The BBC News Hour had just one host, a somewhat aggressive, spunky voice that lorded over the three main stories of the hour. For example, when questioning Jon Hunstman on the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the host pushed Huntsman to give his opinion on the U.S. presidential race, despite it not having much to do with the story at hand. The stories felt long, broken up by BBC ads that had music in them – the only sounds used in the program. Smaller filler stories, such as one on modeling, were also used to break up bigger stories, but I didn’t find the guests particularly engaging. The sound quality on an interview with a man who visited an Apple factory in China was a little jarring. Overall, I found the show to be jarring, mostly because of the host’s style.
NPR Morning Edition consists of shorter stories and moves along more crisply and cleanly than BBC for me. There’s also more use of interviews with everyday people whose jobs and lives are affected by issues discussed in stories. For example, a story on health care in Massachusetts included tape with a self-employed man who sells playground equipment – he talks about how the policy has made his life more difficult. And a story on the new Chinese leader included on-the-ground interviews with his friends and family in China. I like the use of ambient sound in NPR stories; a piece on Senegal, for instance, had crowd noise and music, which really set the scene and was laced underneath the reporter’s voice and the voices of people he interviewed. Overall, NPR felt more listener-oriented, more personal somehow. Listening to the BBC, I felt disconnected from the host, as if he were performing for me, rather than having a conversation with me.
1010 Wins is faster, flashier and more entertainment-driven than the other two shows. It feels dictated by people’s workday: traffic, weather and local New York news are the focus. The language is much less formal – for example, “Police are looking for three guys tonight” – voices nearly talk over each other because of the pace, and the sound bites are grittier, which all feels very New York. There is a lot of ambient sound behind every reporter and interview, which again feels like New York. It’s never quiet. This is not a format or style I can listen to for more than a few minutes. It’s effective but too hectic.
To The Point is on KCRW out of Santa Monica. The show claims to be a “daily look at the issues that Americans care about most.” It includes a mix of national and international stories throughout the week, but focuses on just one story per day. The show covered a mortgage settlement that may help banks more than homeowners, and included insight from advocates, bankers and homeowners; there was also a brief “reporter’s notebook” segment on the new leader in China. The show starts with a quick update of yesterday’s news, which included a live interview with a HuffPo journalist about the payroll tax. I found the host a little hard to follow – his voice wasn’t as crisp as I’d like – and while I appreciate that he conducted live interviews throughout the show, sometimes guests rambled on.
The NPR segment on Senegal caught my attention. The ambient sound was engrossing but didn’t distract from the story. The reporter’s voice also had a certain whispery quality that I liked.