Why Everyone Should Be a Radio Nerd

I am a self-professed and proud radio nerd. As I start this article, I am waiting for a podcast to finish because I don’t want to stop listening.

I’m one of those people who listens to the end of the credits for NPR shows so that I can say out loud “This is NPR” with the host. When I drove up to Portland to see Radiolab Live and missed the first 5 minutes because of a ticketing fiasco, I exclaimed “Do they know how big of a fan I am!?” because clearly they did not understand how much this meant to me. And maybe you also don’t understand why someone would be so obsessed with radio.

Well, let me tell you why and hopefully convince you to join me.

1) You will learn more than you ever thought possible

Over just the past few weeks, I have learned how big companies like Hulu or Netflix come up with their brand names from 99% Invisible, how to carry a Trapper Keeper so that I look cool from How to Do Everything, the story of a photographer who takes incredible pictures of people who die from loneliness in the supposedly happy state of Denmark from Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything, what a re-branding of marijuana would look like for the new age of legalization from Studio 360, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Every time I put on my headphones, I expect to hear something new and interesting, and probably something I never would have learned on my own.

I am not one of those people who spend hours scrolling though Wikipedia articles absorbing facts, but I do love to learn and I find that I do that best through stories. If I read a textbook about one of the scientific concepts presented by Radiolab or an economic theory described on Planet Money, chances are I would neither understand them nor remember them. But if I listen to Radiolab explain how water can have difficulty forming ice through a story about a fleet of horses flash freezing in a pond, I will never forget it. To me, listening to radio is like the best possible education: lectures full of vivid, engrossing stories that expand my knowledge without having to do any homework.

2) You will have so many stories to tell

One big perk of listening to radio is that you will always have something to talk about. I often start many of my conversations with “So I was listening to this radio show, and I heard this great story….”

While I understand the concern that this might come off as annoying, believe me when I say these stories spark intense conversations. Many radio shows specialize in the stories you don’t hear on mainstream media. Radio producers often spend years doing intensive investigative journalism to present stories that don’t get covered by broadcast news or made into movies. Take, for example, This American Life’s award winning two hour Harper High School series, which covers gang culture and violence in Chicago like you will never hear anywhere else.

If you walk away from listening to that story without wanting to talk to someone about it, I would be shocked.

3) You can listen wherever you go for FREE!

People often ask me “When would I listen to radio?” and I respond “When do you listen to music?” Anytime you want to listen to something while doing a mindless task is a perfect time for radio.

Obviously, driving is the best option and, believe me, nothing keeps you safe and awake while driving a 15-hour road trip by yourself than listening to podcasts. I also like to listen while walking to school, or cleaning, or exercising. I heard, probably from some radio show, that you actually shouldn’t listen to fast-paced music while exercising because it heightens the stress. I say: what could be a better solution than listening to conversational stories that distract you from (if you’re anything like me) how much you hate running?

And if you have a smartphone or MP3 player, it’s really easy to download podcasts for free. You can subscribe to shows using a mobile app, iTunes, or podcast feed program, and they will automatically download to your device, giving you tons of continual entertainment. Lots of podcasts even have their full archives available, so you could become obsessed with say Stuff You Miss in History Class and spend a whole year listening to it.

If you don’t have an iPhone or iTunes, there are many other ways to listen to free podcasts, so you have no excuses!

4) There is a radio show for everyone

I am not exaggerating when I say that there is a radio show for everyone! There are literally millions of podcasts just waiting for you to download them. I guarantee you will find one that is tailored to your interests, because Rule 43 is true: You can find anything on the Internet if you are willing to look for it long enough. Podcasts are so easy to make that anyone with a niche interest has already found a way to talk about it (though, admittedly, not all of them are fantastic quality).

Let me give you some suggestions to start you off:

There is so much great radio to explore. I challenge you to start listening and not become a radio nerd.

Photo by Gali Levi-McClure
Photo by Gali Levi-McClure
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