The NPR I Want

When I drive to visit my extended family, we take a route from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts that crisscrosses through upstate New York. It’s not a long drive, but it is not a trivial one either, so it’s important to have distractions in the car.

In the past, this has meant radio, but there is a problem with radio. There are large patches of the route that are, for all intents and purposes, radio- free. In these areas, the only strong signals are filled with strange genres of pop/country music or people preaching the true word of the Lord. We would hit one of these dry patches, and daydream about a Utopia where the national NPR is available everywhere. Then we resign ourselves to playing tapes (a long time ago), CDs (not so long ago), or more recently, the iPod.

The iPod, as a device, brings with it a heady promise. The promise is that you can carry your audio (and to a limited extent, video) entertainment with you at all times, and call it up at will, whenever you want, wherever you want.

Sadly, the available media have not quite come to grips with how to provide their bits in a form that can be placed on the iPod. There are licensing issues, production issues, and a myriad of other complications that make it impossible to fulfill what seems like a simple request.

This is all I want:

I want the national feed of either of the major NPR news shows (ATC or Morning Edition), downloadable to my iPod, without any of the local interruptions. That’s all.

I realize that NPR is both ethically and legally bound to the pursuit of supporting local broadcasting, and that a certain percentage of the stories in the national shows are produced by local affiliates. However, I am a cynical and selfish bastard and I really just don’t care. The problem with local NPR stations is that they mostly suck. Hardly any manage to hire competent staff. If they do manage this feat, much of the staff is wasted covering the latest regulations regarding the use of the bed of a pickup truck to haul passengers, or the most recent reason why the city government is going bankrupt. This is nothing I want to listen to.

I also don’t really care about the newscast or other segments that might be produced live and would therefore be difficult to quickly convert into MP3 format. I can get the headlines from anywhere and I don’t need NPR to repackage them for me. The national headlines tends to be where NPR is weakest anyway. Inevitably they fall into the moron pack mentality that characterizes most of modern journalism. They must report anything and everything 24 hours a day even if they have no facts and nothing interesting to say about the no facts that they have.

No, all I want are the nice stories that NPR produces for the national feed in a single audio file somewhere that is easy to download and transfer to my iPod so I can listen to it whenever and wherever I happen to be. I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for this service. Probably more than I give to the local NPR station for the privilege of listening to their nasal, scratchy voices, stuttering delivery, and the traffic reporter who is never on the other end of the phone. Almost any price would be a bargain.

I’m not holding my breath.