I cut the cord with cable television over a decade ago, curating my entertainment diet to a la carte subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO, along with the occasional rental or purchase from iTunes. On the rare instances when I watch live television, like the Golden Globes or the Oscars, it’s all about the digital antenna.
Cutting the cord also spared me from cable news. In the last ten years or so, I have never sat through an entire live episode of any cable news show. I’ve only seen excerpts shared by sources I follow on Twitter or YouTube. The clips I do see have reassured me I’m not missing anything except screaming matches, bright muppet colors, spray tans, hooker hair, and layers of makeup that make RuPaul look like he has a light touch. When you break up with cable news and then see excerpts of it later, it is, quite literally, an assault on the senses. It’s no surprise that people can’t have a conversation without barking. Cable news has trained a viewing audience of millions that this volume of “discussion” is normal.
But I am an avid consumer and supporter of news and journalism, subscribing to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and The Guardian. I also enjoy many podcasts and other multimedia produced from those sources. But my main source of news is National Public Radio. NPR is the first place I turn every morning, starting with “Up First,” their daily news roundup podcast. After that, I switch to Morning Edition.
Of all my news sources, NPR is the free one. It comes over the radio, with no commercials. And yet, its coverage is deep, probing, thought-provoking, challenging, and always educational. I learn new things every day. And unlike cable news, the tone is serene, civilized, competent. It’s the grownups’ table.
Beyond live radio, the selection of original podcasts is fantastic, particularly those produced by WNYC Studios. To get a good start on things, one merely needs to download the NPR One app and just start listening. By the end of any given week, I feel informed and enlightened to the point where I’d do really well on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! And Fresh Air with Terry Gross? Are you kidding me? Is there any better interview show in all media? I think not. It’s essential listening.
Over the years, I’ve heard more than once that NPR is elitist, which is an amusing perspective since NPR is the only news source in the country that costs absolutely nothing other than a radio or internet connection. Even “free” local TV news comes at the cost of your time, with nearly 20 minutes of each hour devoted to commercials. But despite NPR’s free access, I do feel a duty to support a source that has provided me with such superlative coverage of news and interesting stories.
It’s pledge week here in Cleveland with our local NPR station, WCPN. It’s that time of the year (every spring and fall) when public radio stations ask for listener support so the station can pay the bills and maintain the highest quality standards for its listening audience. It’s neither obligatory nor mandatory. It’s just an ask of support if you can. I happily give what I can – which is not much – and it always feels good.
As a thank-you for your support, there are those iconic public radio gifts, like coffee mugs, umbrellas, canvas tote bags, crank radios, t-shirts, concert tickets, and more. I’ve gotten all of the above over the years, and I actually use them regularly. (My beloved WNYC coffee mug will be taken from my cold, dead hands.)
So if, like me, you appreciate real news, extensive coverage, in-depth analysis, and enlightening, amusing, thought-provoking and occasionally disturbing stories from all over the globe, all accessible by just listening, then consider supporting your local public radio station.