So Long, Neal

One of my favorite NPR programs, Talk of the Nation, aired for the last time today.

I get the feeling NPR is headed more in the Fresh Air/This American Life direction, away from call-in programs like Talk of the Nation. I can see why those types of shows likely attract more listeners; but I still have a soft spot for straight stories and conversations with an informed expert and the down-to-earth perspective from everyday Americans.

I’ve posted about shows from Talk of the Nation a lot over the years. There was the sounds of extinct objects; lot of Chris Hedges;  and a story about the fallacies of fat, to name a few.

Here’s an excerpt from his touching farewell segment:

We’re told that more than 3.6 million of you listen each week. That puts Talk of the Nation in the top ten of all talk shows in the country. The currency of broadcasting is that number: the quantity of eyes and ears that can be delivered to soap manufacturers and car makers.

To be honest, we do a little bit of that on public radio as well, but on Talk of the Nation in particular, listeners have voices, too. This program works best when we find ways to engage your stories—about your jobs and your kids; your fears and your successes; about what happened in the drought, the hurricane, the fire; what happened at school, in Iraq, or Vietnam. …

There is still so much to talk about, but that’s going to have to be enough.

Bye bye, Neal.

“A Read Down Memory Lane”

As a big journaler and keeper of correspondences, I really enjoyed this interview with author Jim Sollisch on Talk of the Nation reminiscing about finding old writings long after you’ve written them:

…I found a speech I’d given in ninth grade, and it was typed on my mother’s typewriter. And somehow, I’d gotten myself elected president of my ninth grade class. My friends must have voted a bunch of times because I was not sort of the class president type. But what was cool was that you got to give a speech at graduation, and so I was excited about that. I channeled my inner Martin Luther King and I wrote this really passionate speech and the deal was you had to review it with the principal a couple of days before graduation. So I go in and I kind of give it my best read, and she does not like the speech.

Apparently it is too – it’s not uplifting enough. And she said, you know, we have kind of a format here. You know, you have to thank a teacher in particular and then the whole teacher and say something to the student body and – so I argued with her and, you know, I lost the argument. So I rewrote the speech. She said you got to rewrite the speech. So I rewrote the speech, came in the next day, read it to her. It was kind of what she wanted. She liked it. And on graduation day I took the podium and I read the original speech.


NPR May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Say it ain’t so, Jessica Love.

New research about listening to spoken word while driving points to a link between stories that invoke the physical realms—i.e. imagining physical spaces—may make us less able to concentrate on the road:

A team of researchers, led by Benjamin Bergen at the University of California, San Diego, has recently asserted that some topics—and not particularly anger-inducing or shocking ones—may especially interfere with our ability to drive.

According to one increasingly popular theory, we process language by mentally simulating the events being described. Talking about kicking a ball requires us to activate parts of the brain required to kick a ball; ditto for comprehending the ball’s trajectory. With this theory in mind, the researchers hypothesized that conversing about topics that employ our perceptual or motor systems—specifically, how things look, sound, or are performed—may interfere with our ability to look, listen, and drive.

I think this makes a lot of sense. And it might explain while I prefer non-fiction podcasts (i.e. Talk of the Nation, On the Media, Planet Money) versus fiction (This American Life, WTF).

Friends Don’t Let Friends Listen and Drive {american scholar}

Chris Hedges on the Purpose of Journalism

“When I left the United States, I was pretty much out of the country for 20 years. So I lost touch with many of those people that I had worked [with…] But it’s interesting, since I’ve come back to the United States, I teach in a prison and have been about to start again this fall and teach with inmates.

And I think part of that is because as a writer who cares about voices—and I think this is really the mark of what journalism’s golden function is within a society, giving a voice to those who otherwise, without us, would not have a voice.”

From Looking Ahead: Chris Hedges On Poverty, Politics, U.S. Culture {talk of the nation}.

Friday Link List

Homemade ice cream hand rolled in a metal cylinder by a street vendor in Yangon, Myanmar {via little baby’s facebook page}

1. Little Baby’s Goes to Myanmar {facebook}.

I’m not privy to the details, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make up a story.

Fine Fishtown ice cream purveyor Little Baby’s has been posting pictures from their trip around the world—or at least to Thailand and Myanmar—on their Facebook page. Seems like a great way to see the world (hello, tax write off) and get ideas for new flavors, methods of delivery, etc.


2. What’s Next for Lance Armstrong {npr}.

Those lawsuits, perhaps further energized by any acknowledgment of wrongdoing by Armstrong, could take a chunk out of his net worth, often estimated at between $100 million and $125 million. And they could unravel part of the web of holding companies, corporations, and investments the former racer and his partners have assembled over the years — a web that’s too complicated to describe here, but is laid out in a flowchart by Dimspace.


3. The Fallacies of Fat {npr}.

Robert Lustig joins Talk of the Nation to promote his new book about the real reasons we’re fat. From the show’s intro:

My next guest says that some of the reasons we are fat is because we’ve been sold a bill of goods about what and how we should eat. For example, he says the health-conscious among you may opt for juice over soda. In fact calorie-for-calorie, 100 percent orange juice is worse for you than soda. He says the corollary to a calorie is a calorie is the mantra: if you’d only exercise, you’d lost weight. Not only is this wrong, he says, it’s downright detrimental.


4. New Podcast from Neiman Journalism Lab

I’m really geeking out over this interview from the second episode of Press Publish, with content strategist Karen McGrane (whose website betrays her reputation as an advocate for user friendly design):

It’s Episode 2 of Press Publish, the Nieman Lab podcast! My guest this week is Karen McGrane. She’s a content strategist and user experience designer who’s worked with a number of media companies — The New York Times, Condé Nast, The Atlantic, Time Inc., and others. (She was the design lead on the Times’ 2006 redesign — which, with a few accumulated tweaks, is still the basis of what looks like today.)