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Does NPR have a hiring impediment?

Louisa Lim National Public RadioNATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO- I can laugh at speech impediments with the best of them. But I’m less comfortable if there’s no laugh track. Specifically, when it’s a speech-challenged news reporter, I utterly object to being made to decipher from mispronunciation. On the radio, poor diction is as unacceptable as inaudible recording, and disabled- enunciation is as appropriate as a paraplegic delivering your piano. Take NPR’s Louisa Lim.

Give someone a job they can handle, but don’t celebrate equal opportunity without consideration for the task required.

Louisa Lim can’t pronounce her Rs. Might not someone have thought to counsel Lim fwom puhsuing a caweeuh on the wadio? Dropped Rs represent an alphabet 1/26th deficient. More, if you adjust inversely by Scrabble point value.

Monte Python’s Pontius Pilate of Life of Brian was mocked by the chorus for not being able to say his R’s. And yes, his Roman audience found the hilarity unending. It’s why he was urged to release Bawabas and not Jesus. Gilda Radner similarly mocked Barbara Walters. Mispwonouncing her Rs didn’t keep Bahbwa Wahwah from a lengthy career, but that’s the point I’m coming to.

If speech impediments were congenital, it would still be no reason to exhibit them center-stage like cultural accents.

Aren’t most speaking disorders remedied in the primary grades, given extra attention from speech therapists? Why do the exceptions seem to become Communications Majors? It’s as if students who have reason to work on their locution, end up becoming the professionals.

But choirs don’t tolerate tone-deafness, why would broadcasters burden themselves with mis-speakers?

Louisa Lim can’t say R, but she’s only one of a majority of female voices on NPR hobbled by flawed presentation. Don’t you find that strange? Considering that Amy Goodman’s delivery is criticized for being shrill. It’s as if NPR thinks strong feminine voices would come across as too authoritative, unless a physical weakness is empirically discernible. Would this explain why most the female voices on NPR are nasal, or supported by the weakest lung capacity? Their tiny voices sound like they could extinguish themselves without the next breath. Audiences like it too obviously.

Accents too, foreign and domestic, work to temper the projection of authority. Male presenters traditionally have sported commanding voices. Today, those who don’t moderate for sporting events most often have voices in the higher registers, or modulate their voices with rises in pitch which communicates timidity.

85 thoughts on “Does NPR have a hiring impediment?

  1. Eric, don’t listen to too much NPR on KRCC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That way lies madness

  2. I happen to have listened to Louisa Lim and absolutely love her all too infrequent reports for NPR from China. Many of us loved the hilarious article on her husband’s fish and chips restaurant. It is strange to see Eric Verlo’s unkind and unfair attack on a very good reporter. It is the content of the report that is more important, though I cannot ignore the fact she has a lovely voice and delivery. I myself do not detect a speech impediment. The English just do not pronounce their Rs, as do the Celts with their burr, or the Germans and Dutch with their hard Rs who have influenced pronunciation in American English. Incidentally, Mr. Verlo’s own writing has numerous grammatical errors in syntax, and his sentences often do not make sense. If he is the author of the YouTube video where one Mr. Eric Verlo claims he is the President of a Peace and Justice group, he hardly comes across as a peaceful or just person. Should I be critical of his somewhat unkempt appearance, balding pate and ponytail as he is of Ms. Lim’s alleged speech impediment? His own delivery is rabid, repetitive and rambling, lasting for over six and a half minutes. He was almost incoherent in parts. This is not a man of peace, but one angry dude.

  3. What Messers Verlo and Dubois are missing is that the specific way in which Ms. Lim pronounces (or, rather, doesn’t pronounce) her Rs reveals her heritage to be upper upper class British either that or she extremely insistant on trying to convey that notion. These “Upper Class Gits”, as the boy from Monty Python would call them, can be identified by the annoying manner in which they seem to be talking with a moutful of marbles… QUITE! In any case she bugs the hell out of me but I doubt that she, if my assumptions about her heritage are correct, ever really gave any consideration to whether she’d be suited to any sort of career. My guess is that she found a fondness for the Far East, settled in Sigapore and, because she happens to be there and no one needs to foot the bill for her traveling there, she gets called to cover these stories in China and Japan etc.
    That’s all I have to say about the preciously annoying Mr. Lim. As to what to make of the remarkably terse and direct Mr. Hectoreo… is suggest he take a listen to Public Radio International some time and realize that NPR is really the most honest and balanced news source out there today it just doesn’t pander to Mr. Hectoreo’s clan like some networks do.

