NPR — a driving force in our family’s travels

Customer-care representative Haywood Jabuzoff.

Statistician Marge Innovera.

Chauffeur Pikov Andropov.

And lawyers Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.

Those six workers mean absolutely nothing to you, except if you share in the same passion that fills the Frankomobile seven days per week — and especially on weekends.

With kids and family activities, we’re a 30,000-mile-per-year driving family. Car travel today is not what I remember as a kid.

Electronic toys have silenced the yelling and the “When will we be there?” cries. In that newfound silence in our 30,000 miles, a delightful sound emerges: National Public Radio.

As a kid, NPR was “that stuff at the end of the dial” that was for old people.

But same as kids’ car travel has changed, so, too, has public radio for me.

Sure, I’m one of the old people now. But so much of the programs are in step with our family. Enough so, that often during car rides, it’s one of the few times the kids will break mentally from their devices to laugh at what they just heard.

For the quiz show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” the boys imitate the opening host’s introduction: “Heeeeeeeere’s Peter Sagal.”

For “Car Talk,” you can catch the boys cackling when the host brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, erupt in sarcasm or fake ridicule toward a caller about a car issue.

The boys also know the end of that one-hour show. They’ll listen for the variety of bogus names Tom and Ray offer as fictional staff credits — the names are loaded puns that relate back to the job title. (The six workers at the start of this column are part of the fictional staff. The humor in the names can take some work; be patient.)

I’m pretty much addicted to all NPR that is not related to classical music. As WYSU associate director David Luscher said: The typical listener of public radio is age 30 to 50.

“Fresh Air,” “On The Media,” “Whad’Ya Know” are among staples on my worn radio buttons. “Only A Game” is as top-notch a sports news programming show as ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” or HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

I call it all “smart with a smirk.”

It’s at its smartest for me at 6:30 every evening with “Marketplace” and the smart smirks of host Kai Ryssdal.

The pinnacle moment for me was in 2012 when Beastie Boy Adam Yauch died. “Marketplace” that day was its typical, high-end business and consumer news. But it’s musical spacers in between the news segments were snippets of Beastie Boys tunes in tribute to Yauch. Ryssdal never announced the show as a tribute, never even had a segment on Yauch’s death that I recall.

The music was just one of those content vehicles where you either knew and got it, or you did not and life rolled on regardless.

Smart with a smirk.

I think the core NPR audience enjoys the smirk so much that they extend it a bit.

Two unofficial parts of NPR that I smirk at are the uniform sound of NPR and the names of the hosts. You can listen to public radio in Alabama, Youngstown or Oregon, and the hosts all seem to have the same soothing tone as if they all have side gigs as hypnotists.

And the names ... do you have these names in your workplaces?

Kai Ryssdal (or course); Lakshmi Singh (“Lack-shme Sing); Yuki Noguchi, Sylvia Poggioli (Pah-joe-lee), Audie Cornish, Corey Flintoff, Mara Liasson, Milo Miles, Fiona Ritchie, Nina Totenberg, Eleanor Beardsley, Uri Berliner and more ...

Even Valley native and NPR journalist Marilyn Geewax has a fitting name.

The names, when combined with the NPR tone, roll like the classical symphonies they play.

I thought it was just me with the names. But The Atlantic magazine just did a full feature solely on NPR staff names.

And funnier, a blogger also captivated by NPR host names, came up with this “Discover Your NPR Name” generator:

Take your middle initial and insert it somewhere into your first name. Your last name is the smallest foreign town you’ve ever visited.

That would make me Todad Goleen ... or Atodd Goleen ... Todda Goleen. (Tweet me which one works best.)

This past week was fund-drive week for NPR stations including WYSU. I kicked in my two cents last year (OK — a little more than two cents). And for that, I was invited to give a testimonial. I also bucked up again to invest in our family listening pleasure.

The WYSU team reports a successful campaign, with $115,454 raised and 116 new members added.

That’s nice.

Thirty years ago, I was an “I want my MTV” kid.

We’re glad to be a “We want our NPR” family.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.