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07 March, 2013

NPR Edited my 15 Seconds of Fame

You edit me, I'll edit you.

Irked by an All Things Considered story touting a new record on the stock market, I posted about the Dow Jones Industrial Average and it's faults. NPR, of course, fell in line and had their Planet Money guy do a related story the next day.

So I wrote 'em a letter, congratulating them on the second story and calling them to task on the first.

Today, stuck in traffic, ATC got to the part where they read listener letters, and vain dude that I am, my ears perked up, somehow thinking that my first letter ever to them would be one they would read on air, especially when the intro featured one of the Dow Jones stories.

Then they read a letter from a guy in Portland, Oregon, and I figured they'd filled their NW quota, and pretty much stopped listening. Because yes, it's all about me.

And then they announced my letter! I think you can still hear it here.

The announcer started reading my words, "Thank you, thank you, thank you! for Adam Davidson's doing the math and lamenting the media's ridiculous fixation with the Dow Jones Industrial Average." They read the part where I called it a proxy for overall economic performance that dissolves with the least critical attention. Blah blah blah.

Or actually, just blah. Because they cut out the part where I said the Dow is a bad proxy because it will rise on news of 10,000 layoffs. As well as the whole second half, in which I critiqued the previous day's report for it's lack of critical attention, pretty much the same points I made in the original post.

It's no surprise to me that my letter was edited, but I'd always thought they would do that for the sake of time, and in my case their edit transformed my letter from a mixed bag to a kiss-ass praise. Seems dishonest, especially since I'm guessing they could have found another "You're story was great!" comment in the mail.

I also learned a couple of other things. One is certain: that the "Help us pronounce your name" part is completely ignored when you write ATC a letter. My name is not pronounced like it is spelled, so I offered a phonetic version, to no avail. The other lessons are more speculative. Having sent the message immediately after the story I commented on (ATC begins at 3PM here, so admittedly it was delayed from the original air-time), I suspect they snatch the letters they read from the initial comments. Also, I suspect that beginning with the suck-up repeated thanks increased my odds.

My geek-fame is over now, but it was kinda cool that right after that I walked into a class and the prof had heard the letter. Maybe someone else did too. Lemme know, because yes, I am that vain.


  1. The original text
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! for Adam's doing the math and lamenting the media's ridiculous fixation on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It has become a proxy for the economy's performance, but one which dissolves with critical examination. How many times has the Dow jumped on news of massive layoffs? (Plenty.)

    Unfortunately, your previous day's coverage of the record-that-is-not-a-record lacked this critical awareness. After an expert explained that companies removed during the Great Recession included AIG and GM, eliminated because they were "taken over by the government." Like it or not, the federal government is a major part of our economy, but the reporter did not question this statement's implicit assumption that the US economy is pure capitalism and the government an externality. (Nor was the expert's statement that Kraft had been replaced by United Health recognized as the market's acknowledging a progression from processed food to treatment of its after-effects.)

  2. Well, your ex brother-in-law heard it, and one of my coworkers heard it - and I missed it! The link does work, though, so I'm getting the replay.