  4. Get off it! Ms. Lim is fabulous. She has a lot more interesting to say than most of you people have to write about her. I’m a central Texas hilbilly, and if I can understand her so should you. She’s cute, exciting, and her stories are wonderful. You should be so fortunate. Find something interesting to write about rather than trash someone who does!

  5. Ernie -what a delightful Texas bumpkin you are! Lim may excite you, but she is a corporate mouthpiece spouting the usual Western-biased angle on Asia. And she cannot speak properly.

    It’s not a matter of an exotic accent that you are broadminded enough to understand. Lim has a speech impediment, which, as well as she may cope with it, makes listeners presume she is retarded. And speech impediments have become curiously common among public radio broadcasters. Such handicaps serve to disarm an audience’s critical thinking filters because the otherwise dubious information sounds like it comes from earnest, disadvantaged amateurs. Whom no one can fault without seeming absolutely heartless. I cannot assert that Lim is herself duplicitous, but her bosses are certainly cunning propagandists.

    You do no find such an argument interesting?

  6. “Why don’t you all f-ff-fffade away…”

    Hectoreo? Garrrison Keillor and the Buttermilk Bisquit Hour is pretentious pinko? Do your friends call you Heck for short(minded)?

    Wha’ever to diction on radio, Eric. However I think the general notion of cunning mediacists went out with Geraldo and blogging.

    Fix the silent vowels in language or smile along and conjugate! The diversity beats robotic voice mail tones ANY day. If you don’t decypher accents with ease – stick to printed word and at all costs avoid zydeco.

  7. Louisa Lim’s accent is adorable. If you have trouble deciphering her diction, you probably can’t understanding the content of her stories anyway.
    Before we get rid of radio reporters with unusual speech patterns, can we get rid of all the bloggers who can’t write – like notmytribe.com?

  8. I have a problem with the whiny little twits that NPR uses for its propaganda, too. But IT IS THE CONTENT that I find most offensive as this corporate run radio channel is the most persistently commercial of any of the channels on the dial. PLUS, don’t you get fed up with their non-stop efforts to sell the American people on supporting continual Pentagon occupation of Afghanistan, Jay? NPR is the worst! They make my stomach churn in fact.

  9. Jay! You make my point. Lim’s speaking manner IS ADORABLE! Like her fellow female reporters, her voice is CUTE, VULNERABLE and LITTLE-GIRLISH. This serves to colorize any darker context to which the news content might allude, and to subvert the speaker’s authority in any case. I agree, these glib, unstudied, naive, fun-loving schoolgirl voices are a delight!

  10. What about distracting? These correspondents who cannot enunciate propertly distract the listener from the story. I would add Peter Overbee’s insufferable lisp to this complaint. Some self-esteem teacher suggested these people conquer their handicaps by tackling careers with which they are most incompatible. And because it is NPR and not a competitive private enterprise, it is successful.

  11. Louisa Lim’s accent is so bad I rush to turn off the radio, or should I say wadio. Her reports on “Kowea” are the worst. If NPR would transcribe her report verbatim it would make a hilarious read. Bring back Rob Gifford and ship Louisa Lim on a slow boat out of China, with no communications link please.

  12. Pure torture listening to her and trying to decipher the story behind the Elmer Fudd speech impediment, especially now that they have her all over the Toyota story and the “Pwius webates.”

  13. Look, NPR obiviously has a policy of hiring the handicapped. Not only do we listen to Woiusa Wim, there’s alse Joanna Silburner’s cleft palate, Peter Overby’s lateral lisp, and my absolute favorite, Neal Ub Ub Ub Conan’s stammer. A lot of their content way be good, when you can focus on it. But honestly, if you put the speech impaired in people’s ears, what’s next? Ouadriplegic bus drivers? Blind airline pilots?????

