The omnipresent sound of music

There are two recent trends in journalism that I find increasingly annoying. I dislike most first-person reporting. Sure, when a journalist has a connection to his or her story there is a legitimate reason for an occasional “I,” “we” or “us,” but for

the vast majority of cases, I’m interested in what journalists have to report, rather than learning about their connection to or interest in the topic. (And I say this with the full knowledge that I have started my own book review in this issue with a first-person example! Sigh…)The second trend that irks me is that of National Public Radio, which since early this century has been increasingly fixated on music. “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” now report on musicians, play music, talk about music, end news segments with overly lengthy musical interludes, feature new music, discuss new musical groups and play more and more and more music.

Now as this is a first-person commentary, let me issue a disclaimer: I like music. I studied classical piano for about a dozen years, dreaming of becoming the next Rudolph Serkin before the reality kicked in that I simply was not that good. I’ve sung in madrigal and a cappella groups, I used to play trumpet, my daughter plays classical and jazz violin. I have a sizable collection of rock and popular music. Mine is a musical family. I listen to music CDs and to classical musical radio stations. I attend live jazz and classical music performances.

I also like public radio news, whether from the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation or NPR. Together with a blend of institutional print publications and broadcast outlets, and a variety of blogs, public radio adds a timely, knowledgeable news mix to my daily news and information mix.

But just as I like my music to be free of journalistic commentary, I want my news to be sound free. And it isn’t.

I would love to get my hands on the proprietary research NPR surely commissioned early on this century recommending the network use music to lure a new, younger, hipper age demographic. That would be the results of survey research urging NPR to fluff up its content, save money by having less hard news, conduct cheap interviews with musicians, dumb down its news and blatantly pander to older teens and 20-somethings with trendy music. But alas, I’ve tried for the past few months to unearth this information or to encourage NPR employees to talk about the musicization of their news programs. There have been no takers.

Thus my reportorial failure has driven me to use a first-person piece to comment on music infesting my favorite news programs – two trends, as I said earlier, that I don’t like. None of this has been music to my ears.

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