surge in coverage of Aghanistan on NPR.  I’ve heard a lot of repetitive and insipid takes on the situation, but there’s one thing I haven’t heard: Sarah Chayes.  Why would this be?  Why wouldn’t they interview someone who is not only unusually knowledgeable about the situation but also clearly in the NPR address book?  Did she not give two weeks notice?  Did she talk about fight club?

The reason is not that she’s hard to find.  She’s back in the states.  Things in Kandahar have gotten too dicey for her business to continue operating in the open.  In fact I just attended a rather brilliant lecture she gave about the war in Afghanistan.  One of the aims of the lecture was to explode a number of myths about the situation, a mission she accomplished thoroughly.  Is that the problem?  Is it that her narrative goes against the conventional wisdom too much and would therefore take too long to explain?

So come one, NPR, get on the stick.  Get Sarah Chayes back on the air as an expert this time.  Give her knowledge and ideas some play while the topic is hot, because if recent history is any guide we’ll all forget about Bush War 2.0 in a couple of days. While she was on in November 2008, and while her book did get a little coverage when it was released, she’s had nothing like the week of long segments you aired and still prominently feature on your home page based on Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s strychnine in print.  Is Hagerty’s personal journey into neodeism really that much more important?

I’m looking at you, Morning Edition, Diane Rehm, ATC, etc etc etc.

And while I’m on the subject I’m going to recommend (again) that you look at some other important and novel recent takes on Afghanistan from William Lind.  Maybe you’ll even interview him.

Story Corpse

As any habitual listener of NPR will tell you, the most depressing regular segment of Morning Edition is “Story Corps”. Basically they go around the country taping people talking tearfully about their loved ones dying.  That’s not their mission statement, it’s just what ends up happening waaaaay too much of the time.  Or maybe those are just the ones some death-obsessed producer at NPR always ends up choosing.  As a result of this ghoulish proclivity on their part we generally dive for the off button as soon as we hear the opening notes of the deceptively treacly Story Corps theme song.

Today no one was close enough to shut down the radio, and as a result we listened to the whole thing.  It was about a mortician, natch.  But I will say it was one of the least depressing I’ve ever heard.  Go figure.

Missing the War

NPR has done a really wonderful job of reporting on the trees, but they just don’t get the forest.

Mandelit Del Barco has heroically chronicled the struggles of L.A. gangland. Sylvia Poggioli, just today, has bravely told us of the struggles of Italy against the Neapolitan mafia. Countless reports about the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon are delivered by myriad reporters. Tales of Columbian and Mexican drug cartels are easy to find. Then there are the reports about the lawless border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And yet, somehow, the connection is never made.

” I’m missing the war
Till beads of sunlight hit me in the morning
So much time so little to say ”

Don’t let Ben Folds’ lyrics be our cultural epitaph.

Read your William Lind.

These are all the same thing, and have been since World War I. But nobody talks about it.

The crisis of the legitimacy of the state.

He’s not the president…

…but he plays one on TV.  Well, in the movies anyway.

I’m speaking, of course, about Talk of the Nation’s guest yesterday, Mr. Michael Douglas.

It seems he’ll be appearing before lawmakers.  Weirdly he won’t be there to testify about what possibly illegal methods he used to get Catherine Zeta Jones to marry him, something I’d expect most congressman (and NPR-obsessed bloggers) to be keenly interested in.

Instead he’s there to discuss a topic even more near and dear to this blog’s heart, Nuclear Proliferation.

But here’s the problem.  Douglas is a self-styled advocate on this issue, but even he, a trained actor, can’t properly pronounce the word “nuclear.”  Maybe he’s trying to method-act presidential diction?

How many posts do I need to produce about this before people start getting it right?

New clear, new clear, new clear…

Necrophiliac Public Radio

Ghouls, those vile creatures of myth who make graveyards their home and feast on the dead, can’t compare to journalists in the area of necrophilia. It’s unseemly.

Yes, it’s important to know that Ted Kennedy has a very serious illness. Perhaps, because he is a senator during a time of frequent close votes, it’s even valuable to know something of his prognosis. But the news media treats this sort of situation as an occasion to obsess and, worse, speculate about symptoms, treatments and anything else they can think of to drag out the coverage. It’s as if the moment someone with any fame becomes ill or dies the entire world has the same right and obligation to know every gruesome detail as consulting physicians or anguished members of the patient’s immediate family.