  14. Welease Ewic!!!! I heawd Louisa Lim for the fiwst time today, and do agwee that NPR seems to hire women with odd sounding voices. So what!!! If they can do their job, and we can understand them, then that’s enough. NPR is non-pwofit, so we don’t need the Hollywood glam. I thought she had an attwactive voice…unlike Ewic’s totally unatwactive prejudices.

    She sort of sounds like ming-ming on Wonderpets, and it’s up to hew if she wants to fix hew impediment, not Ewic. To me, it’s not annoying. To me, Ewic is annoying.

    Welease Ewic. Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time you silly kkkknnnnnniggggttt. 😉

  15. Pwops to you Mike, who cawes what delivewy pwojects as cwedibe. Wepowts on China’s human wights pwoblems awe mowe pwesuwable wead like this.

  16. I feel so much better seeing other people agree with me. Louisa’s impediment could be corrected by most parents of 2-year old kids…..otherwise, she should seek out a professional speech therapist. Now – how do you feel about Eleanor Beardsley’s annoying affectation? Is she trying to pretend she’s been somehow contaminated by the French? It’s Diane Rehm who makes me rush to turn off the radio…..same goes for Susan Estrich (?) on TV. EEK!

  17. I totally agree! Her job is presentation of story. If her voice constantly distracts from that task, it’s a serious flaw. I personally can’t listen to her without cringing.

    P.S.- REMY Wake up if she sounded like the average English person, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  18. I think Louisa Lim’s medial R->W shift is hot! I LOVE listening to her, and feel sorry for people who find her speech annoying. I don’t know why she does what she does, but it works for me!

  19. Peter- I don’t doubt that a lot of listeners get off on enfeebled girly voices like Lim’s. You might also be interested in http://www.nakednews.com, where anchors strip as they recite the news, for viewers who don’t let world events get in the way of their primary interests.

  20. Glad to see that I am not the only one who cringes and feels like I am listening to a comedy routine when I hear the words “Lisa Lim has this report.” especially if the subject is heavy on “r’s” such as Nowth Kowea. At least she doesn’t have the valley girl “girly” diction of some of the other young reporters but the r problem is definitely something she needs to work on wight away….

  21. Eric and B A Ash, you guys crack me up. I’m glad someone else noticed this nonsense. To everyone who complained in a serious, uptight, PC voice: find somewhewe more pwivate than this site to mastuwbate.

  22. If someone doesn’t notice Louisa’s inability to pronounce the letter R, they are tone deaf at best!

    For a long time, I figured she was a native Asian. As such, speaking English, she would likely have problems with the letter R. There is no R sound in Chinese and Lim is a surname in several Asian countries. Imagine my surprise to find she is British!

    It does seem that a high profile radio reporter would make the effort to get a bit of speech therapy to ‘find’ the missing R.

  23. I thought it was Americans who had the speech impediment – after all you don’t speak English you speak some dialect called North Americano

  24. Whether you enjoy listening to Louisa Lim or find yourself turning down the radio, the fact is that Ms. Lim has a speech sound disorder. I’m a speech pathologist, specializing in articulation disorders. Without question, Ms. Lim’s speech pattern is NOT an accent, dialectal difference, or anything other than deviant. She really should seek professional treatment …..it’s not too late! Obviously some listeners don’t mind the immature speech pattern, but I think it interferes with the quality of her reporting and undermines her credibility.

  25. If any reader would like an educational explanation of Ms. Lim’s speech affectation: please read Veblen’s “The Theory of the Leisure Class”

    The speech patterns of the well to do are often intended to burden the listener, or at the very least present a pretext for listening to them, if not just to understand them. You can see this with many American CEO’s and their pregnant “ennnnahhhhhs” (“ums” are shunned these days so other verbal devices are used to “fill the spaces” between thoughts and words) and coughs (listen to Bill Gates). For, they think themselves too important that everyone should take the time to listen.

    The speech pattern demonstrates authority and proves to the listener that he or she must strain to listen and understand. This is proof positive that what the speaker has to say is of importance.–self fullfilling.
    Why else would you try ?(See Verblens analogy of a another once popular social status symbol)

    Ms. Lims speech patterns can be traced directly back to the finishing school she attended and her associations at Leeds.

