As with most civilized Americans, I derive pleasure from listening to, and being incredibly frustrated by, local public radio’s morning newscasts. It’s a time-honored getting-ready-for-work tradition. Back in San Francisco, my ire was mostly directed at KQED’s inane, self-congratulatory “listener perspectives.”
I’m not certain why KQED radio producers think that hearing 2-minute personal monologues from local busy-bodies is in any way edifying or enriching to the general listener’s sense of their community. It’s not as if our digital media landscape is lacking in opportunities for the average citizen to speak up to the public at large (see for instance: this blog) with their trite, overwrought opinions (see also: this blog). When I tune into a news broadcast, I want to hear news professionals-actual bonafide journalists, not Joe Blow from down the street fretting over whether or not–as a stay-at-home-dad–he will look like a creep if he talks to the local moms about play-dates for his kid. Listener Perspectives is basically the NPR equivalent of Us Weekly‘s “Celebrities Are Just Like Us” feature.
Here in Maine, I might express frustration at MPBN’s broadcast of Morning Edition and its local host Irwin Gratz, except that I can’t hear him. Not a word he utters on-air can be understood.
Perhaps the man is a mumbler, or MPBN has shoddy equipment, or maybe he simply speaks in a register that my ears cannot process, but I have never in my life encountered a more inaudible radio personality. Even the King of Mumblers, Bob Dylan, puts enough oomph in his voice on his Theme Time Radio Hour to be clearly understood by anyone with a basic grasp of the English language. Not Irwin, however.
I can’t be the only one who has this problem–even ol’ Irwin himself must have trouble hearing what comes sighing and whispering out of his mouth. Having attended a college that had a healthy broadcast journalism department (I always thought it was funny that folks would say, with no hint of humor, that they were “BJ Majors”), I know that people inclined to that area of endeavor rarely suffer from an inability to be heard–indeed I remember wincing in pain as aspiring disc jockey undergads would chatter away with each other in their best Top 40 voices. So I find this predicament surprising. Maybe everybody in Maine is just too polite to tell Irwin that we can’t hear him. Or maybe our car stereo is a piece of junk–all I know is I have no problem hearing Renee Montage and Steve Inskeep, but then Irwin comes on and it’s like dead air–I’ll catch faint mumbles of local news about a closing factory, or some college kids who got stranded on an island, or local opposition to a Biddeford “Racino,” before the voice fades away into a gentle hum.
Anyway, below I provide a few uninvited suggestions to ol’ Irwin and MPBN. Good luck, I’ll keep listening to you either way!