Bill Fondren, who does traffic reports on several radio stations including NPR affiliate WPLN, has won this year’s Public Radio Enunciation Smackdown, defeating longtime champ Corey Flintoff.
The winner was determined by a poll on the WPLN website.
“Bill has really come into his own,” says station staffer Rebecca Bain, who oversaw the competition. “Corey has been a formidable competitor for many years, but our listeners picked Bill by a 57 percent to 43 percent majority.”
Local enunciation observers say that Fondren and Flintoff have similar approaches to their broadcasts.
“Some NPR people, like Robert Siegel and Michele Norris, are good all-around enunciators, but they don’t have that one specialty that makes them stand out,” says Barbara Moore, a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee. “Both Fondren and Flintoff rely on the way they say their names to impress listeners.”
Fondren’s stock-in-trade is to say his last name with an exaggerated, nasal and stretched first syllable, so that his end-of-report identification sounds something like “I’m Bill Faaaaaaaahhhhhn-dren.” Flintoff, who reads news updates on several NPR programs, often slows his name down to an absurd degree: “I’m. Corey. Flint. Off.”
The Enunciation Smackdown grew out of a widespread realization that NPR stations feature the most carefully enunciated broadcasts in the U.S., and that “the best of the best should be recognized,” Bain says.
Fondren will represent Nashville in the NPR Enunciation Nationals, to be held in Boston in August. The winner there will take on the winner of the BBC contest in London this fall.
“There are many great enunciators at NPR and the BBC, and I’m hoooooooooonored to be among them,” Fondren says.