IDEA #69. Listen to an entire episode of On Point on public radio. Call in with something thoughtful to say, and pat yourself on the back if you get on the air.
On Point is one of a number of syndicated interview and call-in shows on public radio; there are also numbers of regional and local programs of the same sort. Most feature an interview with one or more experts on a particular topic; sometimes the interview is with a single author, public figure, or artist. At some point listeners are invited to call in with questions and commentary; most show like On Point screen callers to ensure a very high quality of discussion.
Like This American Life, programs like On Point assume and require a level of awareness of and interest in the “deep background” of events and issues, and the experts on tap do not condescend to listeners in the level of conversation or vocabulary. In a nutshell, such programs provide, along with certain magazines and newspapers, the raw material by which many knowledgeable, thoughtful people inform themselves and form opinions about the major issues of the day. They require a certain degree of intellectual discipline, and the beginning listener may even want to have at hand an atlas or a dictionary to chase down stray facts that arise—a program segment on world affairs may focus on Vanuatu or South Sudan or Nunavut, and the active listener will need to know where these places are.
Call-in portions of such programs do not represent a significant change in the level of discourse. Calls are screened for relevance and, it can be imagined, for tone and overall quality; seldom does one hear callers who simply spout unsupported opinion. But many callers are in fact asking questions of the participants, and there is no lower age limit on the ability to ask good questions—for clarification, for further information, or in response to speculation (what if?). Producers seem to favor younger callers who demonstrate a serious interest in a topic, and so the young listener should not hesitate to try, at least, to connect. A successful effort is a feather in one’s cap, indeed.
And if the idea of calling is daunting, if the young person’s schedule doesn’t quite fit the broadcast time, or if On Point is not available in your area, On Point and most programs like it are available as podcasts from their related websites. (On Point‘s is here.)