An open letter to my favorite radio station

I love Oregon Public Broadcasting. If I'm listening to the radio, I'm listening to OPB. This American Life is pretty close to the top of the list of things I love to hear on OPB. If you don't listen to it, you're missing out. If you do listen, well, OTIS IS RESURRECTED! 'Nuff said.

But this week's show really and truly crossed the line. Regular commentator Dan Savage did a piece endorsing verbal abuse of children, a la Alec Baldwin.

I'm not much of a complaint-writer. It's just not normally something I do, even though I threaten it from time to time. But this one (in conjunction with my wife's encouragement) got my fingers tapping the keys. And, in all honesty, if you heard the broadcast I'm talking about, let me encourage you to speak up as well. Here's what I sent OPB:

Ok, so it's true: I'm not a member. And I know I should be, as I've been listening to OPB for close to a decade now. If I promise to pledge during the fall drive, will you listen to a complaint from me anyway?

This American Life is the show that got me into OPB (and NPR) in the first place. I *love* it. I disagree with viewpoints presented on it all the time, but it always offers perspectives I have never considered and causes me to think through things in a new way. The final piece (the only one I caught) in this week's episode, however, absolutely crossed the line.

I'm sure I don't have to describe it for you; it was the one by Dan Savage with the Alec Baldwin clips. As the parent of three kids myself, I listened in horror as he condoned and even encouraged verbal abuse of children. I kept listening for the twist, the moment where things turned around... and it just wasn't there. The piece was nothing less than wholesale endorsement of childish parents screaming obscenities at their children.

I'm sure TAL would defend this piece by telling me it was satire -- at least I hope that would be their response -- but the truth is that even if it *was* meant to be a satirical piece, our community contains many, many children who live in families much like the one Savage described. The last thing these children need is for their parents to be able to tune into OPB and have their parenting 'methods' *normalized* by a piece such as that.

As I said above, I don't expect OPB or TAL to always adhere to my ways of thinking or my own personal standards -- that's what diversity is about. But OPB should give no ground to a voice whose words encourage a society that is harmful to children.

Thank you for listening to the thoughts of a soon-to-be member.


Neal said...

Yuck. My stomach turned the day this "news" item broke about Baldwin. He doesn't deserve those children. People like him don't deserve children. There are thousands of loving families who could only wish to have children to love too. Baldwin is sick in the head. And it sounds as though this radio guy is slipping too.

Jeana said...

Wow, it was really disappointing to hear about that piece on OPB (which our family loves, too). You're letter is excellent and I hope it elicits a response from them.

Anonymous said...

I went ahead and listened to the piece. A couple points that really bothered me were how Savage noted that all children are born as sociopaths and it is up to parents to yell that out of them. He also shared how sometimes yelling at your children is better because otherwise you might accidentally spank/swat your child. I don't have children, but I am certain verbal abuse is no substitute for physical punishment.

Let us know if you hear back from the station.


Jed said...

I got a far more thoughtful response than I possibly expected. I responded tonight asking for permission to post it, I'll do so as soon as I get that permission.