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The Most Popular Stories Among Listeners In 2011


And now it's time for BackTalk. That's where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere. Here, once again, is Ammad Omar, editor at TELL ME MORE. Welcome back, Ammad. What do you have for us?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: Well, Michel, we're digging really deep into the mail bag today for some of our best listener interaction of the year, but we're going to go into the virtual mailbox, take a look at some of those stories that got a big response on Facebook, Twitter, email and our website.

And we started the year off with a bang. In January, you had an interview with Amy Chua. She wrote a book about her parenting style called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." That story got nearly 40,000-page views just on our website alone, and still counting on that number.

Then, in April, we launched a series called Muses and Metaphors and we asked listeners to tweet us poems in 140 characters or less, of course. We received hundreds of responses, literally from coast to coast. Here's a little sample of some of those that made it onto the air.

PAT ALLEN: Frost had a horse and a snowy evening. Sandberg had fog and a cat. I have cold feet, frozen after miles of not moving on.

HOLLY BASS: Can a wheel contain a poem? Could a word will itself into being? Where we begin, an O, unformed sound on the cusp of existence.

OMAR: Yeah. Pretty deep right there.

MARTIN: That was nice.

OMAR: Those are poems from Pat Allen, and the last one was from Holly Bass. She's the poet who helped curate our tweets for that entire series.

MARTIN: Well, thanks. And thanks to all of our listeners who participated. That was really, really fun. And Ammad, I don't think you were with us back then, but we had another huge response to a Facebook shout-out we did this year about hair. You might remember this. Back in August, the U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, said a lot of women aren't exercising because they're worried about their hair.

So we asked on Facebook whether hair concerns get in the way of proper exercise, and we got more than 700 responses in 20 minutes.

OMAR: Wow.

MARTIN: Here are just a few of them.

EDIE STICK: My name is Edie Stick(ph). I'm from Morganton, North Carolina. I have naturally curly hair, and I despised first period swimming so much in high school, I nearly flunked for the lack of participation. I didn't enjoy going to my next class looking like a drowned rat.

HEATHER BARCLAY: My name is Heather Barclay(ph). I live in Reston, Virginia. There are some black women who go get their hair relaxed, and going to exercise would not be conducive to having relaxed hair because you'll sweat the straightener out. But it shouldn't keep somebody from exercising and being healthy.

OMAR: All right. Well, thanks to everybody for those comments. I have to say wet hair doesn't stop me from exercising and being healthy...

MARTIN: I can see that.

OMAR: ...because my hair is about a quarter-inch long. It's just general laziness that does that to me.

MARTIN: OK. Well, I won't tell on you. OK. What else do we have, Ammad?

OMAR: Well, Michel, something else that got a big response online was our series on immigration called In Limbo. We spoke with Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. He went from being an illegal immigrant working on farms in California to graduating from Harvard Medical School and becoming a U.S. citizen. He's now a highly respected neurosurgeon.

Now, that story was shared more than 12,000 times on Facebook alone, and it was an interesting debate online, because some people thought the interview was inspirational, and other people said, neurosurgeon or not, illegal immigrants should be sent home.

MARTIN: OK. So, finally, we often connect, as we said, with listeners on Facebook and on Twitter. But just a few weeks ago, we actually got to connect with Facebook fans in person.

OMAR: Right. The singer Tori Amos recently joined us for our program, and this was one of the first times that Facebook fans came to join us live in the studio. They're fans of Tori's Facebook page, and they sat with us as she talked about her career and shared music from her new album.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Tori, and her Facebook friends. Thank you, Ammad, for this recap of 2011, and thanks to everybody who took the time to talk back to us over the course of the year.

OMAR: Exactly. And thank you, Michel. And nothing like a little Tori Amos to end the year, right?

MARTIN: You know that's right.


TORI AMOS: (Singing) The time you sailed under the diamond eye.

MARTIN: Remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522, or visit us online at npr.org/TELLMEMORE. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.