    This is what Monty Python was parodying 30 some years ago and Veblen explained in the 19th century.

    Of all the accents ported by the English, it is probably the most agreeable.

    In contrast, the babbling of a retired colonel from a Scottish regiment is just plain annoying.

  26. i am a speech-language pathologist……well, should be enough said……..but…….i love listening to ms lim in the early morning on the way to work…..i think on the number of elementary aged students that myself and my colleagues will see that day to correct the “dreaded” /r/, and vocalic /r/…..i laugh……because…success is not determined by our speech…….even the King had some difficulty with speech…..now…..nuff said

  27. I really enjoy hearing Louisa Lim. She sounds so cute. Yuki Naguchi sound great, also.

  28. Is there anything more annoying than Diane Rehm? She sounds like she is 100 years old; her voice trembles and it takes her an inordinate amount of time to get her questions out…very distracting. Talk about rushing to turn the radio off.

  29. I’ve found this site after googling Louisa Lim to see if there’s any explanation for her speech impediment. I see none, other than affectation.

    My local NPR station just had Ms. Lim’s report in which, among other abominations, she prounced bruising as bwoozing. It’s hard to take her serioussly. All I can think of is “Weweece Wodewick!”. And that leads the mind to wander to Biggus Dickus, and removes all credibility for her reporting.

    She’s not completely unintelligible, just annoying enough that I turn the volume down for her reports. This strikes me as counterproductive for a broadcaster.

    At least Diane Rehm has a diagnosed speech problem and has made every effort to fix it.

  30. Peter Overby sounds like he has a half-melted popsicle in his mouth while reporting the liberally slanted news. Or perhaps the remains of a wet sloppy one from his homosexual partner. The others on NPR aren’t much better. Pull the funding now and let these jokers find a real job, if they can.

  31. Methinks Eric merely reveals his lack of cultural awareness. Anyone who has traveled abroad will recognize Louisa Lim’s speech as a regional accent, not an impediment.

  32. “Anyone who has traveled abroad” will recognize your travels reached no further East than South Park. Cartman’s spoof Chinese Engrish is an exaggeration you goof. And Lim is American.

  33. If you want to bust on accents, poor diction, and just the impression of ignorance given by educated people, based on their inability, or refusal to overcome their regional dialect and ” speak correctly” just look to any of our Southern or Western states. Regardless of whom they are working for. Radio, Television, or the general public. You will often find people from these areas will become very agitated and defensive when their representatives are called to task on this issue. So blame the American society, and have a good day. OH by the way, if it bothers you that much, don’t listen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. Listen to Zachary Goldfarb with Guy Raz. Zach has an almost laughable speech impediment which puts all others to shame.

  35. Excellent post. But I don’t think NPR is trying to temper strong female voices. Judging from how the operation is run, they’re most likely trying to empower some women who would never be allowed on the air in any other venue. For good cause: speech impediments or annoying inflections do not meet fundamental broadcast presenting standards.

    I would say there are only two NPR shows that are bearable – BBC world news and Leonard Lopate. But of all the other presenters, Eleanor Beardsley is my nomination for most annoying. Between the shrill voice, and habit of drawing the last word on her sentence, it’s horribly grating. And why does she need to remind us every time that she’s in Paris? I don’t give a crap that you’re in Paris. It isn’t relevant to 99% of the crap that comes out of your mouth. NPR isn’t paying for a Paris desk. You’re just married to some big shot who works in Paris. Unless it is directly relevant to what you’re reporting, just shut up about the Paris. We know. You’re in Paris. Great.

    NPR is in desperate need of stronger oversight. I’m not happy to find my tax dollars being used to fund a particular agenda. The station must be compelled to meet the same fundamental broadcast presenting standards that the BBC holds.

  36. Bless you Sam, I came online looking for evidence that I was not alone. For years I’ve been convinced that NPR was staffed entirely with people who work in radio in a misguided attempt to prove how far they’ve come in mastering their vocal abnormalities.

    “When i was wittle, no……..one could und……erstand me. NOw, I’m a NEWS anownsow on N.P.aw. I show showed evweybody!”