Today NPR spent many more minutes on what should be private details of Kennedy’s disease than on the situation’s actual political consequences. And, if that weren’t enough, Carl Kasel’s news update during Morning Edition about Hamilton Jordan’s death told many details about his years fighting illness to the exclusion of all other information. Was that really the right focus? The update should obviously have focused instead on what made him a public figure, not his personal medical history.

I first started noticing the extremity of this instinct on the part of the news media in general and NPR in particular with the death of a somewhat famous classical musician last year. I say “somewhat” because, while a large number of classical music fans knew of his talent, few others did. Yet every twenty minutes we received a detailed description of his lengthy battle with illness. Why is it necessary for people who have barely or never heard of this man to be privy to the saddest and grimmest details of his end?

Whatever happened to “natural causes?” Is that seen as some kind of journalistic failure? I presume so given the disappointment and humiliation I often detect in the voices of newsreaders forced to report that posthumous details aren’t available.

This practice is odder still in a country so paranoid about the privacy of individual health records. After all, one of the roadblocks to a national health ID card connected to a computerized patient record system is fear of loss of privacy. We’re so concerned about our health records that even our doctors have a hard time getting them and often have to employ paper filing systems from the 19th century. Yet the news media shouts detailed health information like a gossipy aunt to anyone who’ll listen every single time someone of fame dies or becomes ill – and the very same society acts like it’s normal, even required behavior.

This bad habit plagues public radio interview shows as much as it does magazine and news shows. Diane Rehm demonstrates a particular fascination with the diseases of her guests, the more horrifying the better. I’ve heard her force actors who are just trying to promote a movie to discuss their traumatic health problems at great length. At least she holds the same standard for herself. But is it really necessary that we be informed every time she’s on leave for her voice treatments and not a vacation? And if she must tell us, shouldn’t we have some input in designing her treatment plan? Why not?

I realize that the gruesome and gory have always been mainstays of journalism, but the more ingrained a practice is in a field of endeavor the more it’s usually overdue for scrutiny.

I challenge all NPR producers to reconsider how much medical detail is really necessary and appropriate for broadcast.

Since that clearly won’t happen, I also challenge Bob Garfield or Brooke Gladstone of On The Media to address this issue directly.

Slow News Month

I don’t wish to discourage my vast and fanatical army of readers, but updates will continue to be sporadic for the next week or two as preoccupations not having to do with public broadcasting rudely intrude. (Much like the Chinese population, if you line up all Airbag Moments readers four abreast and march them into the ocean they would never stop. For the Chinese this is because their reproduction rate would more than make up for the activity. Airbag Moments readers are simply contrary and would refuse the command.)

I have no doubt my stalwart cadre of co-contributors will fill in for me, but I apologize in advance if their non-existence prevents them from doing so.

A couple of tidbits to recommend if you missed today’s Morning Edition.

I sometimes find the “Storycorps” segments to be mawkish or depressing, but this morning’s was really wonderful. If it doesn’t melt your heart you must be Ann Coulter. (I told you stop reading my blog, Ann! Does the phrase “restraining order” mean anything to you?) It throws into high relief the difference between the New Testament/Liberal approach to crime and punishment and the Old Testament approach favored by the c.i.n.o.s (Christians In Name Only) on the right. It’s such a perfect parable that it’s hard to believe it’s true.

Also notable was a quirky story about the US government rushing to patent the atomic bomb during the Manhattan project.

Reaching Out (ewww!)

There’s another public radio linguistic tic that’s spreading faster than Lindsay Lohan at an Italian waiter convention!

It is the phrase “reaching out,” used to mean contact, appeal to, please, solicit, as in “Mitt Romney is not yet reaching out to the all-important gay animal tamer vote.”

The phrase “Reaching out” isn’t new, but its frequency is suddenly off the charts with the intense (albeit superficial) campaign coverage of the last few months. Listening to recent reports might convince you the presidential candidates had mutated into thousand-armed Hindu deities.

Take Day To Day’s two-way between reporter Anthony Brooks and Republican strategist Dan Schnur today. Here’s a highlight:

Schnur: “…it gives him the party’s leading conservative spokespersons from the president on down to help him reach out to the party’s conservative base and try to motivate them toward a fall election.”

