Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ruth: NPR doesn't "need anymore passes"

Ruth: I'm old enough to remember before there was NPR in my area. When we first got NPR it was a breath of fresh air and there are people like Nina Totenberg who've remained excellent (and possibly gotten better). But overwhelmingly, NPR has shifted to the right.

Cokie Roberts is a waste of air time. She's Miss Rona Barrett for D.C. telling us nothing but gossip and her predictions are almost always wrong which suggests she's either trying to spin to influence or else she's not even a good gossip.

Her increasing "stature" at NPR is one of the biggest problems the network has.
I know people who loathe her and have yet to find one in my circle who likes her.
She's pompous and pushy.

I'm very disturbed by the commercials NPR airs. Today, I heard about a plug for The West Wing on DVD. But I'll take entertainment over another corporate sponsor.
Juan Williams and Mara Liasson are serial offenders. Daniel Shorr just plays it safe like he's glad to have an outlet after the CBS disaster.

I don't buy for a moment that [Steve] Inskeep and NPR's Renee [Montagne] know what they're talking about Morning Edition. Bob Edwards gave you the sense that he was informed and he cared about the stories but Steve and Renee come off like snickering school kids.

I have no problem with attitude, and love Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
but I don't think it should have a place in the anchors.

Steve's voice drips with self-enjoyment at his attempts to be witty while Renee comes off like an eatery hostess: "How's the meal? Good. Is everything fine? Good."

I love The Diane Rehm Show. I don't always enjoy the guests but I do enjoy the fact that's she's obviously listening to what's being said and basing her questions on that, not a list she's working off of. Her show works because she actually listens.

I think Terry Gross is usually good but that man from The New York Times [Dexter Filkins]
got a pass from her and the question that begged asking is, "From your comments about how they save you and all the rest, it doesn't appear you subscribe to the belief of journalism objectivity?"

She also should have asked him how often he leaves the Green Zone.

Tavis Smiley had an interesting show that was worth listening to more often than not. Talk of the Nation needs real guests.

I say all of that to explain that I do listen to NPR and have since it arrived in my area.
The network has shifted to the right.

The topics have nothing to do with workers and we get a corporate take on everything.
We've also lost any ability to question the official line from the administration in the actual news programs. I find that very distressing.

I find the way the anti-war movement has been shunted aside by NPR very depressing.
I'm comfortable econmically but I know many seniors aren't and I'm very bothered that seniors only appear as topics on NPR if they're some sort of globe trotting, vacation, second house owning group. That's not reality and NPR was not created to do "lifestyle" reporting.
Morning Edition has gone so far downhill.

With Bob Edwards, I never felt he was liberal or conservative, I just felt he was interested in the news, all the news. With Steve and Renee, I just feel like they're interested only in the easy stories, the ones don't question. They come off as scripted and overly polished as they rush in with their "witty" remarks. It's as though Good Morning America has taken over Morning Edition.

Bob Edwards may be the most conservative man on the face of the earth or the most liberal, but I never got the impression he cared about anything other than telling me what happened and how.

My night ends around the time the local news goes off after the prime time line up. But I don't watch it because I'm not interested in crime reports and what stores are opening or having a sale or trend stories. I usually end the night reading a book and listening to an old vinyl album.
Tell Kat I hope she will review something from the sixties but I'd also be pleased with a review of Stevie Wonder's Talking Book or Carole King's Tapestry. And let her know this grandmother enjoys reading her reviews even when I don't know a thing about the group or album.

My day starts with The Common Ills and I'm catching up on what I missed since the previous morning. I have the radio on to NPR and listen to that. I did listen to Chuck D and the ladies of Unfiltered. And sometimes would let it run through to Al Franken (last time when he had Julian Epstein on who's very smart and reminds me of my oldest son). But I'm too old to listen to Jerry Springer talk to me like I'm in pre-K. So it's NPR all the way through except on the weekends when I listen to The Laura Flanders Show. If Sam Seder would let Janeane [Garofalo] speak, I'd listen to The Majority Report at night but I can't take the way he always cuts her off and I also don't feel that they have enough female guests.

That's something NPR used to be better about. They would have women and people of color. Now they rely on just these mouth pieces that aren't any different than what I could find on CNN. That was not how LBJ sold this project to America.

But I'll start off the day with NPR on the radio and The Common Ills on my computer screen. I'll read the excerpts and click on some links but I am opposed to any tracking so I'm careful about what I visit.

I'm one of the people who really depends on the pull quote because I do not believe that people have a right to invade my privacy because I visit their site.

I love hearing what's on members minds and I agree with what was said Saturday that a lot of important voices are my age or older and of the new crop only Naomi Klein consistently impresses me.

The resource and review nature here is very valuable to me. I'd never heard of Democracy Now! until my granddaughter Tracey showed me this site at Christmas. That's now the only news program I watch on TV. (I have a dish because my kids and grandkids like to watch a variety of programming.) Amy Goodman could have held her own back when TV news was in the news business and I'll either Tivo the episode or watch it right then if Miles is sleeping. Miles is my ten month old grandson that I watch each day.

