KVEC broadcast tower, by Don Mussell; http://www.fotothing.com/DonMussell/photo/20d54af2d8617b6121289a233e368144/. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Life by the NPR schedule

On September 11, 2001, I was a high school senior. As the horror of that day unfolded, like most, I was desperate for any information I could get. Smartphones weren’t a reality, and only one of my classes that day had computers with internet access–not that online news reporting was terribly evolved back then; neither CNN nor Yahoo, the only two sites I knew to check, could handle the traffic.

As I moved from class to class, and then left campus to go to work, radio was the only reliable media I had access to. Thus, from an epic tragedy was borne an obsession with National Public Radio.

In the days after 9/11, I listened to NPR as often as I could. My younger brother particularly appreciated this on the way to school, when I demanded near silence so I could listen for whatever new scrap of news was available. An effect of this obsession was that I began to learn the timings for various programs, notably their regular news breaks.

Know that I’ve always had a penchant for retaining auditory information, like commercial jingles and station call signs–even the route of Amtrak’s regional train from Boston to Virginia after spending enough time at South Station. Surely this stimulus further enamored me to NPR.

Disclosure: I interned at National Public Radio during the summer of 2005. I am, perhaps, a bit partial–biased even. 😉

Nearly 15 years later, the practical impact of this obsession is this: any time I look at a clock, my first thought is about what’s airing on the local NPR affiliate right now and whether I can catch a newscast.

My alarm clock is set to correspond with Morning Edition newscasts. I can recall that certain programs include news bulletins at :18 past the hour, not just at the top and bottom. I take advantage of timezones and listen to NPR affiliates in other parts of the country when I want to hear All Things Considered at 1pm.

I also have this habit, likely an annoying one, of imitating NPR newscasters as they start their broadcasts. It’s part of my auditory obsession–I can identify most newscasters by voice within a word or two, and I like to test myself: can I identify them before they identify themselves. As they start with “From NPR News in Washington, I’m [NAME],” I can, almost without fail, identify the person before news passes their lips. Korva Coleman, Jack Spear, Lakshmi Singh, Dave Mattingly, Louise Skiovone, Craig Windham, and the list goes on (of course, Carl Kasell).

Starting the day with such a mental challenge is fun; I’ve no idea if it’s productive.

Similarly, I’ve been able to repeat the call signs for NHPR, WPNR, WBUR, and KCRW at various times in my life, depending on where I lived at that moment. It’s the cadence they’re delivered with, by the particular person whose job it is at that hour.

Few things in my life are consistent and predictable, but NPR is one, and for that I’m grateful.

The phrase “This is NPR, National Public Radio.” is known internally as the Nipper. Yes, it’s an homage.

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