The Best NPR Shows and Why It’s Great, Free*, Entertainment


old-radio.jpgOne of the first things I do in the morning (even before I have a cup of coffee and say good morning to my wife!) is turn on NPR (National Public Radio).  Listening to the news wakes me up and gets my brain going in the morning and I’m grateful that NPR is available as a free (well, somewhat free; more on this later) resource.

I started listening to NPR as a freshman in college and have been hooked ever since.  I not only listen to my local NPR affiliate (WNYC), but I scour the web for the best NPR shows and programming.  I listen because, like a good puzzle or game, it really forces your brain to concentrate and follow arguments and logic via language (as opposed to TV which, of course, is partly visual and not as deep given the 30 and 60 second TV spot formula)

NPR provides tremendous value; it is technically free, but the organization and the affiliate stations rely on both fundraising and government funds (the latter being the smaller portion/source of operating cash, so you should contribute if you can).  Here is a bit more on how NPR works; I really encourage folks to donate to their local NPR affiliate station.

NPR programming provides:

– Probably the best news source in the US (yes, it’s better than MSNBC, CNN, Fox, etc.).

– A few stellar news analysis themed shows.

– Tons of cultural and general interesting themed shows.

– Music themed shows.

In terms of the best NPR programming available, I listen to the following shows on a weekly basis (either via a podcost or streaming on my laptop):

All Things Considered
The show has been on the air since the early 1970’s and it’s all about the day’s news (including commentary, analysis, interviews, etc.)

Fresh Air
Terry Gross hosts Philadelphia based Fresh Air and her primary focus is the “interview.”  And next to Charlie Rose, no one does interviewing better than Gross.

The Leonard Lopate Show
A WNYC based show hosted by Leonard Lopate (formerly called New York and Company).  Lopate focuses on general interest topics including books, the Arts, music, science, movies, etc.  Leonard can come across a bit dry at times, but his shows are usually interesting and worth listening to.

Studio 360
All about pop culture and the arts with host Kurt Anderson – great, great topics!

On the Media
In-depth analysis of the news media business.

Selected Shorts
Well known actors reading the world’s greatest short stores on the air; the show is incredibly intoxicating and will mellow you out after a stressful week at the office.

On Point
Another general interest show out of WBUR, the host is Tom Ashbrook (the show is hit or miss but I try to tune in often; this show replaced the Connection with Chris Lydon which, in my opinion, was the best show on NPR before management fired Lydon)

This American Life
Technically a PRI (Public Radio International) show, Ira Glass hosts this quirky “variety” type show.

Part of American Public Media (who owns tons of public radio stations in the US, Kai Ryssdal hosts Marketplace which is best business show on radio.

Car Talk
Everyone knows “click and clack” (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) – two Italian MIT grads who talk about how to fix cars amongst other interesting topics.

Morning Become Eclectic
The show is out of KCRW in California and is hosted by Nic Harcourt.  Harcourt is responsible for launching the career of many well known artists in the US.  Harcourt often has bands and singers on his show before they make it big.


  1. Vin, You know I love you. But I have never heard of any of these shows. Just pony up $12.95/month and get excellent programming on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. I know…$12.95/month isn’t being frugal yada yada yada.

  2. I was a mamber of WNYC for 20 years and stopped when they switched to all the talk shows during the day instead of my beloved classical music. Now it’s only on at night – during the day, when I am in my studio, I have to listen to another public radio station somewhere else in the country, on my PC, if I want classical music.
    NY is the only major city that does not have at least two classical radio stations. Pathetic. But Vincent Reyes – I have to say that at least the talk shows on NPR are intelligent on every level.

  3. Thanks, Evan! Vin, I can’t justify Sirius or XM, hate the monthly bill thing.
    Rayna, I know lots of folks who got upset over various stations moving more towards cultural/news/long segment talk (from classical music). I think it’s nice to have a balance of both (I couldn’t listen to talk or classical all day!).

  4. Vinny, I became a daily memember for the first time this year! Though, I have been listening for years:)

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