On Q last night, a tech journalist and a computer science professor debated the question: “Is the Internet making us smarter or stupider?” I missed out on listening to it on air, what with Twittering and Facebooking, and keeping track of all that email, but you can listen to it now (on the Internet) on the Q program page. Just off the top of my head, I would say the answer is “yes.” Both smarter and stupider.
The radio, on the other hand, always seems to make me smarter. Maybe that’s because I mostly listen to public radio.
I can’t count the number of “driveway moments” public radio has brought my way–experiences so intense that everything else had to be excluded until the experience was over. A riveting story–being there with Anne Garrels in the midst of war-torn Baghdad, or totally absorbed in an excruciating conversation in a StoryCorps booth, or transfixed by a new musician pushing the boundaries of what a genre can be.
Having a good liberal arts education, my understanding of things is broad, but a little–shall we say–thin. Fortunately, public radio has made a specialty of deepening the listener’s understanding of complex news, politics, science, arts, economics. And it works. My library is filled with authors I discovered on air, my iPod is full of performances I first experienced on the radio, and my understanding of issues and events is informed by intelligent reporting and analysis. So I listen pretty much every day, and pretty much every day, I hear something that makes me smarter, or wiser, or saner, or more joyful.
I value public radio more than any of the many other media sources that crowd into my life. That’s why I’ve given a chunk of change every fall since the late 1970s to keep this rich, deep, fresh source of “smarts” going in my life. I hope you will join me in making a gift to North Country Public Radio now. As of this writing, we still have nearly $100,000 to raise before the drive ends on Saturday.