Resolutions - 31 Days of NPR

Like Santa-Con, drinking eggnog with brandy, and staying indoors (unless you absolutely have to go outside) this wintry time of year includes many traditions. One annual exercise, a promise made before the end of the year (and usually forgotten about by the middle of January) is resolving to become a better person through strictly regimenting your lifestyle, taking steps to improve your health, and committing to achieve a long term goal in order to improve your station in the new year. Or maybe you just want to stop Facebooking so much in 2011. No goal is too big or small!

I feel like I may have told this to myself before, but this New Year’s I resolve to, among other things, write here more. This website has been an ever evolving project for me, its purpose continues to change as my everyday life and the web continues to change, but after thinking over a variety of questions (many specific to the kinds of content I can contribute here), I am tempted to make this goal a reality.

The best way to make a habit stick is to force yourself to do it every day (or work for a few hours one day and schedule your posts to publish throughout the week!), but in an effort to deliver something valuable to you (the reader), I’m announcing the first in what (I hope) will become a series of, well, blog posts.

Normally on this site I would want to talk about that last great book I read or link to some fascinating photojournalism from The Big Picture or write some short post about how I should be writing more on my personal blog, but this upcoming feature will, uh, feature something my normal ramblings do not typically contain: blogging with a purpose.

There are silly ideas everywhere on the internet these days. Most can be found in the realm of politics. As much as I like to write and talk about politics, I won’t be doing that here, but I am a big fan of the news and public media, especially a little public media network known as National Public Radio, a network which, in my opinion, is one of a dwindling number of bona-fide news organizations left in the country.

There are those out there who would have you believe however that NPR, and its roster of local affiliate stations serving some of the largest (and more notably, the smallest) media markets in the country are nothing more than a liberal government-funded propaganda network intent on lulling the population into a complacent anti-conservative rage To me this is a silly notion, but for my favorite radio hosts, commentators, local affiliate (KPCC), and public media network this idea is an attack on their very way of life and ability operate on the public (read: our) airwaves.

NPR is of course funded in part by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the same people behind PBS) but this money barely accounts for 1/10th of their operating budget. Like any non-profit worth their salt, the majority of NPR’s operation is funded by donations from individuals (or as PBS likes to call it, Viewers Like You). Those donations (and underwriting) go far in providing the public with essential news and information, commercial-free, and absent of any political editorialization or corporate influence. But yeah, in part, the government helps them financially.

This help amounts to about 6% of NPRs operating costs, and according to that chart, they get an additional 10% of their funding from the CPB! But according to some, this relationship happens to make NPR a socialist enterprise. Or a communist endeavor. Or an evil George Soros-funded conspiracy (depending on which Fox News host you’re listening to). Or, as FOX News president Roger Ailes likes to put it, the network is run by a bunch of Nazis.

Given this talk about just how monsterous this organization supposedly is, it’s no wonder so many Republicans with presidential ambitions are calling for the government to defund NPR. Advertisements asking for normal citizens to sign a petition echoing this sentiment are popping up on news sites such as Townhall.com and Drudge Report, though to most the endorsement here rings a little ironic. It’s almost as if these conservative pundits funded by private money might have something to gain from eliminating a national news network that works in the public interest.

Maybe guys like Andrew Breitbart, Mike Huckabee, Roger Ailes are right though. I mean programs like Car Talk do go routinely overboard with all the shouting, race-baiting and calls for the violent overthrow of the government. If you’ve ever listened to the Prairie Home Companion you are no doubt familiar with Garrison Keillo’s constant lament about how decent folks can’t even wish others “Merry Christmas” while the devastating “War on Christmas” rages on. There’s just so much damning evidence of bias and liberal trickery on their airwaves, even the most unfamiliar listener would be able to detect it in the first few minutes of tuning (and I encourage everyone out there to do so).

But all those obviously sarcastic statements aside, NPR is fantastic. Not only are they an example of what a media network should be, but they might just be the last of their kind. Without their unique organizational approach and non-profit structure, a similar upstart news network would have their content so easily squelched and relentlessly modified by advertisers, special interests, corporate influences, and financial bottom lines. Sure, 24-hour cable news has been a player on the airwaves for more than 25 years now, but does the American public really believe that this for-profit, style-over-substance, commercially sponsored media model is the only way to operate a journalistic enterprise?

Honestly, I don’t think they do. Nor do I believe a push to defund NPR would gain any kind of major support in Congress right now (in fact, one has already failed), but if you had any lingering notions that National Public Radio is in fact a Stalinist mouthpiece of the progressive left, then I’m here to fix that.

How? Well, with a new blog post series I’m calling “31 Days of National Public Radio”!

My philosophy is if you really want to get a read on something, you should expose yourself to it and make up your own mind. Maybe you’re an avid listener of NPR, or perhaps you’ve never once bothered to tune in. But regardless of how you lean politically, I want to set out and show why I feel NPR is a valuable public resource we should all consider getting behind.

Every day this coming January I will be writing about a piece of new and interesting content I heard about exclusively on NPR (or one of their local affiliates). Given the long-form focus of their reporting, there’s a rich vein of content to tap into here. I’ll be serving up a fresh batch of news, human-interest stories, science content, and other related articles just as quickly as the journalists and NPR broadcasters can churn them out. The goal here is not to sway any political opinions, it is to simply showcase the wide variety of content, topics, discussion, and civilized debate you’ll find on public media (and unfortunately, not in too many other places).

I’m going to try my hardest to find all of the far-left progressive propaganda I’m told NPR is constantly spewing, but barring any of that, there will likely be something fresh and captivating for you to learn about here every day.

So here’s to kicking off 2011 the right way, in an informed and intellectually curious way. Happy New Year, everyone!