Telling You About Tell Me More

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11 October 2009

A good radio host is hard to find.  Brian Lehrer of WNYC is one of the gifted: not only smart and well-informed, but balances that firm yet empathetic quality that makes for a call-in host that doesn’t make you cringe, that can manage the most awkward or tense situations, that can move the conversation along without diminishing anyone’s perspective, no matter how “out there.”

I remember one episode about overprotective parenting, with guest Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, who’d drawn heated criticism for letting her nine year-old son find his own way home on the subway (and writing about it). The tenor of the conversation was generally light and wry, until a call came in from a man whose sister had been abducted when they were children and never found.  The tension was almost unbearable, but BL handled it with his characteristic gentle directness.  You almost wanted to call in and extend to him an invitation to all your family holiday dinners.

But I want to recommend to you another NPR radio host, Michel Martin.  In New York, her program Tell Me More airs on the AM channel 820 (you have to forego Soundcheck on the FM channel to catch it, and I hereby suggest you do).  It’s one of the only (the only?) NPR programs hosted by a woman of color (she is African American), and the perspective on the day’s news is generally given from alternative vantage points, with the majority of guests and commentators being people of color as well.  Martin I think holds together the mainstream and the alternative in an admirable, more-difficult-than-it-looks balance.

I particularly enjoy “The Barber Shop,” where a diverse group of male journalists, black and Latino, gab about the day’s events, with Martin as elegant and assertive-when-necessary moderator.  The other day, in a conversation about the swine flu, it was actually a pleasure to hear MM lose it a little–a rare occurrence–as she waxed passionate about all the media focus on swine flu, when, as she put it, “kids are dying every day in the inner cities.”

Check out Tell Me More — stream, podcast, etc.

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