All right, here's a confession: NPR impressed me with two recent pieces. The first was the story of neurosurgeon and professor Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, who admits to coming into the US as an undocumented worker back in the seventies. When the NPR interviewer asked him about his "illegal" entry, he thought about it before answering and then commented that all he was thinking about was that he was hungry and had to try and feed himself and his family. Doctor Quinones-Hinojosa went on to take classes, become a surgeon and a citizen.
Given the poisonous attitudes toward "illegal" immigrants so frequent in the media, this was a subtly challenging piece for NPR to air. It doesn't take the usual "pro-con" approach, but instead just gives listeners something to think about - poverty, determination and the dignity of the human spirit. A nice contribution.
The second piece had me cringing when it began: Julie McCarthy covering the upcoming visit by the Pope to Brazil. Uh oh! And it was going to talk about liberation theology. Wow, was I pleasantly surprised. Not because NPR just rolled over and gave a leftist perspective, but because McCarthy actually gave time for the spokespeople of liberation theology to explain their ideas. She didn't come down on one side or the other of the battle between the Vatican and liberation theologians and Latin American activists. Instead she reported on some of the realities that poor Brazilians face, on the realities of environmental degradations in Brazil, and on the attitudes of both opponents and proponents of liberation theology (without any condescension toward any parties). A welcome mind-blowing experience. Thanks Ms. McCarthy.