Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Are You a Public Radio Listener?

Listening to Minnesota Public Radio's station KNOW on the way home today, I heard the announcer ask, "Why are you a public radio listener?"

It made me realize I've been listing to National Public Radio and local public radio programs for 30 years. Just after graduating from college in 1982, in the midst of the Reagan recession, I lived in an apartment with a couple of friends. One man was a vegetarian who, when considering whether he should move in with us, had said he would cook dinner for everyone if we would agree not to have meat in the house and to eat what he made. (Thanks, by the way -- it was then that I started to love vegetables.)

None of us were stupid enough to say no to that. And so each evening, he would cook in our small kitchen with the radio tuned to our local public radio station, WKSG, during All Things Considered. I still remember them reporting on how the stock market was going up and up, while unemployment also went up and up, as I looked unsuccessfully for my first post-college job.

Blue handwritten looking type that says I love the Diane Rehm Show
In 1983 I moved to Washington, D.C., and listened to WAMU (broadcasting from American University). I made my first donation in 1984 or '85 while I was making $12,000 a year. It was during my favorite program, the Diane Rehm Show. I had the mug I received as a premium for that donation for quite a long time, even though it eventually cracked. I recall it was printed in something like Reflex Blue ink, with kind of a New Wave design of boxes and grid lines, plus the typeface Mistral spelling out "I love the Diane Rehm show."

WAMU also played bluegrass music in the afternoon, and while I hadn't been much of a fan of the genre, I soon became one.

Moving to Minnesota in 1986, I quickly discovered the powerhouse known as Minnesota Public Radio. I already knew about A Prairie Home Companion, and was happy to take my parents to see it live when they visited during my first year here. I even gave them Powdermilk Biscuit mugs one year for Christmas.

The last 25 years of listening have blended together since that first year. I've been listening while MPR's interns grew into experienced reporters and parents, when shows and hosts changed locally and nationally, and despite what seems like an increasing number of sponsor messages.

Why am I a public radio listener? Mostly because I'm addicted to knowing what's happening in my world, country, and state. And while MPR (and NPR) are not perfect, they come a lot closer than anything else I've found. MPR is part of what makes Minnesota a place worth living in, despite the cold winters, a place dedicated to citizenry and to citizenship. Shoot, I better stop writing, or I'm going to cry.


peppery said...

Aw, this is great. I grew up listening to MPR and learned the theme to All Things Considered at a very young age. It wasn't until I moved away from the state that I discovered just how awesome MPR is.

Unemployed Dragon said...

I love this reflection! I first started listening to NPR while at Binghamton, and I can still hear Karl Hass' voice say "Hello everyone!" at the beginning of his show Adventures in Music. Oh! How I miss that show!

I too listened to Dianne Rehm on WAMU during my years in Washington. It was from her show that I learned what really good public affairs radio is.

To this day public radio is what I listen to 90 percent of the time, and I'm always surprised when I encounter someone who doesn't know what NPR, KQED, or KALW are.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I became a member in the 1970s for the classical music, and I've continued non-stop mostly for the news and public affairs programming. Keri Miller, for example, often knocks my socks off.

Daughter Number Three said...

I don't think there was a public radio station in my area while I was growing up. Maybe by the time I was a teenager.

I like Keri Miller, too, as you know -- and I also loved Katherine Lanpher, who preceded her in that slot.

And how about that Science Friday?