On Friday Roger Ebert posted an essay to his excellent blog singing the praises of public radio. Today I thought I would join in.
I have long had what I consider the very good habit of seeking out perspectives and points of view other than my own. Unfortunately, that good habit also left me with the very bad habit of spending several hours every day listening to the likes of Dennis Miller, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh on the radio. For years I rationalized this, which did nothing but make me angry on a daily basis, by telling myself that I was knowing my enemy. Said enemy not being political conservatives — since, as Ebert has argued previously, the histrionic lies and distortions spat out day after day on right-wing radio cannot fairly be called conservatism — but irrationality, whatever its political persuasion.
Then I discovered my local NPR affiliate, WYPF, which exists only to simulcast WYPR from Baltimore. Like most public radio stations it sits very low on the FM dial (88.1). And like most public radio stations, it is an oasis of clear thinking and civility. Dig what Ebert has to say:
NPR brings fresh air into my mind, and not just with Terry Gross's show. The hosts seem calm and civilized. Their questions are good ones. You never catch them being clever for the sake of being clever. It's not happy talk. It's in good taste. NPR obviously makes a lot of effort to bring in guests that are appropriate to the subject; a lot of pre-production goes on. There's no catering to prejudice. No agenda.
There are radio essays from around the world. Local sounds and voices, sometimes with a translation. Tastes of Africa or Asia. Foods and rituals, emergencies and heartbreak, music and whimsy. A taste of BBC news. Some programming from Canada. Hour after hour, day after day, its standard of quality is daunting. Read the whole thing at the excellent blog by Roger Ebert here. And do yourself a favor and check out some public radio, if you are not already a listener. Some of my favorites are A Prairie Home Companion, This American Life, and Talk of the Nation, particularly the science shows every Friday. It is a national treasure. My experience has been that most of those who accuse it of having a liberal bias have not been listening. The only biases I detect on public radio are ones for fact-based journalism, fair and intelligent discussion of issues, and bringing as much of this country and the rest of world through my speakers as possible. Those biases I can live with.