Bouquets and Brainstorms from NPR Listeners

As the listeners’ Ombudsman, my e-mail inbox is mostly, but not always, the recipient of listener complaints and concerns. But for the sake of balance (and for my own mental health), I thought I would share with you some e-mails I have received that enthusiastically laud and appreciate what NPR does on a daily basis.

Some recent examples:

I like your choice of music on the radio. Keep it up. — Bryan Roscoe

I rarely watch TV and get most of my news without advertising and in detail over NPR. (Isn’t radio wonderful?) I particularly appreciate Nina Totenberg, who does a very good job of making interesting something that could be very dull, and over the many years I have been listening to her, I have never once heard her make a mistake in reading transcripts. Amazing! — Nick Doble

All Things Considered had an excellent and balanced analysis of the continuing violence in Iraq last night (March 16). It was heartening to hear NPR finally use the term "death squad" to describe those who use violence against civilians and other non-military targets in order to advance their political goals. — Ken Wright

Thanks for being there. — Bernard Rice

Patricia Williams (March 15) commentary (News & Notes with Ed Gordon) on Bush’s corporate approach to the presidency was BRILLIANT! ENTERTAINING! THOUGHT PROVOKING! And unfortunately .... T R U E. It should be replayed daily on all radio stations everywhere! — Mery Ann More

I just listened to the Podcast of Science Friday "Energy Options" 2/3/06. This made me see the energy question in a whole new light. You see, prior to this I thought the energy question was one thing. (If) you use… electricity (or) gas, you are contributing to the energy problem. And also that solar, wind and these types of technologies were viable solutions to the problem. But after listening to the show, I realize I had no concept of the (extent of the) energy problem. — Cynthia Franks

Listeners’ Story Suggestions

Listeners also write in to suggest story ideas. In my experience, the editors are receptive to these ideas and some wind up in NPR news reports. I am always happy to forward them along to the appropriate editor as I did with the following emails:

Please bring back Kevin Phillips to the NPR microphones for public broadcasts. I'd like to hear more about his recent book. — Aubrey Neas

I think that NPR should have a policy of NOT using the term "collateral damage." This is a term coined by the military to make unintended civilian loss of life more palatable. Please consider using "civilian loss of life" or "civilian deaths." I think we should be making the connection that people we unintentionally kill are mothers and fathers, grandparents and children. Maybe such attention to language would make us more cautious about whom we kill. We need to be creating bonds among different nations, and not referring to them by the technical, dehumanizing term "collateral damage." — Julie Ludwig

I encourage you to expand your coverage of the arts, particularly to less well covered areas of the arts… There is a lot of stuff NPR, I feel, is missing. And it wouldn’t take much work to find it, to present a real alternative…the Underground Literary Alliance would be a good place to start – its collection of independent writers and poets who have broken ties with the conglomerate and literati (ivory) towers, emerging from the "zine" scene of the 90s, to take writing in its own direction. Coverage of the corporate literati’s co-option of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ginsberg’s HOWL at Columbia University this April 17th would be a nice start, particularly getting some response from the underground writers of today, who are the true successors to the beat tradition, rather than the poseurs who seek to co-opt it. — Leopold McGinnis

I thought this might be a good story idea. I see many hair replacement infomercials. Do they actually work and if so, which ones are the best? — M. Quazi

I’m going to be a stickler and suggest a correction to the on-air puzzle for Weekend Edition Sunday, Feb. 26, "E.T., Phone Home with the Answers": one of the clues was "Whom a student learns grammar from" and the answer was "English Teacher". The clue ends with (gasp!) a dangling preposition — so, to uphold the integrity of the puzzle, I strongly encourage the editors to revise the clue so that it reads "From whom a student learns grammar." — Matthew Carlson

How come we never hear what Congressman Kucinich is doing? We hear news of so few congressmen, the same ones over and over, it seems. — Elizabeth Caffrey

NPR is usually turned on as this retiree makes his way through the day. What a great variety of stories and viewpoints. There is one issue, however, that I have never heard mentioned. I speak, of course, of the possibilities of industrial hemp. Even though hemp is not psychoactive unlike its first cousin, marijuana, US farmers cannot grow it or they become criminals. It seems to me that we are missing out on the burgeoning world hemp industry. 31 countries in the world grow hemp and are involved in putting together seeds that combine well with others such as cotton. The American Farm Bureau passed a unanimous resolution in 1996 to "encourage research into the viability and economic potential of industrial hemp production.” There is a secret the oil industry does not want anyone to know: anything made from the hydrocarbons in oil could just as easily be made from the carbohydrates in vegetable crops. There are so many good books to read concerning hemp. — Earl Callahan

I’m a regular NPR listener and a jazz musician. I notice that you present a preponderance (of) pop style singer-songwriters in your music programming. I don’t see why you feel it necessary to cover so much of that music when we can hear that stuff on a myriad of places on the am-fm radio, not to mention the (Inter)net. More rare is to consistently hear examples of American virtuosity, be it in jazz, "classical," Latin jazz, and avant-garde, and it’s rare to hear the great American composers of those idioms from the 20th and 21st centuries. Why not better inform us as to what’s happening in these areas? — Santi Debriano

Thanks to all the listeners who write in, regardless of whether the e-mails contain plaudits or punches. Both are needed and welcomed at NPR.

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