NPR Lite vs. NPR Different

An interesting discussion broke out in the comments section of a recent show post, and I'd like to take a minute to respond. The discussion centers on whether the BPP represents the introduction of "NPR Lite," programming that lacks the depth that NPR listeners have come to expect.

I must say, while I understand how the perception could arise, I disagree with the characterization of the BPP as "NPR Lite." I think of it more as "NPR Different." Shows like Morning Edition, All Things Considered and so many others are phenomenal shows, but we aren't trying to emulate them. We could never do what they do as well as they do it, and we don't see a need to try, since they already do it so well. But that doesn't make what we do (or strive to do) "lite." It just makes it different. (The term "lite" suggests that something has been removed without being replaced by something else, and I don't think that's the case.) Just as I don't think we could do what they do, I also doubt, with all due respect, that they could do what we do (or strive to do).

This discussion is not unlike the debate over whether Chicago-style or New York-style pizza is better. Chicago pizza is thick and dense, full of delicious gobs of glorious cheese and fillings. When you eat one, you plan your night around it, and it rarely disappoints. New York pizza is nimble and flavorful, with a type of crust that leaves a chef little margin for error and a construction that makes it conveniently portable.

But I can tell you, as someone who's lived in both cities, that pizzerias in Chicago don't know a damn thing about making thin crust New York-style pizza, and places in New York don't know a deep dish from a trough. So which style is better? NEITHER. They aren't even the same food. They're both amazingly awesome in their own rights. Just like other NPR shows and the BPP.




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The Bryant Park Project is in my opinion set up in such a way that it reaches out to all audiences. This isn't the type of news program that only appeals to highly educated adults. I think there is an interesting vibe from the BPP that is different from other NPR news shows. Luke and Allison are both fun and intriguing in their conversations and reports. I'd be interested to know what kind of people have been commenting on this blog. I wonder how large the gap is between age, race, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political points points of view. Once the BPP starts airing this October, I'd also be interested to see how many new NPR listeners are drawn into the morning program.

Sent by Sean Powers | 6:18 PM | 9-10-2007

I'm on Team Different. To me, the BPP is filling a gap that exists in NPR's programming, not re-treading trails blazed by established NPR shows.

Since I started listening to the BPP, I haven't listened to any less of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In fact, I think I'd get less out of the BPP if I weren't also listening to the more traditional news shows. It feels like the BPP is trying to provide supplemental information rather than less information.

Another difference between the BPP and other NPR news shows (for me, at least) is that I listen to whatever portions of ME and ATC are on while I get ready for work, commute, etc. and that's it. Whereas I listen to the BPP start to finish every time. Because the BPP isn't simply passing on the news of the day, they are analyzing it from a sometimes neglected (by NPR) perspective. With some fun thrown in.

Don't get me wrong, I adore traditional NPR, but the BPP is adding to it, not replacing it. It's making the pie higher.

Sent by Maura | 6:35 PM | 9-10-2007


BPP should fret more about how NPR member station programming managers feel about it more than what the public does at first. Typically, Morning Edition is the second most listened to news/talk radio show in the country with only The Rush Limbaugh Show ahead of it. Thus, the show is a cash cow during pledge drives. Thus, programming directors will think hard before tinkering with their Morning Edition slot. I feel that BPP can do well, but those member stations need to see that as well.

Sent by Steve Petersen | 7:06 PM | 9-10-2007


I'll accept "NPR Different" as an acceptable term to describe BBP. However, the second hour of Friday's show was definitely "NPR Lite."

I think it is important that BPP can do well as a talk show that is much more conversational than other public radio news shows, but it must select compelling, interesting, and meaningful stories to anchor different hours. Some of the stories can have a lighter flair, but the conversation should remain intelligent. I have had many fun and conversational discussions that were intelligent -- some of them about tabloid topics. For instance, I would love to hear historians discuss what future historians will think about today's society when they come across Britney Spears, TMZ, the new caveman show, etc. What do these people/things say about us and our culture? I can see plenty of room for Alison and Luke to joke around in such a discussion.

BPP will do well if it selects serious stories and puts a young conversational style on it while trying to find meaty aspects in lighter fare.

Sent by Steve Petersen | 7:15 PM | 9-10-2007

i think you're absolutely is hard to get accustomed to anything too "different" and perhaps this is a case of too many of us delighting in being asked to "judge" what's on the menu and how it's're right...who wants to go to the same kinda restaurant all the time!!! i hope the bpp stays fresh, original and full of surprises for whoever shows up...thanks for your clear, respectful thoughts

Sent by jay | 7:34 PM | 9-10-2007

*Alison, not Allison

When I found out this afternoon that my local NPR station would begin airing The BPP starting Oct. 10, I almost flew through the roof.

Sent by Sean Powers | 8:37 PM | 9-10-2007

In my last comment, I mentioned historians pondering about what their future counterparts would think about contemporary society. Why stop at historians? Why not include other specialists like anthropologists?

Sent by Steve Petersen | 10:50 PM | 9-10-2007

My program director for the NPR station I work for in Columbia, Mo said you guys would be interested in airing reports from freelance producers. This to me is sooo exciting. What's great about this show taking place on the radio AND on this blog is that your listeners are just as an important aspect to The BPP's production as you are. Allowing people to contribute to the show's makeup would be fanatastic.

Sent by Sean Powers | 1:38 AM | 9-11-2007

The BPP never has been and never will be NPR lite. The term itself is an oxymoron. It's very different, presents fresh thinking and viewpoints and is entertaining. Is that a bad word?

Heaven forbid the news be presented in a matter which actually requires you to approach it from a different perspective and may give you a chuckle or two. And shame, shame on Luke and Alison for injecting the least bit of humor that at times can board on sophomoric themes (which I happen to find refreshing). And what gives Pash and Win the audacity to include video as another medium to cover topics? Who are you people? If it's not from Steve Inskeep or Robert Seigler it ain't news right? Wrong. You people really should open up your minds.

And for the inquisitive I am a 24yr old black female who has always listened to NPR and will continue to do so. I'm glad that NPR is branching out with the BPP and Michele Martin's show, but let's not insinuate that we outside of the older white male stereotype are only just beginning to listen to NPR or that we will only tune into BPP because it's already cut into bite-size pieces for us.

Sent by Tameika | 10:03 AM | 9-11-2007

And let us not forget what BPP does not have: no This I Believe, no Story Corps, no reading from children's books. When that stuff is on, I'd rather listen to Rush. At least he is funny.

Sent by purple R | 12:15 PM | 9-11-2007

Cool! Another Geddy Lee fan! Oh, wait. Never mind....

Sent by andy carvin | 1:31 PM | 9-11-2007