Back when Arun Rath ’92 did his final shift on KRRC, spinning a mix from Zappa to Beethoven to Parliament Funkadelic, he thought his radio days were over.
After graduating in English, Rath turned all his energy to saving money for a journey to India, birthplace of his father (his mother is English) and long a place of fascination. Like most visitors, he found India to be overwhelming in every possible aspect, from the philosophical to the gastrointestinal.
He returned and found himself somewhat adrift—so, like many intelligent, somewhat adrift young people, he enrolled in graduate school. It didn’t last long.
After the internship, Rath was offered some temporary paying work on Weekly Edition, then more, and soon he was filling his time with NPR and not finishing his graduate degree. Four years after walking through the door as an intern, Rath was the director of NPR’s daily national talk-radio show.
“I remember every guidance counselor I ever met putting me off of journalism because it was so competitive and cutthroat,” Rath says. “I would tell current students not to let that attitude stop them.”
Beyond luck and timing, Rath also has talent—since taking over as senior producer of NPR’s On the Media in 2000, Rath and his cohorts have doubled listenership and gone from 80 to 150 public radio stations carrying the show. On the Media, produced at WNYC in New York City, is an eclectic weekend look at anything that relates to mass media and our culture, from the dangers of the escalating consolidation of media ownership to why you just don’t hear instrumental rock on the radio anymore. [Local broadcast times can be found at onthemedia.org. Ed.]
“One fun aspect of my job,” says Rath, “is that I have carte blanche to consume all sorts of crap and not feel bad about it. I have a job covering the media, so I have to watch Survivor!’ Although I leave that one to other people on the staff. I read and see as much as I can—I can tell you I wouldn’t watch Fox Newschannel if I didn’t have this job.”
While Rath admits he didn’t fully appreciate it while he was there, his Reed education has served him well. “I’m very grateful for it,” he says today. “In journalism it’s really helpful to have a wide range of knowledge, and Reed gave me that base.”
And one other holdover from his days at Reed has a major influence on his job: “I still choose all the music clips that play between On the Media segments—I’m a major control freak about it.”