News

On NPR, All Trivia Considered

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Yesterday I drove from my mother’s house back home and listened to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered from 4:25 to 6 pm. I couldn’t believe how much trivia I heard. Egypt is in crisis and the Snowden case leads to the detention of a leading journalist’s partner, but NPR’s signature show sounds like Muzak for the entitled.

Some of the stories that the network put time and energy into: 

–Texas barbecue, for nearly 7 minutes. Brisket is the Pinot Noir of Texas barbecue and it’s really hard to make, because it can dry out. I feel I’ve heard this story 500 times.

–More food. Two minutes on a book about a duke’s cookbook from the 1930s. Medallions of egg.

–Tech devices are getting rid of buttons. Gesture controls. Clappers. Phones went from dials to buttons once. Who knew.

–How do you pronounce the word “comptroller” in NY city race? I s— you not. Three minutes and thirty seconds.

–A story about some obscure bespoke Paris luggage maker, nearly 6 minutes long. Suitcase that fits the car’s wheelwell. How do you say yawn in French? 

–Vacation horror story. A couple goes to the Dominican on their honeymoon, and the groom slips on the pool tiles and gets an X-ray. The production values are lavish: lots of funny musical interruptions. And this is an ongoing series?

–This new novel can be held up to your smartphone and you’ll get added clues about the main character. Nearly 6 minutes.

OK, I’m leaving out the serious stories that I heard, below. But does NPR understand the times we live in? A massacre in Egypt, the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner for 9 hours at Heathrow, and they’re not having serious discussions of these issues? Both those stories got under 4 minutes, a lot less than the bespoke luggagemaker with the unpronounceable name.

One of my beliefs about the internet is that it’s undermined the mainstream media by robbing it of a traditional role: questioning authority. If you question authority, you go on internet; and the MSM misses that stuff. That is to say, in the old days, the MSM had to do some serious subversive stuff because it was the only game in town. Now it’s lost that function, so it’s become Muzak.  

P.S. Here are the serious stories I heard. They mostly come in at under 4 minutes: Federal task force on Sandy. 3:18. Some discussion of global warming. A great report on national digitized library plans. Japan considers getting rid of constitution imposed after World War II. 5:04. Serious reporting, touching on human rights. Detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at London Heathrow. Important story, of course. One expert calls it an attack on journalism. But only 3:53. Obama administration resists cutting off aid to Egypt. 3:55. Though there’s the usual prevarication, from talking head Anthony Cordesman, about our interests in Egypt: they’re the Suez canal and a flyway for possible Syrian intervention, before Israel is mentioned. Seriously: a flyway for possible intervention in Syria?

45 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Thanks Phil, Here’s a story nearly everyone has missed. Secretary Kerry last week in Brazil giving a pep talk to the diplomatic mission there, and lamenting the decline of dictatorships and the rise of the internet because it makes it harder to govern: “I’m a student of history, and I… Read more »

I think the internet has been a huge pro for truth…and yea, for propaganda too…but I also think it has a tendency to make people ‘internet activist’—-spend a lot of effort on discussing as we do here —instead of more direct and public or street protest directed at the powers.

NPR=Neocon-lite Propaganda Radio; or, Neoliberal Propaganda Radio (same thing).

Commercial MSM started abrogating their responsibility for hard news before the rise of the internet, when they started paring back their staff of journalists to contain costs and maximize profits. The remaining staff was expected to fill the same amount of space with less time to do investigative reporting, often… Read more »

I think NPR has been irrelevant as a news source for at least a generation. William Blum, author of “America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy” , called NPR, National Pentagon Radio because there’s always some four star general or neoconservative pundit trotting out the latest reason why we have to invade this… Read more »