by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 8, 2015 8:44 PM

When we got satellite radio several years ago, one of the stations I made sure to program into my 18 buttons was NPR. While I rarely listen to the regular radio, I also have the local NPR station programmed into my FM stations. I think it's one of two. In Los Angeles, I had two stations programmed, one out of Santa Monica, the other out of Pasadena. If I'm in the car it's not uncommon for me to turn the satellite off at the top of the hour to ensure that I hear the news, both the national report and then the local. I love hearing "I'm Ann Taylor," or "I'm Lakshmi Singh." It brings me comfort.

When I listen to NPR, I feel a sense of peace, even when I'm disgusted or horrified by the news. I trust them. They are simply reporting, often in depth. There is no agenda. It's just good information. I don't always like what I hear. I don't always agree with it. But I respect it.

This morning on my way to get my hair cut, I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show. She has a shaky voice due to spasmodic dysphonia – she’s also 78 –  but once you get used to her, it's a pleasure to listen because her guests are smart and civilized; her topics are always relevant and interesting. Not surprisingly, today she and her guests were discussing the events in Paris yesterday. It was highly intelligent and in-depth. It made me think about the concept of free speech and what it truly means. Even the callers and the emails that are read on the air were well thought out, articulate and nice. I say that because I've become so used to the vitriol and nastiness of some online comments. It's a breath of fresh air to hear people being respectful and thoughtful. It renews my faith in humanity. NPR does that for me, and for others.

I've never understood why Republicans want to get rid of funding for something that is so vibrant and so vital for a well-informed public. I suppose because maybe a well-informed public wouldn't be so willing to support them. Not all republicans think this way. I've heard that some actually enjoy NPR. They should. It's what freedom is all about.

At one point NPR was simply National Public Radio. It replaced the National Educational Radio Network following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This act, signed by President Johnson, also created the Public Broadcasting Service. Founded in February of 1970, it had its first official broadcast in April of 1971 when it covered the Senate hearings on the Vietnam War. Its longest running program, All Things Considered had its first broadcast on May 3, 1971. NPR was primarily a production and distribution organization until 1977 when it merged with the Association of Public Radio Stations. It’s now headquartered in Washington DC and funded largely through endowments of $258 million annually. There are 900 national stations. The average listener is Caucasian, 49 years old with an annual income upwards of $93,000. You’d think Republicans would love it.

Today NPR produces and distributes news and cultural programming. Individual public radio stations are not required to broadcast all NPR programs, and most broadcast a mixture of NPR programs, content from rival providers like American Public Media, Public Radio International and Public Radio Exchange as well as locally produced programs. NPR's flagships are two drive time news broadcasts, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Both are carried by most NPR member stations, and are two of the most popular radio programs in the country. 

I've listened to both of those, and then some, including The World with Lisa Mullins and Marco Werman, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I feel smarter when I listen, I feel like there are smart people out there in the world who are trying to make us all better humans. It makes me want to know more about things I didn't know about before listening. That's the mark of education, information and an informed public. And it's worth celebrating every day.

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