…that I stopped listening to NPR.
Oddly, this happened at the very moment my work as a freelancer—reporting on arts and culture for NPR—was starting to take off. And before long I was a full-time correspondent at NPR in DC. But my days as a regular listener ended on January 16, 1991. On that evening, America and its allies started bombing Baghdad, and NPR turned into One Thing Considered.
This was something new. The Persian Gulf War was NPR’s moment to prove itself as it emerged from the media fringe and became a primary source of news. People would tell me occasionally NPR was their only source of news. I’d answer that I was scared for them and that they should please consider reading a newspaper!
The most worrisome aspect of the war coverage 20 years ago was its enthusiastic tone. Listeners would complain that NPR was not giving air time to dissenting voices. The official response from Ellen Weiss, then the executive producer of All Things Considered, was that research showed NPR listeners supported the war.
This was astonishing—an admission that at least one news executive there believed NPR’s role was to reflect public opinion. I was looking for a news organization to report what exists, no matter how we feel about it.
P.S.: Now that the BBC streams its services online, I listen primarily to Radio 3 and Radio 4. When I’m home. I’m eagerly waiting for the next generation of cell networks to turn smartphones into the portable transistor radios of my youth.
P.P.S.: Ellen Weiss eventually rose to the position of Senior VP for News. She resigned ten days ago as a result of the Juan Williams firing.