Is there such a thing as excessively authentic pronunciation? If it exists, it has certainly occurred on public radio, where everybody from classical music announcers to news reporters seem to have a little too much fun pronouncing foreign (to them) words and names.
In this holiday encore episode of The Pub, we revisit host Adam Ragusea’s guide to finding the sweet spot between insensitively Anglicized pronunciation and pretentiously exoticized pronunciation.
We also listen back to an interview with veteran public radio host Celeste Headlee about the art of writing pronouncers — rough textual representations of how a word or name should be said.
Plus, we listen again to a talk with political scientist Patrick O’Mahen, who says his research proves countries that spend more money on public broadcasting have better-informed citizens.
“National Public Radio,” as Bill Siemering envisioned it in the beginning, would “not regard its audience as a ‘market’ or in terms of its disposable income, but as curious, complex individuals,” he wrote in NPR’s 1970 mission statement. Siemering was NPR’s first program director, though he didn’t stay long.
This week on The Pub, we’ll consider how public radio today does or does not resemble Siemering’s optimistic, aspirational vision. Also:
• A cavalcade of public radio stars attempt to read the most unwieldy sentence ever conceived by humanity — 92 words with 11 distinct clauses. John Hockenberry, Zoe Chace, Jesse Thorn, Bill Littlefield, Celeste Headlee, Jacki Lyden and Jeremy Hobson all try to wrestle this beast to the ground, with varying degrees of success.
• Current’s Dru Sefton and Tyler Falk explain why it’s time to starting caring about the FCC’s upcoming TV spectrum auction, and why even radio people should be paying attention.
In this week’s episode of The Pub, we ask a self-identified public media lefty and a self-identified public media righty the same question: Are public media people generally liberal, and what — if anything — could or should be done about that?
Also on the show:
- A little quantitative analysis to explain why fans will miss Diane Rehm when she retires next year, comparing her to her midmorning talk competitor, Tom Ashbrook.
- The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi, in breaking the news of Rehm’s retirement, once again makes substantive changes to an article about public media without acknowledging those changes on the page.
- A remembrance of veteran radio reporter Max Cacas, who died suddenly Tuesday at 61.
Public media audiences have always been subjected to an alphabet soup of brands: PBS, APT, NPR, PRI, APM, WXYZ. To an extent, this marketing nightmare has been necessitated by the organizational and technological structure of terrestrial broadcasting, in which networks with one brand identity feed content to local stations with their own brand.
But in the digital age, when national networks can serve people directly online, does it make sense to invest in all these hundreds of local public media brands on the Internet? Or should the whole public media community unite behind one brand — one front door online?
“The answer is both,” Bob Kempf says on The Pub. The former head of NPR Digital Services — a unit that exists to help local stations create their own digital products — is two months into his new job as vice president for digital services at WGBH in Boston.
This week on The Pub, we’ll ask what local stations are for in the digital age. Also:
- Barbara Sopato, director of consumer products at NPR, gives me a tour of NPR’s bricks-and-mortar store in Washington and discusses the network’s merchandising strategy — in time for holiday shopping season.
- Host Adam Ragusea argues that there is a growing rift between the people who make NPR and the people who listen to NPR, as public radio’s core audience ages.