He's a handful and more spirited than I remember any of the others being. He keeps me on my toes and brings me a great deal of joy as do all my grandkids.

Four years ago, I didn't have to worry about their futures. I felt like we realized that we could destroy the earth if we weren't careful and that we were going to address issues like pollution and alternative energy. I felt like we were taking these big steps towards dignity for everyone.

Bill Clinton was not the perfect president and I didn't agree with all of his policies but I didn't feel like we were all in danger of destruction because an idiot was in the White House.

These days I do. My oldest grandchild is sixteen and I can't believe the state of the world today and think of what she faces because the Bully Boy, I think that's the perfect name for him, was all set to break every rule of tradition and decency that allowed us to interact with each other and other countries.

He's trashed our image and destroyed the rule of the law and that honestly frightens me because I can remember Richard Nixon being president and things were bad but there were places you could go for the truth and the news didn't always look the other way.

My oldest son, Stan, bought me this computer and I've used it for gardening and cooking information. Tracey kept telling me, "Granny, Common Ills" over and like a broken record.

I like the sense of community. And I like it that people stand up here.

Like with Ireland and how the entire media was willing to go along with the administration and trash the tentative peace that had begun there. I'm old enough to remember when Ireland would be in the news and it wasn't pretty or happy. I like that issues like that are dealt with here when no one else wants to.

I love all the members for different reasons. Third Estate Sunday Review is my wake up on Sunday as I make sure the roast is almost done for when everyone comes over. I love it when they're silly, I love it when they're serious. They're doing good work. Folding Star's book chats on Saturdays are something I really look forward to because I do enjoy a wide variety books and the book chat seems to be done out of a real love for the written word. Rebecca cracks me up and reminds me of my best friend from college and a little of me back in those days.

We weren't going to live our mothers' lives and we weren't going to try to fit any box someone wanted to put us in. We can't say that or do that? Oh just watch us. And that struggle to speak in her own voice, to hold on to what is real to her, really comes through when I read her.

I buried my husband five years ago and it was a good marriage filled with love and fights and you name it but it was the end of a large chapter in my life.

Part of my reaction after that was due to grief and it was a long process. But when I wasn't part of a couple for the first time in forever, I wasn't sure what I was other than to my children and my grandchildren.

I have friends my age in similar situations who lose themselves in soap operas or talk shows. For instance, their lives are about what Erica's doing.

My best friend Treva, the one Rebecca really reminds me of, is a lifelong activist and she knew I was in a stage where it was time to move beyond the grief. She invited me to spend a month with her and I'm sure she was hoping I'd be traveling the country the way she does. I don't know where she gets her energy but besides being worn out, I also missed my family and really couldn't see a life on the road even when it's dedicated to fighting the good fight.

And I came back here and probably would've ended up parked in front of the TV becoming the good consumer they encourage us to be. But then the Bully Boy started making war noises nonstop and no one ever questioned him. That's when I gave up on TV news.

I lived on letters from Treva, telling it like it was really was and letting me know all the rallies and all the people that never made it into "that's the way it was."

Then Tracey started getting political and I was just so proud of her. I'd ask where she heard about this or that and she'd tell me from a friend and beg me to tag along but I always felt like a third wheel, a very old third wheel.

So this community has given me a great deal. When I read about NPR, I thought, "Okay, this is something I can give back." Because they have shifted to the right, not the center.

This didn't happen last year or three years ago, it's been going on for some time. I was nodding at the part about giving them a pass allowing them to continue moving right.

Right now they're doing a lazy, uninformed report on Social Security. Earlier, they had a strong interview with Jane Fonda. In the past, I would have given them a pass and taken the attitude of "well it evened out in the wash."

I would have been so grateful that in these dark times we could hear Jane Fonda on the radio that I would've given them a pass on other things. But why should I be grateful?

NPR's lucky Jane Fonda agreed to an interview. She's a two time Oscar award winning actress who is an international celebrity.

I shouldn't be grateful that she's on NPR, I should expect it. And pushing talking points of the administration in other stories shouldn't be a trade off I'd have to make to hear her.

I started thinking about how far I've seen NPR sink and how in ten more years, at this rate, I'll be listening to someone who won a reality show contest because they will have become so afraid of booking anyone that might upset the loud but small right wing.

They do not need anymore passes. Near the end of Morning Edition, my daughter usually drops off Miles. Sometimes she's early and if that happens, I won't be able to get an e-mail out to you. But on days when I am, I'll try to do a little review of what stood out on Morning Edition that morning. I'm not sure what time you post on your end and it may not be soon enough to go up that morning but you're welcome to use it because that's something I can do and this community is about finding out what can we do.

I'm getting my friends up to speed on the sunset provisions of the Patriot Act and why those don't need to be extended. We're working on letters because, although I've offered the use of this computer, they're really more comfortable with writing a letter.

But I think I can do this too. I may not be able to get something to you five times a week but I will get something to you to share with the community.