Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A reflection on why I hated "Marketplace", and why I was an idiot

When I moved to Southern California from Santa Barbara in September of 2007 and took a job at a wine bar in Culver City, a locale almost 45 minutes away, without Los Angeles traffic, from my then-home in La Habra Heights, I found myself in my car for at least two hours a day. While I had a handy iPod connection to my car's stereo, I exhausted many of my music possibilities within the first few days. Anyone who knows me well enough knows how much I love(d) driving by myself, how I would crank up the volume on my speakers to un-conversationally loud levels so that Conor Oberst was sitting in my back seat, so that Q-Tip and Phife Dawg were droppin' lyrics at my feet. But living at home again and taking weekend trips to the store with my mom turned me on to NPR, specifically KPCC (stationed out of Pasadena City College, KPCC is the Southern California version of NPR) to listen to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me or A Prairie Home Companion. I started thinking I should try NPR out for myself, since I was still in limbo when it came to which website to follow, and for that matter highly untrustworthy of any online news source. And so, around October of 2007, I tuned in to 89.3 FM, ready to absorb anything this station threw my way.

It was love at first listen. I adored Pat Morrison's wit and vocabulary: she was almost an inspiration for me. Larry Mantle's Air Talk was usually just as frustrating to listen to as it was entertaining, and Fridays almost always had Film Week. Robert Seigel and Michele Norris usually guided me through most of my trip. If I was lucky, I was able to catch the tail end of Fresh Air with Terry Gross as I was driving home. But there was one show that always irked me, that never caught my interest, that I would inevitably tune out or just turn off altogether: Marketplace. It wasn't so much Kai Ryssdal, the show's host, who bothered me. It was mostly all of the doom and gloom they were spouting, the index numbers that made zero sense to me, the NASDAQ and Dow Jones numbers that were constantly falling, and mostly just all things economic that seemed, at the time, completely unimportant, trivial, and, to put it in fairly juvenile language, booooooring.

But slowly, the tune of this show began to change from (for me) uninteresting to almost apocalyptic. News was never positive. It began to worry me that the NASDAQ and Dow Jones Industrial Average were rarely up from the previous day. And Kai's almost irreverent voice and attitude were also beginning to wear on me. Little did I realize therein lies the brilliance of this show. I had started tuning in to NPR not only at the veeery beginning of the presidential primaries, but also at the onset of our current recession. Of course everything was going to be doom and gloom; our economy was tanking. It's with mild regret that I didn't pay more attention to this show, that I didn't recognize that Kai's humor was a way to soften the blow and to make this otherwise somewhat boring news digestible for the average audience member.

This post was inspired by an interview with Kai I found on, one of the media news blogs I've started following for my Media Industry Perspectives class. Here is a link to the interview, which I found fairly interesting; I especially enjoyed his answer to the following question:
Who do you see as Marketplace's main competition, and how do you think you're doing against them?

Our competition comes on two levels, really. On the macro scale, we've got to deal with the same issue everyone else in journalism does -- the sheer amount of information that's out there, online, on the air and on paper -- and how to make ourselves stand out. More specifically within public radio, business and the economy is the story right now, and a lot of other programs have raised their game. I think the things that have set us apart from the beginning -- our attitude, how we go about telling the stories behind the numbers and statistics -- have really helped keep us ahead and set us apart.
If any of you out there listen to NPR (which I can't seem to find time to do any more) let me know: how is Marketplace nowadays?

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