At NPR, we know there’s a difference between the news that you listen to, and the stories you love.
This year, there was a lot of news that grabbed your attention: several major hurricanes; a new president in office who is ripping up the conventions of Washington; and terrorist attacks both at home and abroad. But we also reported on stories that help us understand how to make our lives better and what makes us human beings tick. The former types of stories we feel we need to know about, the latter we enjoy knowing about.
We can track your favorites by what you tell us as you’re listening. Our NPR One app allows listeners to mark stories as interesting, or share them. We also can see how long you spend with a story. (See details on our algorithm.) That means we can rate NPR’s top audio stories based on so-called “listening rates” and also by “love rates.” We collect this data to learn about how to present our stories more effectively.
What you loved
This year you responded positively to stories that helped make your life better and to stories that helped you understand issues that aren’t always apparent — such as the effects of housing laws and the words we use.
1. Millionaire By Age 30? One Blogger Offers A Few Not-So-Easy Steps
This story from Boston member station WBUR is about Grant Sabatier, a broke college graduate who decided that he was going to make $1 million by age 30. He explains how he scrimped and saved himself to a life of financial freedom. It’s a story that suggests we can live our dreams if we work hard and put our minds to it.
2.’The Color Of Law’ Details How U.S. Housing Policies Created Racial Segregation
This isn’t a happy or inspirational story, but it is a fascinating conversation with Richard Rothstein about his book, The Color of Law, which details how federal housing policies in the 1940s and ’50s mandated segregation and undermined the ability of black families to own homes and build wealth. It uncovers a little known system of laws that created a system of unequal opportunity that we are still living with today.
3. Flattening The ‘Mummy Tummy’ With 1 Exercise, 10 Minutes A Day
NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff signed up for an exercise class to get rid of her “mummy tummy.” For many women, the growing fetus pushes apart the abdominal muscles, and the separation often stays open after the baby is born. But science suggests there is an exercise that can fix that.
4. When The Brain Scrambles Names, It’s Because You Love Them
Have you ever heard someone run through the name of everyone in the family, including the cat, before spitting out your name? That memory lapse is explained by this story. Don’t worry. It’s because we file the names of the people we love together.
5. With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves From Alternative Facts To Alternative Language
We heard a lot about “fake news” this year. At first, that term referred to news stories that were entirely made up. But then President Trump started calling actual news stories he didn’t like “fake news.” According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, this new use of the phrase “fake news” could be a genuine threat to democracy.
What captured your attention this year? In a word, politics
When we look at the stories that did the best job of holding our listeners’ attention, it is clear that there was an insatiable appetite for stories that help us understand the big twists and turns of politics in the Trump era.
1. The Political Implications Of Comey’s Firing
In May, the president fired FBI Director James Comey in a letter. In this story, NPR’s Domenico Montanaro and Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold unpack what happened, why it happened, how it connects to the Russia investigation and how Congress is reacting.
2. ‘Daily Beast’ Reporter Uncovers The Curious Case Of Trump Fan Nicole Mincey
What started out as the story of a Twitter bot became strange. President Trump retweeted a compliment from a Twitter user named Nicole. When people looked into who she was, it appeared she wasn’t a real person. Except she is, but it’s not that simple. This story unpacked the influence of Twitter and the ways reality can be hard to divine.
3. Trump Issues Ultimatum To House GOP On Health Care Bill
In March, President Trump told House Republicans to either vote for the current GOP health care replacement plan or leave the Affordable Care Act in place and suffer the political consequences. NPR’s Mara Liasson and Susan Davis explain that for years, an oft-repeated Republican campaign pledge was to repeal so called Obamacare, but even with control of the legislative and executive branch, the party was coming up short on the votes needed to make that pledge a reality.
4. Trump’s Thursday News Conference, Explained
President Trump held his first solo news conference in February. National security chief Mike Flynn had just been removed, the president’s choice for labor secretary turned the job down and other appointments were held up. The president took questions for an hour, said the media is being “dishonest” and said his administration was running like “a fine-tuned machine.” NPR’s Susan Davis and Mary Louise Kelly talk through whether the White House at the time was a fine-tuned machine or was in need of an overhaul.
5. U.S. Must Probe The Extent Of What Russia Did, Sen. King Says
Also in February, the White House made a statement about President Trump and Russia, and then hours later, new information contradicted it. NPR’s Steve Inskeep spoke with Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent aligned with Democrats and a member of the intelligence committee, about the committee’s questions about contact between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the committee’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the election.