To which Brooks responds: “And what does he have to do though to really reach out and convince them…”

And what about all the unintended nasty overtones of the phrase “reaching out?” Some scuzzy guy going for a grope on the subway. Zombies’ rotting hands emerging from their graves. Fill in your own.

I imagine AT&T still regrets being associated with the slogan “reach out and touch someone.” They may be the “new” AT&T now, but I’ll bet they’re still listed in the Meghan’s law database.

Of course the habit is not limited to public radio. A quick google of “clinton” and the phrase “reaching out” generates almost a million hits. But one of the themes of this blog is that public media, to demonstrate why it matters and deserves listeners’ donations, must rise above the rest of the silly fish-wrap* manufacturers.

So, if you are a public radio host or a campaign reporter, think about reaching out to a thesaurus in the very near future.

* I adore the phrase “fish-wrap.” I love nothing more than referring to the New York Times as “the fish-wrap of record.” (c)(tm)2008 Airbag Moments.

But finger-staining news is inexorably evaporating into carpal- tunnel- inducing news, so we need a digital version of this perfect put-down.

Reader(s): Please suggest a replacement for “fish-wrap” that will take us into the 21st century!

Sense of Omission

Since I just wrote about PRI’s The World’s routinely excellent global coverage I think it’s appropriate to point out where this kind of reporting isn’t adequate. Luckily I have former foreign policy adviser to the Edwards campaign Michael Signer to do it for me. (With a name like “Signer”, shouldn’t he be the presidential candidate? Or maybe he has a brother named “Bill”…)

His recent Washington Post commentary “It’s a Scary World, Don’t Campaign Reporters Care?” spanks the media for ignoring or only superficially covering the foreign policy positions of the candidates, even though such policy statements have (shocker!) proven historically to be accurate predictors of policy.

Interestingly, from a Public Radio point of view, he states the following:

In November, I got a call from a major national radio program saying that they’d be doing a substantive piece on the candidates’ foreign policies — how they were developed and what the process revealed about the candidates’ thinking.

Perfect! I thought. At last. I was in Iowa City and drove 45 minutes through blinding snow to a small studio for an hour-long interview. When the segment aired, my heart sank. It had changed into a quick-and-dirty recitation of a few policy proposals from all the candidates, Republican and Democrat — not the substantive compare-and-contrast that had been promised.

I can’t say for sure whether or not this was National Public Radio, but a little Googling strongly indicts a report by Martha Wexler on All Things Considered of December 9, 2007. Signer doesn’t even merit a sound-bite from his hour long interview.

Whatever the purpose of this NPR report, and however appropriate or not Signer’s interview was for that purpose, his point is very, very important. We live in extremely dangerous times. The entire news media, and Public Radio in particular, need to make international coverage a huge priority.

Take just one foreign policy example. I was sentient during the cold war and woke up sweating from my share of Terminator-style atom bomb nightmares, but I feel the US is at more risk of Nuclear attack then at any time in our history.

Sure, my opinion doesn’t matter, I’m just a grumpy blogger.

But what about this fact? Both Bush and Kerry, men who agree on little, were asked during a 2004 debate what the greatest threat facing our nation was, and both immediately responded “nuclear proliferation,” specifically nukes in the hands of terrorists. (Ok, Bush started to answer “Jesus” out of debate habit but then caught himself. And what he really said was “nukuler perlimifiration,” but the point remains.)

Am I the only one who remembers that? Am I the only one who actually believes it?

What has the Bush administration done about it since? Precisely nothing, as far as I can tell, but I can’t really be sure because the media barely covers it!

Note to the the media: stop waiting to cover problems only after they explode and try to do some predicting. I know it’s no fun to be Cassandra, but it is your chosen profession.

Case in point: Daniel Zwerdling on ATC did an unbelievably good job warning us about a Hurricane flooding catastrophe in New Orleans in a lengthy 2-part report aired in 2003!. For people who love New Orleans listening to that story wasn’t a Driveway Moment it was an entire Driveway Afternoon. (Did he get a Pulitzer for that? He should have.)

Maybe the media can try that kind of coverage with a few scarily important international conundrums?

