Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Mon Aug 21




NPR’s Weird-Name Affirmative Action

nprLocal TV anchorwomen live in fear of growing too old, in the eyes of ratings-obsessed management, to stay on air.  Public radio has a different worry:  How do we prove our commitment to diversity in the community?

Weird reporter names!

Think about it:  When was the last time you heard a normal-sounding name sign off of a 30-second segment on the NPR affiliate?  I'm not talking about foreign names.  I'm talking about NPR's Vertamae Grosvenor, a perfect brand name for Australian peanut-butter substitute but an odd choice for anyone not destined for the Ambien tones of listerner-, lobbyist- and government-supported radio.

Meymo Lyons:  A hot new piccolo-and-Mellotron thrash-folk duo from Ottawa or WAMU reporter?  Sabri Ben-Achour, ideally a self-loathing Pakistani Zionist whom Daniel Craig must stop from inciting nuclear war between Austria and Palm Springs, actually shares the studio with Meymo.  It's often assumed that Bellamy Pailthorp was David Spade's financial backer at the WASP-only fraternity in "PCU," but it's only a KPLU reporter.

Perhaps the fault lies with public radio's whitebread listener base.  Feeling guilty for picking up the phone to call INS after the housekeeper used non-organic disinfectant wipes, the ME-Chelist's quickest path to reconciliation is listening to Stefan Fatsis talk about the theology of Scrabble on "All Things Considered."  Chana Joffe-Walt, Nell Greenfieldboyce or Kajon Cermak -- any name conceivably created by Angelina or Gwyneth -- has similarly salutary effects on one's chi.

NPR and its affiliates recognize their audience's pudding-skin-level interest in other cultures, giving the most airtime to reporters and hosts with exotic, or more accurately, invented-on-a-dare names.  Like Sioux-Z Jessup at KCRW.  The few parents cruel enough to choose that one, which only a Stockholm's Syndrome sufferer would keep in adulthood, left the commune for Current when Al Gore briefly cheated on the environment with user-generated cable TV.

Ultimately, the random-letter-generator names popular with public radio pamphleteers speak to the limitless nature of our hopes and dreams.  Farai Chideya has been on every TV, radio, Internet and interplanetary-welcome-message show in part because she's our Slumdog Millionaire of Make-It-Uptimism.  Public radio's creme fraiche makes it possible for Jenny Johnson to become Wassail Oomlaut, Brian Smith to become Raifengshui Rokenrol, and every promising young rapper to become (letter)(dash)(noun).

You complete us, Adaora Udoji.

Be Sociable, Share!



You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Trackback from your own site.



Powered by Facebook Comments

Past Articles

  • 2013
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009