Citing NPR’s Hourly News Summary in MLA Style

The 7th edition of the MLA Handbook includes this example:

“Hourly News Summary.” National Public Radio. Natl. Public Radio, 20 July 2007. Web. 20 July 2007.

In general, I agree with the 7th edition’s position that URLs are not all that useful in Works Cited lists, since people tend to search rather than type URLs. Nevertheless, you would think that, because an hourly news summary changes every hour, that the date of access is not specific enough to help a reader find the source being cited. So it would seem that a compete citation would need the time.

NPR does distribute its programming as podcasts, and it does sell transcripts and CDs of its archives. In 2 or 3 minutes of Googling, I found the audio for “NPR News: 07-20-2007 11PM ET.”

The news on that day included

  • George Bush signing legislation banning cruel and unusual punishment of terrorism suspects (apparently with ample CIA loopholes)
  • an update on a $600 million fine against the makers of the painkiller OxyContin
  • Poland’s efforts to get a crime suspect extradited from the U.S.
  • a brief update on world counter-terrorism efforts
  • Britain’s push for reform in Sudan
  • a brief note on bookstores entertaining fans awaiting the midnight release of final Harry Potter book
  • a brief note about Al Gore’s adult son being charged for a July 4 traffic and misdemeanor drug offense

I’m sure that every one of these news items also appeared in some other form, whether as a web page or separate audio file on the NPR site, or in some other news publication. Rather than citing an hourly summary, it might be better to cite a more credible, more in-depth full-length treatment of your chosen subject. (Of course, that depends entirely on what you are researching.)

So it would seem that adding the time would make the citation more accurate.

“Hourly News Summary [11pm].” National Public Radio. Natl. Public Radio, 20 July 2007. Web. 20 July 2007.