Thursday, May 24, 2007

One Reason We Listen Less

It's always dangerous for those of us in the radio business to project our own listening preferences and patterns on the audience but here I go anyway.

We spend less time listening to public radio now because we're trying to protect our children, ages 6 and 3, from hearing all the stories about people dying from bombs, shootings, and the occasional beheading.

Those stories have to be on the radio. That's the part of the public radio's public service obligation. As an adult citizen it is important to know the full impact of events in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is important to know what's happening in Darfur. I just don't want my children having to hear about this stuff quite yet. So we find ourselves getting our news in other, family-safer ways.

We saw the impact of the news on children during Katrina. It was impossible to not have the TV on at that time. It scared the heck out of our four year old. We did use the opportunity as a teaching moment, but kids don't need those kind of teaching moments every day.

Protecting kids from the media isn't limited to the news either. It is standard practice at our house to flip the TV channel to PBS, the Food Network, or something else safe during commercial breaks on NFL broadcasts. The commercials aren't the biggest concern here either. The promos for "24," "CSI," and whatever new scare show is in the fall line-up aren't kid appropriate. Maybe it's just me, but I don't want my children to have fond memories of Sunday's with Dad looking at video of people being blown-up or lying in a pool of blood.

Perhaps I'm a focus group of one on this matter. But maybe not. At least it is something to consider as public radio seeks to attract new, younger listeners. Many of those potential listeners will be the parents of young children. Their child-rearing instincts might just be more powerful than the need to get their public radio fix.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just the Kids thing. We are ALL just all war-ed out! Please Make it stop--or go get some damn good stories about why this is really going on. NPR has become just another source of misery, not enlightenment and hope.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...


I completely understand where you're coming from. My 5 year old wants to wake up to the "talking" station on the radio (KNOW) and I've had to tell her no, because sometimes it's too scary. Therefore, she gets her daily dose of classical each day. We don't watch a lot of TV together, and when we do, it's Mr. Rogers. Perhaps we're being overprotective, but how can you explain the devastation of Darfur and Iraq? I want to make sure she grows up with hope for our world.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous man who's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore! said...

So a promo for a fictional show about criminals with guns who are beating each other senseless is objectionable...but watching the NFL, which is a real life "show" that also has criminals, often with guns, and who are actually beating each other senseless...that's fine for your five year old?

"How do you explain the devastation of Darfur and Iraq?" I would think if you were actually doing something to stop wouldn't need to ask that question.

Granted I'm not a parent so take my advice with a big grain of salt...but I don't agree with sheltering anyone from how horrific our world is out there. Willful ignorance is how we got in this mess in the first place. For what it's worth, I watched the evening news alongside my parents from a very young age. Yes I grew up bitter and cynical, but I also grew up with the conviction to try and do something about it.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous man who's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore! said...

BTW, just to make this clear...I'm not just tilting at windmills here. I'm suggesting that public radio needs to take advantage of that white-liberal-guilt in their branding to encourage said parents to keep listening because they know it's ultimately "better for their kids" than not listening.

I don't know exactly how to do that, but I think it could be an effective strategy.

11:51 AM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

re: "Willful ignorance..."

There is a huge difference between filtering the information intake for a 5-year old and "willful ignorance."

It's been my experience that the parents who put thought into what their children are exposed raise more thoughtful children.

That, more than anything, will change the world for the better.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself, I spent less time listening to "public" radio because of the internet.

11:47 AM  
Blogger hbl said...

You mention stories of people dying from bombs, shootings, and the occasional beheading.

The problem with NPR and a number of other radio news outlets is that they narrowly focus on these violent events. There is no balance.

These things surely are happening but there are many positive things happening in Iraq and Afghanistan that are never reported. This called "selective reporting" or "bias." I wrote about this on my blog in April.

So, in the interest of maintaining a reasonable blood pressure, I avoid NPR.

1:22 PM  

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