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On Friday, April 14, NPR Music's Bob Boilen will host a night of songs and conversation with Adam Torres, John Paul White and My Bubba at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville. Boilen is a big name in the world of NPR Music, which got us thinking: What would a list of public radio power rankings look like, and would anyone care? We decided to address the first part of that question regardless of the answer to the second half. So here's maybe our nerdiest list to date: a power ranking of public radio personalities.
10. David Greene
Greene is still relatively green as an NPR “Morning Edition” co-host, but he's a natural on the radio, with more personality than your average anchor.
9. Kai Ryssdal
As host of “Marketplace,” Ryssdal's jaunty persona can make even the stock market sound interesting. Bonus points for having a difficult name to spell, which is a prerequisite for public radio.
8. David Dye
Dye stepped down from the long-running “World Cafe” music program out of Philadelphia's WXPN last month, and his interviews with bands could get a little awkward, but his playlists did a good job of putting modern rock and folk in a historical context.
7. Robert Krulwich
Krulwich's history in radio goes back to the Watergate hearings, and now, as co-host of “Radiolab” (the best science-related show out there) with Jad Abumrad, he's still re-inventing the way radio stories sound and the way they're told.
6. Robert Siegel
For some reason I always picture the co-host of “All Things Considered” as James Lipton of “Inside the Actors Studio.” There's not much of a resemblance, unfortunately, but I don't think that will stop me. Anyway, he's very good, and Kelly McEvers makes him even better.
5. Steve Inskeep
On “Morning Edition,” Inskeep (not to be confused with reporter John Ydstie) isn't afraid to ask tough questions of his interview subjects and NPR reporters on the scene.
4. Cokie Roberts
One of the few public radio personalities to also make a living in TV, Roberts is an incredibly knowledgeable, well-spoken and capable journalist and analyst.
3. Sarah Koenig
Koenig was just another “This American Life” staffer until she debuted the true-crime podcast “Serial,” which managed to get celebrities other than Alec Baldwin to care about the world of public radio.
2. Ira Glass
“This American Life” is the gold standard of radio storytelling, and Ira Glass is the reason. (Glass is also alarmingly tall in person.)
1. Terry Gross
Interviewing people is hard, but since 1975, Terry Gross has made it sound easy on WHYY Philadelphia's “Fresh Air.” Gross has a way of asking incredibly personal questions in a way that still manages to put her subjects — comedians, politicians, journalists, novelists, movie stars, scientists — at ease. If you're a “Mad Men” fan, make sure to track down the episodes where she geeks out with show creator Matthew Weiner.