The World: Back of the bus

PRI’s The World is a heroically consistent “eat your broccoli” public radio show. Though not often gripping, they are one of the few sources of good, frequent global reporting in American media – especially important given our current president’s alarming New Yorker-cover-ish view of the globe. Let your local public radio station know they should subscribe to this show.

So far today’s most entertaining/shocking story on public radio is one The World presented on fundamentalist Israeli Jewish women self segregating on buses. Wow, just…wow. Orthodox Jewish burkas. Way to be!

Memo to Middle-Eastern countries: try not to make it look too much like you all deserve each other.

Find and listen to the report on this page.

Aside from The World’s parchingly dry style, the only other complaint I have about the show is the time it wastes on aggressively obtuse world music coverage at the end of each episode. The more incongruously hybridized a musical group is, the more eager The World is to provide them with publicity.

Then again I do loves me some Tutsi/Cambodian trance-ragtime played on found antique Inuit toy instruments by Chechen octogenarians.

Theme Music Omnibus, part 1

Ahh, the theme music of public radio. I’m not talking about actual songs with lyrics like the exhausted one that opens Prairie Home Companion, I’m talking about the music that begins each show and plays behind the front end teasers.

Through repetition they become quite ingrained.

Can you identify which theme this is?

(slowly)

Da da, da da

Da da, da da

Da da, da da

Dum dum DUM!!

If you are a true public radio-head like I am I’m sure you pegged that as the spritely and lovable opening music of All Things Considered, composed originally by Don “even NPR can’t spell my name right” Voegeli. (Apparently they have now corrected his name on that page, surely as a result of this post. You’re welcome, Mr. Voegeli, Planet Earth, and the concept of truth in general!)

That theme has become jazzier and a bit more flatulent over the years, and every time they tinker with it I initially despise the new version, then I get used to it, and finally I begin to enjoy it. I’ve realized something: it’s not that I like the music qua music, it’s that over time I simply develop a positive Pavlovian association between the music and the content of the show.

There, see, I said something nice. Read it again, it’s in there, I promise.

Morning Edition, meanwhile, has an opening tune by the prolific giant of public radio music BJ Leiderman that sails dangerously close to the shoals of elevator music, especially when the guitar takes over the melody, but again it’s saved by sentimental attachment.

My favorite Leiderman work is another slightly muzak-ish one he created for Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the super-human tightness of the final section, heard at the end of each episode. Dah-dahh, dah da-da da-daaaahhhhhhh *bleeng*.

The Diane Rehm show has quite a theme, heavy on astonishingly athletic piano. It’s bombastic as all heck. The left hand does this constant “bing-bong, bing bong” as if a town crier is calling everyone to the square to announce the eminent arrival of the sovereign or the black plague. Listen for it next time you turn on the show. It finishes with a show-off complex run up the entire keyboard. I always picture the musician falling off the bench unconscious after the effort. I once heard Diane say as an aside that she’d never change the theme, and I agree.

Finally, in honor of their recent win of a coveted “baggie” award, I’d like to bring up the creepy and disturbing ditty that begins each edition of On The Media, written by “bassist/composer” Ben Alison.

But first I have a question. Why are they always so careful to say “bassist/composer Ben Allison” at the end of every episode? Which is it? Bassist or Composer? Pick a side, sir, we’re at war!

He must have instructed them to credit him just this way, which implies he’s ashamed of being a composer and just wants to play bass all the time. His parents must love that. “It’s not enough you want to try to make a living in music, son, but you want to be a bassist? Don’t tell your mother!”

Or maybe he just thinks chicks dig instrumentalists. But if he’s going to force the show to list non-composing traits and abilities in his composing credit, why stop with bassist? Why not “our theme was written by bassist/composer/dog lover/morning person Ben Allison.”

Sorry, I’ll now return to the topic at hand, the music itself. What are they trying to say? What atmosphere are they trying to create? I really want to know what they asked for from Ben and how they felt about the results.

Maybe they said “Give us something like All Things Considered, only, you know, for media. A tune that ‘All Media Considered’ would have. Or ‘All Things Media.’ See what I mean?” If they said that then it clearly didn’t work out. In fact, if that’s what they said I hope that Ben’s “bassist/composer” credit is all he got in return.

