Best Radio Station For News 

KUAT-AM, 1550; and KUAZ-FM, 89.1

READERS' PICK: If it weren't for National Public Radio on KUAT and KUAZ, we'd have absolutely no idea what really is going on beyond our little burg. Tucson has a dearth of good national and international news, unless you want your daily diet of the latest disaster on the front page of the morning rag. Mitigating that dismal situation some is the excellent coverage on NPR's Morning Edition, Fresh Air and All Things Considered programs. Here you do not find the rat-pack feeding frenzy, i.e. journalism by consensus. No follow-the-leader journalists following the leaders for endless strings of empty 10-second sound bites. Rather, listeners are treated to a melange of voices and opinions, not to mention the wonderful ambient background sounds, ranging from the lowing of cows on a farm-relief story to the screeching of a subway on a concealed weapons story. NPR's story roster goes afield from the presidential news conference/two-party candidate drivel/tragedy-of-the-day stories. Minute sound bites are eschewed for the transient, transparent, meaningless words that they are. When blues great Charles Brown died, NPR spent many generous minutes transmitting eloquent eulogies from others in music, playing his compositions, telling of his youth and education as a classical musician and engineer, and explaining how he came to be rediscovered. During the war in Kosovo, NPR had regular reports from a dentist, who spoke of how the strife affected his patients, his business, his neighbors and his children's innocence. (KUAT-AM broadcasts from sunrise to sunset, while KUAZ-FM is on the air from 5:30 a.m. to midnight.)

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: KXCI-FM, 91.3. The popularity of KXCI as a news source is an interesting phenomenon, since the station carries only an hour and a half of hard news programming Monday through Friday: Democracy Now, from 9 to 10 a.m. and Pacifica Network News, from 5 to 5:30 p.m. Both focus on the news from a liberal perspective, with an emphasis on human rights, corporate misconduct and environmental issues. PNN has even found itself in the news with its personnel policies sparking angry protests in Berkeley. Democracy Now enjoys being the fly in the ointment of traditional news coverage, recently disrupting a journalism awards ceremony to question a U.S. ambassador reluctant to grant an interview. If you didn't feel paranoid about how corporations supplant government policies, about the injustices in the application of the death penalty, or the scale of human rights abuses in the world, you will after a few sessions. With these two shows, KXCI spotlights the news that the networks would rather ignore.

KXCI also covers a wide range of local issues in its eclectic programming. Shows such as The View From Slightly Off Center, Out Loud, Native Caller, Chicano Fist and Half-time at the Apocalypse, to name a few, offer unique and local perspectives you won't hear anywhere but on this plucky little station.


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