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Things You Don’t Expect to Hear

Things You Don’t Expect to Hear

Last night I arrived in New York where I’ll stay for the weekend. I had a late dinner with some friends in Gramercy and saw a huge motorcade that, presumably, held some foreign dignitary.

The best part of my night came on my ride home. I turned off the cab’s TV because I overheard none other than John Batchelor on the radio… in a cab… in New York!

I listen to Batchelor a bit, though I did more when I was in high school. He’s one of the few radio hosts who really presses me to think and learn. I struck up a conversation with my driver. “Do you listen to Batchelor every night?” “Oh yes, he’s very good.” Yes, he is.

I trust many of you have heard of Batchelor but, in case you haven’t, here’s a profile from 2006:

Mr. Batchelor, 57, has described his show as the BBC without British accents, but others in the world of talk radio have referred to it as NPR on drugs. A typical episode combines world news reports with interviews of guests who are almost always in another time zone and tend to run the gamut from foreign correspondents to leaders of militant groups in the Middle East, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“It’s so much more exciting to interview terrorists than American politicians, who never, ever have anything interesting to say,” Mr. Batchelor explained.

There is no call-in segment to the John Batchelor Show. Mr. Batchelor prefers instead to let his guests do the talking and then move rapidly from one subject to the next, with no downtime. And for added suspense, each segment is set to the strains of tense and sometimes warlike music from films like “Hotel Rwanda” and “Gladiator.”

“This is an audio experience,” Mr. Batchelor said. “Providing as many different voices, and as many different accents, and as many different points of view of the same story as possible gives the listener the feeling, correctly, that whatever we’re covering is a global event.”

For Mr. Batchelor, a former novelist, there is a good reason for the show’s global perspective. In his world, segments on the show are not so much “reports” or “interviews” as they are “chapters” in what Mr. Batchelor considers the larger story of the United States in a post-9/11 world.

The show first went on the air the day after the attack on the World Trade Center.

Anyway, I highly recommend it if you aren’t hooked already. (I have enjoyed segments with Richard McGregor, David Grinspoon, and anyone from the WSJ editpage.)


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Kathleen, yes John is very good, and has a lot of interesting co hosts and guests. Though I don’t listen as often as I should, I tuned in every day after 9/11 and learned a lot. He scared the sh*t out of me then too.

He also has a podcast, which is excellent listening late at night just because of all the spooky music he chooses.

I listen to Batchelor several times a week. His guests are often very interesting and seem reasonably well informed. However, I find him to be less informed than his guests and terribly pretentious. And his bump music is intolerable.

The host’s pretentious snobbery makes his monologues difficult to endure but the show is often very informative…

Thanks, Kathy. I’ve never heard of him; I’ll have to listen sometime. I got on his site and e-mailed it to my son. I think he might be interested in it.

If I could only listen to one radio talk show, having to choose between Limbaugh, Levin, Batchelor and all of the others, it would be Batchelor. Learn more there than any other show. A great seminar, every night. Good stuff.

Take good care.

“I turned off the cab’s TV”

Cabs in NYC have TVs? Whatever for?

    Milhouse in reply to barbara. | September 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Yes, cabs in NYC have TVs. You can look at a map of where you are and where you’re going, or you can be “entertained” by a channel that bores me out of my mind, but I guess if I were tired it would be something to watch.