But maybe it was more like this:

“Okay, Ben, what we want…uhmm, Ben, maybe you could put down the bass for one minute while I’m talking to you…thank you…anyway, what we want, and I think I can safely say “we” – though I haven’t actually spoken to Brooke about this yet – what we want is a kind of slow, melodically disturbing horn section that makes you feel the way you do when you see someone you recognize striding purposefully toward you, but then you realize they aren’t who you thought they were, and in fact they’re kind of scary looking, and they’re coming right over to you and you suddenly realize there’s no one else around and you start to try to come up with some kind of an escape plan, and then they’re right up on you and it’s too late, and you’re feeling light-headed with panic, but then they just walk right by you, and you just stand there wondering what happened and why you got so freaked out. You know that feeling, right? What’s that? Yes, you can play bass in it.”

If they said that then it worked out perfectly, and I hope Ben was remunerated well enough to get his parents off his case and purchase whatever the Bass equivalent of a Stradivarius is.

I am now suspicious of and disoriented by the popular media, and for that I guess I’m grateful to OTM, and, more specifically, grateful to the music of bassist/composer/cavity fighter Ben Allison.

The Best Show On Public Radio Is…

Just in time for Oscar night!

Okay, my favorite NPR program is “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me“, but I feel the need to give the award to something with redeeming social value.

The best serious show is clearly NPR’s “On The Media“, hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield.

Let me count the whys.

  • The piquant bouquet of truth, unexpected from an advertising industry guy (host Bob Garfield), that cuts right through the more outlandish inanities of mediated consensual reality. On second thought it makes complete sense that an ad guy would have the most sensitive “lie-dar”(c )2008 Airbag Moments(tm).
  • The pointed interviews are the most probing in American public radio. The questions are usually genuinely challenging without the strident partisan sneer indulged in by the modern BBC.
  • The wry attitudes of Brooke and Bob. It’s not so much one of liberal bias as it is a refreshing and healthy amazement/incredulity at the news of the day. Isn’t that how everyone who pays attention to current events and trends feels? Isn’t it odd when newsreaders and correspondents lack that tone?
  • It’s actually funny on purpose. Most public radio attempts at humor (“Wait, Wait” excepted of course) fall flat due to rigorously enforced harmlessness. Witness the many recent attempts to explore political humor during the writers’ strike. OTM manages to make it work more often than not, which is saying a lot for public radio.
  • Keeping the “sense” questions to a minimum. Enough said.
  • Consistency. Of course not every story is as gripping as every other, but in the main they pursue consequential topics with admirable clarity and thoroughness.
  • The cute little pause after “Edited…” and before “…by Brooke.” This weekly touch implies a warm but healthily competitive relationship between the hosts.

What’s not to like? The most tedious stories tend to involve Baby Boomer preoccupations. How long was that piece on the Beatles & the Maharishi last weekend? 20 minutes? I love the Beatles, but suddenly the show felt a bit like an overstaying dinner guest who keeps failing to notice the hosts loudly doing the dishes. How must it have seemed to people who share no interest in Beatlesiana? (I’ll explore in a future post how 20-minute segments featuring esoteric and/or ancient musicians is Kryptonite to way too many public radio programs.)

But these problems are nothing in the face of years of important stories which are often ignored by the rest of the media.

So congratulations, Brooke & Bob, you win this year’s “baggie”. You’ll be receiving your little statuette soon.

All too common sense (Episode I)

The most constant irritant that assaults my delicate sensibilities is, by many light years, the minute-to-minute over employment of the word “sense” by virtually all Public Radio hosts when they ask questions.

Next time you turn on the radio keep your ear out for it. It will astonish you just how often hosts undermine their questions by starting them with some variation of “sense.”

Some all-too-common examples of this rotten preamble:

  • Give us a sense of…
  • Is there a sense there that…
  • What’s the sense of …

It’s even more unintentionally bizarre when they couch it in one of the many variations of “Can you give us a sense of…” the correct answer to which can only be “yes” or “no”.

The host of “Here and Now” once asked a guest “Give us a sense of your mother’s sense of…”

A couple of weeks ago on “Day to Day” a host asked an interviewee if she could “see a sense” of something.

Those last two aren’t even really parseable, but I guess they sound like they have some meaning since people actually answer them. What’s the proper response to the question “do you see a sense?” And by the time you are asking for a mere sense of a sense what do you really have? Something so vague that it seems hardly worth the electricity required to broadcast it across this great country of ours.