    Louisa Lim sounds like an overcooked bowl of oatmeal with with the power of speech. Her voice makes me homocidal. Who counceled these people to pursue the field they are LEAST qualified for?

  37. The criticisms of Louisa Lims speech seem to be rooted in the parochial experience and narrow mindedness of the commentators. English happens to come originally from ENGLAND, and Louisa Lims English happens to have a perfectly good ENGLISH accent! Do the British people have to pronounce Rs the same way as most Americans do in order to be considered as having no speech impediment? Give me a break!

  38. Thanks Eric for your commentary. For a long time, I thought that I must be the only listener who noticed Louisa Lin’s inability to pronounce her “r’s” (or “aw-wahs,” as the case may be.) She’s clearly a highly intelligent and capable reporter (“wee-po-tah,”) but when she talks about “North Ko-weea” I can’t help lose focus on the sto-wee and wonda why NPR hi-wed Elma Fudd to be a wee-po-tah.

  39. Lim’s accent makes me cringe, but from what I understand there are thousands of Brits like her. I’m actually sick of all the Brits in American braodcasting. I stopped looking up to them 200 yrs ago.
    Now, in Canadian public radio all the women sound the same – like men.

  40. Finally ! Someone that agrees with me. NPRs hiring of the verbally impaired has irked me for a long time. I had a problem myself with not being able to properly pronounce my Ls. It took me till 4th grade to get over it. I took several communications classes in high school and college, though I didn’t major in it. I had to work on getting rid of my southern draw as well,because I live in east Texas. But I was able to get an announcer gig at a local radio station and no could tell I was from east Texas or had a previous problem speaking.
    So you can understand my being very irritated by people like Lim and Overby getting jobs at NPR while not being able to accomplish their primary job requirement of being able to properly speak. Not only do they hire people with speech impediments, but most of the women sound just as ditzy as the women on Fox News.
    I thought reporting the news would be more important to NPR than highlighting people that can’t properly speak, but they keep proving me wrong…

  41. I’m glad I came across this article and found out that I am not the only person who has noticed how NPR seems to go out of their way to hire voices that sound terrible on radio. Hi-pitch Dick Gordon of that horrible show, “The Story.” Peter “Snagglepuss” Overby. I thought for awhile that Diane Rehm was just a charity case, having been at NPR so long, but NPR overall does not require a pleasant speaking voice as a prerequisite to employment. Someone who made their career with their voice only to lose most of it to disease like Rehm did, should get some sort of good karma in return, I guess, along with those with speech inpediments, but national radio is not the place. Sufferin’ succotash!

  42. Patti Neighmond’s laterally distorted destructions of the /sh/, /ch/ and /j/ speech sounds are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

  43. Her reporting is not bad, but I agree I find her speech impediment quite distracting, every time I hear it. Steve Inskeep has a flawless voice for radio, as does his co-host (can’t remember the name) I hear often, but Louisa has certainly done well for herself, being a radio-voice with this impediment.

  44. Eleanor Beardsley – I HATE her voice and pronunciation. Its the most irritating voice ever! The hair stands up on my back and I want to SCREAM!!! when she comes on the radio. This woman would not be able to hold down a radio job in any other country – with some modicum of standards as far as radio! Please get her of the air!!! She can write, she can do whatever… just do’t let her open her mouth on radio with her utterly disrespectful, careless, irritating, grating, annoying voice! Please!

  45. I also have a problem with Brooks Gladstone. )Don’t know if I spelled it right; she’s from On the Media.)

    Excellent article, by the way.

  46. While I am amazed at Louisa’s strength to not let her very obvious speech disorder stand in her way of success, I find it appalling that as a reporter she would not try to improve a behavior that is distracting to her listeners. As mentioned by others, she is not the 1st female to have a controversial speaking behavior serve as a trademark leading to success. It’s too bad that media attention to a negative behavior results in such stardom.

    As a speech pathologist I worry about the message it sends to those with similar speech impediments. Will it be……

    “Anything is possible” OR
    “Why bother working on it?”

    The king achieved what he once thought was impossible through hard work.
    Need I say more.

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