It was a particularly bad day to listen to NPR this Friday. We got 4 and 1/2 minutes on the ongoing search for prime numbers; almost seven minutes devoted to an R&B gospel group; a surprisingly long interview with a tax preparer explaining that business is brisk this time of year; a few minutes in anticipation of the presidential puppy; and, of course, continuing in-depth coverage of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta. (Although I must admit this last one was marginally less painful than Tom Goldman's interminable article Thursday on the greenness of the grass at the Augusta golf course.)
Don't get me wrong, I understand that ME and ATC are magazine shows, and not every article needs to be hard news (although I suspect many readers of this blog would argue that ANY hard news would be an improvement). Also, I completely understand there is such a thing as a slow news day, when editors fall back on long, boring filler pieces.
I only bring it up because over the past week, NPR has devoted some relatively large chunks of time to allowing corporate CEO's to present their propaganda, unimpeded by opposing view points. On ATC Thursday, Robert Siegel gave us eight and a half minutes of unchallenged happy talk from Wall Street brokers, including Bank of New York Mellon CEO Robert Kelly explaining how un-toxic and yummy those toxic assets really are for America. ME's Renee Montagne gave Chrysler vice chair Jim Press several minutes to give a commercial for the federal bailout for his company.
If NPR were having such a hard time finding news to fill the time, they could have given a few measly minutes to some of the myriad other voices on these issues, folks who have been working to expose and dispell the spin of these corporate CEOs. The options are almost endless, of course, but as an example they could try Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research or the auto industry watchdogs at Public Citizen.
Taking the cake, ATC gave us almost 9 minutes of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein defending executive pay and the Wall Street bailout. This one was particularly maddening because the article opens by explaining that a recent speech by Blankfein was interrupted by people protesting the billions of dollars in bailouts that Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street companies have received. If NPR has so much time to kill that they can offer us two and a half minutes on how spring is a good time for spring cleaning, they could have at least given a few seconds to these protestors.
One last thing, to be clear, I liked the R&B gospel singers just fine. But seven minutes...?!!!