When I was a kid, my dad used to drop me off at school before heading to work. And the one only radio station that he would listen to? NPR. Back then, I would whine and complain about the nonsensical ramblings, interrupted only by the distint three-bell tone which separated the news from traffic and weather. I didn’t understand why he – or anyone – would listen to this instead of the new Hammer or Ace of Base song.
Not much had changed, until recently. I was perfectly content with hearing Jamie Foxx croon about how its all about the a-a-a-a-alcohol and Kings of Leon whine about their sex on fire. But music gets repetitive – especially given how often radio stations play the same songs again and again and again and again and again. So instead, I made an effort to educate myself during my 30-45 minute commute to work each day. At first I tried learning a foreign language, which worked in the mornings but would be life threatening on the way back home after a long day of work. Something about repeating “ni shr mei guo ren ma?” ten times in a row doesn’t keep you awake. However, it led me to NPR. And NPR saved my life.
NPR isn’t just about news. In addition to business, world, and local news, there’s also personal stories, musicians, and many other segments which are broadcast throughout the day. Each hour is devoted to a different show, so there is quite a bit of variety, much like any TV channel. Mornings are devoted primarily to business and world news – “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” – while afternoons have arts and interesting stories – “Fresh Air” and local station programs. And you will find shows you look forward to.
In terms of detail, NPR is between reading an article and watching coverage on TV. It’s detailed, but still manages to entertain through interviews and visual descriptions.
In addition to listening over the radio, many NPR shows can also be downloaded as podcasts, including local shows from other cities. My favorite, by far, is This American Life (based in Chicago). Each episode revolves around a theme, then stories and narratives are then used to give insight to this theme. This show is oftentimes the best hour of my week. A good financial podcast is NPR’s Planet Money. The show offers a unique perspective on financial news – the hosts act as detectives who interview politicians, economists, lawyers professors, corporate executives, and others in order to better understand what is going on. Their ongoing coverage of the TARP program and auto industry bailout is second to none. This show is both detailed and comprehendable (unlike most coverage out there). Best of all, the half-hour program is great during a lunch break.
So I lied – NPR is still for nerds. But if you find yourself tired listening to T-Pain for the tenth time that day, switch it over to FM89.X (the last number changes based on the city you’re in) and you might hear something you like.