Friday, March 20, 2015

NPR, please dumb it down a bit! My brain hurts!

For some reason, NPR, which was once a station of intellectualism, has devolved to the 8th grade level, if not below.   Why is this?

A recent story on NPR made me throw the clock radio across the room.  What was annoying about the stories was twofold.  First was the simpering voices of the announcers.  They all sound like the character "Barney" from that gawdawful PBS children's show.   Or perhaps some sort of Muppet.   NPR Elmo reporting....

Second was how they dumbed-down the stories to an 8th grade level - perhaps lower.   I mean, 8th graders have had science and biology classes, right?

This morning, the clock radio took another beating.  Once again, basic science concepts that should be known to anyone who went to Junior High School, are dumbed-down for an audience of... who?

So for example, this story about Yeast and mutation, is done by Joe Palca.   First, Joe has to get all cutesy by making it seem shocking that a biologist would study yeast.  So he has the scientist repeat the word "yeast" three times.  Actually, he doesn't repeat the word, they just repeat the recording of the word by editing, which is sort of dishonest journalism, as it implies this is what the scientist said.
It reminds me of how the "Car Guys" edited out my entire half of the conversation and just repeated me saying, "Um, Yea" to everything they said, making it sound like I agreed with them.  I did not, of course.

It is more of this crappy "Radio Lab" kind of bullshit, where they dub in boops and beeps and other noises and sound effects, as if it was endlessly fascinating.   And it might be, to a small infant who spends hours with a wind-up crib toy.

But what was really appalling was the next part.   In talking about strains or families of yeast, Palca has to give them familiar family names, as if we could not possibly understand this radical concept unless it was reduced to Kindergarten levels:
SHERLOCK: What we did was we came up with a way, essentially, to tag half a million different yeast families, or lineages.

PALCA: You can think of these tags as family surnames. So one yeast family could be the Palcas, and another, the Sherlocks, the Smiths, the Jones - well, you get the idea - a half a million different surnames.
Yes, we got the idea, when Mr. Sherlock said it the first time.   No need to dumb it down for us.   Now I feel like a 3rd grader having Mr. Science Guy explain things to me in terms I would understand.  This is too confusing!  Please stop!  Yeasts have names?  Oh, put it into simpler words I can understand!

OK, so maybe Palca is a jerk, or the million-dollar-a-year head honchos at NPR are forcing him to dumb it down.  Or a combination of the two.  Palca has such a chipper cheery voice during the whole bit, that I suspect that the "family name" gambit was his idea, and he thinks it is clever.

Making things worse, NPR spends an awful lot of time advertising for.... NPR.  In the middle of the night, listening to quiet classical music, some canned ad is blared in, touting that I should listed to "All Things Considered" or "Morning Edition".

The latter as is particularly annoying, as they actually play it during the show.   "You should listen to the show you are already listening to, as it is a really great show!"   It is very annoying and really just pads out the airtime.   The tenor of the ad is interesting, too, and tells you volumes about their idea of the brain-dead demographic they think they have (or perhaps want).   "From the moment you get up, through the chaos of your morning...."

Chaos?   Your morning is chaos?   If every day you get up and your life is "chaos" then perhaps you need to sit down and re-evaluate your life.   Or perhaps this is how some folks live, twittering and tweeting and running around like they are on speed or something.

An awful lot of their "news" program is now "teasers" too - little snippets about "what is coming up next!" and most times, these are baiting deals.   If you really analyze their "news" shows, almost every story is repeated at least once or twice, and then "teased" several times (with enough information that you really don't need to hear the actual story).   If you boiled down the entire thing, it might not even top 15 minutes of airtime.   But they are on the air for hours.

Other pubic radio syndicators are no better.

For example, on APM's Marketplace the other morning, we are told that "victims" (and all Public Radio listeners are victims of one sort or another, right?) of the Target data breach may be eligible for "up to $10,000 in damages!" as the result of a class action suit.   However, when you hear the "rest of the story" you realize that of 40 Million people affected, only $10 Million has been set aside, or an average of 25 cents per person.   You could get up to $10,000 if you could show actual damage in that amount.   However, since most credit card companies quickly closed credit card accounts and issued new cards - and covered all fraudulent charges - it seems unlikely that many people will be able to get that much money out of the deal.   But they got you to listen and that is the name of the game.

We like to criticize the Right for dumbing-down America with standardized testing and trying to teach creationism in schools.   But what about the Left?   It seems that intellectualism - even among people who consider themselves intellectuals - has taken a big hit lately.

And it needn't be that way.  Can't NPR tone down the simpering, annoying voices, the cutesy sound-effects, the dishonest audio editing, and trying to explain things on a grade-school level?

Or is this the future of America?