I originally wrote and published this article on The Moderate Voice.
We’re in between pledge seasons at NPR right now, but I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment while I sing the praises of one of our national treasures: National Public Radio.
I am a young man, so you’ll forgive me for counting NPR among my most recently acquired tastes. As a boy, I caught snatches of NPR’s programming while I was in the car with my parents, or would sometimes hear it playing quietly from an old stereo in a corner of a doctor’s waiting room.
Despite these brief glimpses into a larger world, it took me a number of years to gain a true understanding of just what it is that NPR stands for. And I’m not talking about the acronym.
One Simple Change
Several months ago I set the radio in my car to WITF, my local NPR member station. Since then, I haven’t looked back. It’s now the only thing I listen to while I’m in the car, with the exception of longer trips. I catch Morning Edition every day on my way to work, and I drive home with Terry Gross and Fresh Air.
Making this simple change has improved my life in some remarkable ways, not the least of which is the effort I save myself by leaving the iPod and its messy cables at home where they belong.
More to the point, I’m simply a better informed citizen than I’ve ever been. And it’s not just about keeping up-to-date with political and social issues—it’s also about pure, simple learning. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t learn something that makes me say something like “Why have I never asked that question?” or “I can’t believe I didn’t know that.”
Because it is, at its heart, a non-profit organization, NPR is by definition one of the purest sources of information we could hope to have at our disposal. Unlike 99% of what you hear on the radio or see on the Internet, NPR programming does not exist exclusively to make money. As a news, entertainment, and information platform, it exists simply to, well, inform. I’d have a hard time saying that about the other vacuous morning shows you might hear during your commute.
If Liberalism Is Wrong…
So what about NPR’s apparently famous “liberal bias”? Certain people close to me seem determined never to listen to NPR, and have even gone so far as to claim they “hate” what it stands for.
To begin with, let’s look at the word liberal for a moment. We’ve turned it into the antithesis of conservatism, and so, by that definition, NPR is definitely, substantially, liberal in nature. If conservatism is performing the same action over and over again hoping for different results (How about those 60 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Or the many failed attempts to curb income inequality with trickle-down economics?) then I want nothing to do with all that.
If we use these well-established definitions, there’s little doubt that NPR subscribes to liberal ideology—if you want to call it that, rather than simple common sense. But the fact that they can discuss and even champion liberal politics and policy without verbally abusing their dissenters is something you may well have given up hope of seeing in your lifetime. NPR isn’t about partisan bickering—it’s about how to move the country (and ourselves, on an individual basis) forward.
How to Support NPR
How often do you buy coffee at a coffee shop? Do you think you could do with one less coffee every month? That’s what I did when I became a Sustaining Circle member for my local NPR station in Harrisburg. The minimum is just $5 every month. And you get a cool coffee mug, besides. You can check here to find local NPR stations to support.
Not everyone reading this right now has disposable income to pledge to charitable causes. But if you want to voice your support for high quality, informational, and educational programming, I can’t think of a more worthy way to spend a few bucks each month.
Oh, and if some of you are still hung up on Mitt Romney’s tirade against public funding for NPR and PBS, I’ll remind you of the facts: just .012% of the federal budget goes to public radio and television. If that’s not a price worth paying for continued journalistic excellence and programming that actually educates the public, then I don’t know what is.
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