Five at 8 – 11/4/09: The volume of the conservative voice


1) Are fly-off-the-handle media stars deserving of a seat at the political discourse table at NPR, merely because they’ve excelled at becoming media stars? Here’s Alicia Shepard, the ombudsman at National Public Radio with her view:

But if (Glenn) Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Sarah Palin or any other prominent conservative firebrand is making headlines, NPR should report that as part of the news — not to promote them but to include when putting news in context.

Three of the four she mentioned work in the media. Only Palin has traditional political standing.

Back to Shepard:

I’ve said it before, and I will reiterate it. NPR is a mainstream news outlet. Its duty is to inform the public of all that is going on — and that means airing voices and stories that many listeners might not like or agree with.

Given the vacuous nature of most news these days, it’s not a service to the listener to prove one’s “mainstreamness” by trying to be just like everyone else. Besides, the issue isn’t really about one’s views. Conservative views, of course, should be heard. And if it’s a conservative voice that NPR really wants — and this goes for liberals, too — why not make the ability to have an intelligent political dialog instead of a food fight, a qualification for a seat in the studio? To do otherwise creates the impression that all conservatives are loudmouthed fools, and that’s simply not true. Example? Rep. John Kline’s appearance on MPR’s Midday last Friday to talk about Afghanistan — and his give-and-take with callers who agreed and disagreed with him — was everything Public Radio should be.

Again, with Shepard:

But listeners deserve exposure to all sorts of voices discussing a wide range of perspectives on NPR — not just those that are palatable to them.

What listeners deserve is what public radio has promised them — intelligent discussions delivered intelligently. You cannot expect the audience to be open to different ideas by listening to people who do not have the ability to get theirs across without a flamethrower. For NPR to suggest that conservative views cannot be expressed without lowering a standard of intelligent discourse — the very underpinning of all that is good about public radio — is beyond insulting to conservatives and liberals.

A worthwhile (and related) read: Justin Kowacki takes on “an increasing public resentment toward intellectuals, literature, complexity and complicated communications in general.”


2) What word best describes your feeling about President Obama? The New York Times is tracking them from employed and unemployed people. If only I could get enough people to type NEWSCUT. But that would be wrong.

3) What’s Right With Us Department: A grandmother is robbed and slashed by a knife-wielding assailant in Boston. A parking valet armed only with an umbrella and a laid-off construction worker jumped in to help. Jay King said he had no choice. “When someone needs help, you help them,” he told the Boston Globe.

In Michigan, meanwhile, a judge has ruled a man can sue the people who beat him up and shot him after he robbed them. He’s claiming excessive force.

4) It’s magic! Scientists have realized that magicians know more about the workings of the human brain than they do, so two researchers are teaming up with some magicians. It could change the way disorders like autism are diagnosed.

In other magic news, Carl Ballantine has died.

5) Facts you can use to end those awkward silences with co-workers today: Crabs trade sex for protection.

The discovery of the sex-for-security trait helps to explain a surprising quirk: how it is that females defend their territory just as successfully as males despite their smaller claws. It is also the first known case of male and female neighbours teaming up to defend territory in any species, according to lead researcher Richard Milner of the Australian National University in Canberra.


The trial of businessman Tom Petters has focused in part of the testimony of a former friend and partner, who wore a wire to record their conversations. Have you ever considered informing on a friend?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: This year’s off-year elections are taking on more significance than usual, revealing a split in the Republican Party that could have repercussions in 2010 and 2012. Midmorning looks at election results, and the future of the GOP.

Second hour: Kerri Miller talked with authors Maxine Hong Kingston and Annette Gordon-Reed, the featured speakers at the National Book Awards at Concordia College in Moorhead.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Political analysts Tom Horner and Todd Rapp analyze the election results.

Second hour: A new documentary from American Abroad, called “Taking on the Taliban.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m. ) – First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin talks about yesterday’s election and tries to say something a thousand other pundits haven’t already said.

Second hour: We know what high fashion looks like — fragile models wafting down a runway or photos retouched to cartoon proportions. But with more campaigns featuring so-called “real women”, are skinny models passe? Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan and the editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine talk about sizing up in the world of fashion.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Elizabeth Baier has the third installment in the MPR series, stress-testing the recovery. Minnesota’s important manufacturing sector has shed nearly 43,000 jobs since the start of the recession, more than any other major industry. The pain of the manufacturing slump is acute in Albert Lea. The town has worked hard to diversify since a fire burned down the city’s biggest employer, a food processing plant. Now with a relatively heavy reliance on factory jobs, which pay above average, the town has seen a spike in its jobless rate, but things are starting to look up.

MPR’s Euan Kerr, the hardest working reporter in show business, profiles a Heart of the Beast play about peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn.

MPR’s Tim Pugmire looks at politics’ worst-kept secret: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s desire to be governor.

And Rupa Shenoy assesses the impact of a shortage of respiratory masks, and the fight over how the remaining devices will be distributed in the battle against H1N1. (Moved to tomorrow)