Thursday, September 06, 2012

I Heart NPR

As I drove to school this morning, I thought about Solenosteira macrospira -- marine snails that live off the coast of California.  They were the topic of a story I heard on NPR, and they got me thinking, "Is it just me, or has NPR gotten cooler in the last few years?"  It could be that as I get older, I go the way of most adults and develop the patience for talk radio.  It could also be that I live in a city like Austin, where all things weird and idiosyncratic are celebrated and intellectualism is the way of life.  (It is home to one of the largest research universities in the world, after all.)

I remember listening to NPR when I lived in Atlanta.  I got into it because it seemed the most effective way to spend my time while I drove the 45 minutes to and from work each day.  Some days, I would be so riveted with a story that I'd just sit in my parked car in the driveway and finish listening.  (Usually it was an interview with Terry Gross.  Ohhh, to have her job . . .)

Back then, NPR had a decidedly high-brow kind of feel.  These days, it seems to be the hippest thing on the air.  They have Tiny Desk Concerts, an eclectic food blog, and a wide range of news stories that are sure to appeal to someone.  Even the website,, is hip -- with its user-friendliness and NPR Shop of cool merchandise.  (And have you checked out their Valentine's e-cards?)

So this is a question for you, readers.  Is it really just me, or has NPR gotten cooler?  If it has, why?  What has changed?

Addendum:  Because I'm a nerd, I checked out a couple of books about the history and culture of NPR, and here's what I found:  From 1980 to 2010, the total number of radio listeners increased by about 38%.  The total number of NPR listeners increased by 765% in that same time period!  So something is happening . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: alarm clocks


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