NPR Still Packs Passion

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NPR Still Packs Passion

(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)


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(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

 

When most individuals think of National Public Radio (NPR), they may be reminded of a time they were forcibly asked to listen to a podcast for that politics class they spent iMessaging in or, better yet, a car ride with their grandfather who practically pays NPR’s electric bills with the ungodly amount of money he’s donated to pledge drives.

Garnering the attention of suburban soccer moms, pseudo-intellectuals and professors alike, NPR has faced its fair share of criticism over the years. One Washington Post article titled “NPR is graying, and public radio is worried about it” expresses concern over the average listener age coming in at a whopping 54.

According to 2015 reports, 87 percent of the NPR terrestrial public radio audience and 67 percent of the NPR podcast audience is white. The article also mentions brand-name talent, such as former talk show host Diane Rehm, who retired at 79 years old to further “illustrate the situation” they deemed concerning.

This does not account for the fact that in the wake of a technological revolution, it is unlikely that radio is the first choice for anyone looking to obtain breaking news. It is plain to see that these facts are troubling for any media organization, especially one that prides itself on its “unsurpassed storytelling” and “rigorous reporting.”

Based upon this, I can understand why people would have reservations about liking public radio. As a long-time fan of both NPR’s news and podcasts, I can attest to the fact that NPR suits an audience with niche tastes. This can be off-putting to individuals unfamiliar with NPR. Like any other media source, it has its faults.
However, as a journalism major, I’d like to think I’m a decent judge of media, solely based on the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by it and have, almost to a fault, entrenched myself in the catacombs of storytelling.

In working at WFUV, an NPR-affiliate station, I have witnessed, through the fruits of my labor, one of the many facets I value most about public radio: authenticity. It is something that no other media source has provided me with quite as well. As both a listener and an intern, the experience is unique. NPR manages to connect with millions of Americans everyday, whether it be on the air, online or in person and yet, there is something so personal, unadulterated and dependable about NPR storytelling.

From simple deliverances of the morning news in NPR’s “Up Fresh” to deeper dives like Brian Reed’s “S-Town” podcast, NPR is constantly on the brink of topical storytelling while still maintaining its authenticity. Unlike large media-outlets such as CBS and ABC, delivery of the news does not begin with leads such as, “Coming up: what you’re eating right now could kill you.” Instead of using fear-mongering tactics or, for lack of a better term, “selling out,” NPR maintains its legitimacy by doing what it does best: honing in on the small details in striving to create a more informed public.

As a media outlet, NPR takes into account what its listeners want, which is why its most recent numbers are proof that public radio is not dying, but in fact living.
According to Nielsen Audio ratings, the total weekly listeners for all programming on NPR stations reached an all-time high of about 37.4 million in the fall of 2016 – a nearly four million person increase from the same period in 2015.

In 2016, flagship programs such as “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” reached their largest weekly audience ever, at 14.4 million and 14.65 million listeners, respectively, these news radio programs continue to be two of the largest in the country: larger than many well-known television news programs.

Whether it be on the Ram Van, riding the D-Train towards Manhattan or falling asleep in my childhood bed, some of the more beautiful and simple moments in my life have occurred listening to public radio podcasts. And while I don’t expect anyone to become NPR aficionados overnight, I challenge you to broaden the scope of your media intake as you may be pleasantly surprised by your findings.

Acclaimed public radio personality and producer of “This American Life,” Ira Glass said, “You’ll hit gold more often if you simply try out a lot of things.”