Though I am a partisan of long form storytelling, here I am lauding another aspect of that great radio program: its ability to consistently broadcast voices that sound different from what we normally hear when we get the news. If your news diet is mainly newspapers, you get quotes so short that they’re mostly stripped of any personality. Television news gives the misleading impression that everyone in America speaks in the accent-less manner of the typical anchor.
But if you listen for very long to This American Life, you’re reminded how big a country America is, all the regional accents it encompasses, and its delightful regional expressions — and by extension, you gain perspective about the size and diversity of our polity. For me, this underscores the wisdom of deciding many issues at the local level. I am sure others draw different lessons, perhaps as worthwhile. The point is that America is a much bigger, broader place than is generally portrayed in mass media, and we’d all understand the country a bit better if more media outlets did as good a job of rendering that as Ira Glass and team.