Have you ever reacted badly to a newscast on radio or TV and shouted at your set things like “Why not admit our wars in the Middle East caused all this chaos!” or “Ask him how much he was paid to mouth that b.s!” or “I’m sick and tired of hearing those stupid stump speeches!” whenever they fail to get to the bottom of things. Happens to me a lot.
Right now, one of my local NPR radio stations (WBUR, from Boston University) is surveying listeners to find out how we think they’re doing. I normally skip such polls, but given that I listen to it most days and occasionally answer phones for them I decided to pitch in and ended up at SurveyMonkey. As I had hoped, beyond the usual demographic data and how/when/where/why I listen or browse their site, they actually wanted reactions to their programming, so I belted some out.
Now there’s a whole lot I like on public radio, including NPR, but some of their newscasts don’t exactly come across as hard-hitting. Especially when interviewing politicians, NPR reporters mostly poke around the edges of issues and when they do put the critters in the hot seat they let them squirm away too easily. And most of their guest commentators and panelists are conservatives or moderates, plus a scattering of liberals a few inches left of center. Reactionaries and career establishment propagandists outnumber progressive and radical critics by an unhealthy margin. All of these practices don’t sit well with me and provided plenty to get off my chest. And so, here are their meatier survey questions with my responses.
What issues/topics and whose stories/perspectives do the media keep overlooking
Citizen protests (like DAPL, until it was too contentious to ignore). And incessant presidential contest coverage over 2+ years before elections sucks much too much oxygen out of newscasts at the expense of reporting on third-party candidates and especially social movements. I would also like to hear NPR guests who are neither conservative nor middle-of-the-road types. Get people who have cogent radical critiques of politics, economics, society, say like Noam Chomsky, Frances Fox Piven, Jill Stein, Alan Grayson. Corporate and public media totally dismiss socialism. Your “balance” consistently tilts to the right. Do something about that.
What are your favorite sources of media, and what makes them special?
AFAYC, I’m a fan of On Point and Open Source, plus programs that teach me things I don’t know anything about, like Invisibilia. In general, I find TV news and major newspapers almost worthless and don’t subscribe to any paper. I do read and write for CounterPunch which presents diverse perspectives I hardly ever hear on public radio. Periodicals I read include The Baffler, Mother Jones, YES, and the Atlantic and several unknown radical zines.
What makes you turn off WBUR or leave wbur.org?
To talk with family, listen to music, go back to writing, or when stories repeat. Also change to other stations just for a breather. Or just get mad over shallow coverage of issues. (I have a TV but almost never watch, especially network news; I depend on you, perhaps more than I should.)
What would you like to see from WBUR in 2017?
No more Valentine’s and Mother’s day fundraisers. Less attention to what prominent politicians are saying. More news from minority communities. More diverse voices, especially left of center (not “moderates”). More analysis of how corporatism is creating inequalities, blocking reforms, and greenwashing, wreaking havoc on the environment, families, communities, small businesses and minorities. More in-depth analysis of what the digital environment is doing to society. For example, loved Yuval Harari’s take on where humanity as a species is heading on On Point last night. Ray Suarez did a great job running the show.
After ranting I clicked Next and came to this: Interested to come by and talk? Share your email address.
Well, I thought, it wouldn’t hurt to do that. Maybe I can convince them to let me post writings on one of the station’s blogs. So I typed in an email alias, went back and spruced up some of my responses, and then used the final question to put out some PR.
What’s an example of a story you’d like to tell us?
Take a look at Occupying the DNC. Happy to talk. I have a lot to say (over 350 stories on that site, others elsewhere, an unpublished novel about a terrorist conspiracy, plus a new blog, but for hard-to-discern reasons your Cognoscenti page editors keeps rejecting my submissions.) I come to volunteer now and then so I know where you live.
Who can really say what sorts of stories they are looking for. Probably not mine but one never knows.
Oh, one thing irking me that I forgot to tell them is (not that it’s the station’s fault) that last summer npr.org stopped taking reader comments and threw away the ones that were already posted on story pages. Now they want us to find them on Facebook for crying out loud and comment there. I will never cry out loud on Facebook, that loathsome behemoth of a surveillance machine. I have used it, but three years ago got kicked out for “not using my authentic name,” which I had refused to surrender to them when I unwillingly signed up. FB removed (but didn’t delete) my wall and insisted on seeing my driver’s license before they would reinstate me as a data source. Screw off. Who do you think you are? The highway patrol?
But I digress. It’s just not acceptable for NPR to hide under Mark Zuckerberg’s pantaloons. It compromises the integrity of everything listeners might say there. And then there are the ads and the notifications. NPR justified it by saying moderating discussions was taxing its resources, but isn’t that sort of work what interns are for?
I hope I’m not being churlish. I’m grateful for my local NPR stations. This one produces admirable shows, and does a decent job of reporting local news (albeit mostly in three-minute segments). It’s creeping corporatism and political conformity that gets to me, but as there are hardly any news organizations out there that go against that grain I feel morally obligated to keep kvetching to whomever will listen.
Which reminds me: anyone who reads this can take that survey. Go ahead, vent your spleen.