A WBEZ listener who shares stories with his community

May 2020

“My boss is like, how many times are you going to start a story with ‘I heard this on NPR!?’ jokes Matthew Rillie, an NPR listener in Chicago. “It’s a running joke and it’s never no less than three times a day.”


For educator Matthew Rillie in Chicago, sharing stories he’s heard on NPR is a way to spark conversations with the students he supervises. These days even though Matthew is working from home, listening to NPR affiliate WBEZ helps him stay close to what’s happening in his hometown, and feeds important conversations with young people.


Up First with walks

First thing when I wake up, I go walk my dog. I have a pitbull, so he needs to go on a long walk to get his energy out. I get my energy out too.

For the past couple years since NPR Up First came out, this has been my bookmark. I start my day with it cause it’s the perfect walk length. Now I know what to look for as the day goes on. 

Anywhere in the country, but especially in a big city like Chicago it can feel like there’s so much news. If I’m having one of those days where I don’t feel like I can handle too much, it’s a guide to help me understand what to start with. 

Being real with young people

I am working from home right now. I work at Columbia College in Student Life for the diversity and inclusion wing, and I’m doing student support online. I’ve been taking calls from my living room. 

Even though we’re in a pandemic, the students are asking me a lot of questions about what their priorities are. We’re all trying to make sense of what this means together. 

Sharing stories to show care

We have a lot of daily shows on WBEZ that are more localized so I always listen to those. They happen at 11:00 and at 1:00.

My boss is like, how many times are you going to start a story with ‘I heard this on NPR!?’ It’s a running joke and it’s never no less than three times a day. 

I’ve realized that sharing stories and being willing to talk through them with people is a part of how I show care. With students that I work with, a lot of times the first time they’ve heard of NPR is when I share a story with them. 

Postcards to friends

I’m a big stationary and postcard fanatic. Recently I’ve been sending a postcard almost daily. The front of my home is a big sun room and when I write there it really feels like I’m in a treehouse. 

Writing a postcard is an anytime treat. I’ll get off a zoom call and I’ll write a quick note of gratitude. I’m the kind of person who can get really deep really quick. I’ll be out walking my dog and everything is blooming right now. I love flowers and the beauty makes me think of certain people, so I’ll write them a postcard. 

Tuned in while unplugging 

At the end of the work day I unplug my laptop. I try to transition between work life and home life. Physically changing clothes helps. 

I used to have the drive home from work and I’d listen to WBEZ on my commute, but now I’m listening to the radio all the time. Right at the beginning of the lockdown I bought a bluetooth speaker with the thought of, ‘how am I going to listen to news at home more?’ My only kind of rushed purchase with the lockdown was this speaker. 


of NPR listeners like Matt say they have talked with friends, family or colleagues about an NPR story.

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Source: NPR Impact Survey, 2019.