Apps for audiophiles: NPR One

Media

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It’s Pandora but for NPR stories and I’m hooked. The app is not new but I can’t keep it to myself anymore, especially after talking to so many people that don’t use it or aren’t aware of it’s existence.

Recently I’ve put my finger on why I enjoy the app so much: it’s easy to use. The first time you fire it up you have to select your local station so they’ll know where to pull local stories from to mix with national pieces, news and podcasts. But after that you just press the play button and you’re done.

In contrast, today I downloaded the Stitcher radio app, which is also a pretty impressive app for listening to podcasts and news. But there are a lot of settings and the UI is busy. When I have the time and energy I’m sure I could customize the app’s sources of content to make it a really easy to push and play too.

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But NPR is easy from the start. It’s become a routine before I do anything mindless: walking to class, dishes, laundry, playing NBA 2K11. My player puts up 44 points and I learn about overcoming medical obstacles in space on Fresh Air. It’s a win-win.

There are so many options for where to get media from. I’m overwhelmed sometimes. It’s nice to have a curated list of stories. Yes, it’s a solution newspapers provided before the Internet created the “problem” of too much information. But now that we’re in the thick of the Information Age, NPR One provides an elegant and user-friendly way to wade through the clutter and get news and entertainment.

Another benefit is the diverse mix of topics combats the bad news fatigue that many criticize the media for. TV news has been accused, especially, of portraying the world as crime and doom (“if it bleeds, it leads”). And the app obviously includes news reports of a campus massacre in Kenya or the war in Yemen. But there’s also Wait, Wait. . . Don’t Tell Me, book reviews and more.

I don’t think the news is any less substantive if it includes entertainment and human interest. If anything, I think that’s more accurate. The world is so much more than violence. A report about a firebombing can live side-by-side with a This American Life story about a toddler who bribes his brother into being a vegetarian for two weeks with toy cars. Because in reality, those two stories do live together. The content curated by the NPR One app informs, inspires and entertains in a simple and accessible way. It’s greatest strength is the power of its content is expanded through the app, not limited.

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