Which brings me to the sort of 7th grade English teacher point: almost any question is weakened by asking it using the “sense” form. Using “sense” implies that you expect a nonspecific answer. I’ve never heard a host ask “Can you give a blurry, poorly thought out, partly inaccurate report about…” But that is, in essence, what they are asking. It insults both the interviewee and the listener. If the interviewee is only capable of giving a sense then maybe the show needs to find someone with better information.

The sense questions have a helpless, groping quality to them. Can’t you just hear the proverbial blind men trying to figure out the elephant asking each other what their senses of it are?

Fixing it

Just stop using it. Almost any question you can ask weakly with sense you can ask more clearly by just dropping it. “Give us a sense of the anxiety there about the housing slump?” can easily be converted to “Describe the anxiety about the housing slump there.” Plus, with just a little more work, they could choose to select from the host of more specific words available to the journeyman interrogator. A modest list: hypothesis, feeling, assessment, reaction, impression, appraisal, estimation, evaluation, judgment.

Where does this come from?

This meme infests every show on Public Radio with the possible exception of “On the Media”, but I’m not totally sure why.

I do have a few theories.

1. Perhaps it’s only a virally transmitted bad habit. Teenagers sprinkle their speech with enough “you know”s and “like”s to drive the average grandparent to drink. They clearly get it from each other. Probably some prominent NPR host started the habit and the rest just unconsciously adopted it. Maybe they need to have a “sense” jar where they must deposit a quarter every time they use the word. A penny would make more “cents” but I don’t think it’s enough punishment. (OMG, I really apologize for what I just wrote – but not enough to delete it. Yet.)

2. Maybe all these sense questions are post-modern capitulation to the elusiveness of fact. The problem is that a basic mistrust of certainty, a very good trait in anyone, especially a journalist, when taken too far leads to susceptibility to spin, which is fatal to good reporting. If someone expresses an idea with enough confidence a reporter might just believe the tone rather than the substance, due to their own bare cupboard of trusted knowledge. That’s how we ended up at war with Iraq. The neocons seemed so all-fired confident with their “we make reality” stuff that the reporters and a lot of Americans just went with it.

3. Maybe it’s simply too much time in the studio. Recently I got to thinking about radio recording studios. They are a bit like sensory deprivation tanks – usually no windows to the outside world, dark, silent except for what comes in through the earphones. Maybe the isolation someone in such a room feels inspires them to reach out for more senses from those outside somewhere.

That last thought makes me a little sad for them.

I’d really love it if a genuine Public Radio broadcaster would give me an answer about whether or not this use of sense is automatic or volitional. Maybe they could even give me a sense of why they think they do it.

I will make note of especially clumsy or compulsively repetitious uses of sense on various shows as this blog progresses.

Fun Update: I asked Tanzina Vega, host of The Takeaway and a frequent sense-requester, whether this style of query was intentional or just a habit and her response was to retweet my question with the addition of an upside-down face emoji. So that happened.

Welcome – Mission Statement

Don’t get me wrong, I love Public Radio, NPR especially. My life would be far less enjoyable without it.But nobody’s perfect.

Public broadcasting in general and public radio in particular are the last bastions of content inoculated from the ever-lower lowest common denominator free market. As a result it shall be held to higher standards than the mass-media money honeys, squawking heads, and priests of celebrity worship.

Public radio has the most easily annoyed, persnickety, proudly upper-middlebrow listeners in the world, and I think I’m 99th percentile in all of those categories. So who better to start a blog solely for the purpose of bringing to light public radio’s broadcasting practices which range from great to silly to tone deaf to unprofessional/irresponsible?

For the purpose of selling recycled reports on CD, NPR touts its “Driveway Moments“, which they refer to as times when “rather than turn the radio off, you stay in your car to hear the piece to the end.”

For the purposes of this blog, I’d like to expand the in-car listening imagery by introducing the concept of “Airbag moments“. Those are the times when someone on Public Radio says something so ridiculous that your airbag is suddenly deployed when you slam your head on the steering wheel as you rant at the radio.

So I invite all you NPRs (Nerdy Peevish Radicals) to join me in ranting about a few of your least favorite things.