Story dissection tools.
I hope you’re not squeamish. On this HowSound, I take a scalpel to a profile on papermaker Joanne Rosser. I peel back the surface of the story to reveal its narrative and production innards.
No blood. No stench. Just audio storytelling under the microscope. Listen hard.
And, you have permission to take notes, if you like.
PS — Registration is open for the Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago, October 5-7. Maybe I’ll see you there?
Podcast: Download (Duration: 16:18 — 15.0MB)
Science reporter Ari Daniel Shapiro gets the low-down on Posidonia, a seagrass, from scientist Alex Lorente. (Photo by Manel Gazo in L’Estartit, Spain.)
Imagine spending five years working on your PhD studying Norwegian killer whale vocalization. Then imagine deciding you no longer want to be an ocean biologist.
That’s how Ari Daniel Shapiro got into radio. At the end of his studies at MIT, Ari came to the conclusion he didn’t want a career in marine research so he picked up a microphone.
Ari didn’t stray far from his studies, though. He now reports on science and the environment for programs like Radiolab, The World, and Living on Earth.
His podcast “One Species at a Time” got my attention recently. Ari produces the podcast with Atlantic Public Media for the Encyclopedia of Life. Each episode of the podcast profiles a single species in language the rest of us who aren’t scientists can understand. In fact, that’s one of Ari’s strengths — sifting through the minutia and lingo to make science digestible.
He says he uses the acronym DSW to guide his storytelling:
D – Drop the Details.
S – Search for the Story
W – Wander in the Wonder
Ari explains DSW in this edition of HowSound and we listen to a favorite from the “Once Species at a Time” podcast. Press “play,” my friends.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 15:46 — 29.0MB)
Carma Jolly produces for the CBC and moonlights as a snow sprite.
Initially, “The Secret” by Carma Jolly seems like it might be a story about Carma’s brother and his near-death experience caused by Spina bifida.
But then, about four minutes in, the story takes a sharp turn and suddenly “The Secret” is about Carma and her depression and suicidal tendencies — two topics rarely discussed publicly. I actually turned up the volume on my radio as that plot twist played itself out, a surprising bit of narrative magic. In that moment, I was hooked by the story and Carma as a producer.
“The Secret” originally aired in 2004 on Outfront, an incredibly inventive, daily radio program produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Carma worked for Outfront for many years. She’s now a producer for CBC’s Tapestry and a sound artist.
Got your ears on? You’ll need ‘em for this HowSound.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 18:58 — 34.8MB)
NPR Reporter, Robert Smith. Photo by Lam Thuy Vo.
Robert Smith’s stories for National Public Radio regularly bring a spark to news programs full of “just-the-facts-ma’am” stories. Robert does it by going live — narrating to tape on location. Freestylin’, if you will. No script. Just Robert and the moment.
In reporting lingo, this is known as a “stand-up.” And if Robert isn’t the king of the stand-up, he surely is the prince.
Personally, I find the prospect of a stand-up frightening. My script for narration is never far from me and my microphone. But, after talking to Robert for this edition of HowSound, I may just jump in the deep-end some day soon and give it try.
Have a listen to HowSound and then come back to the blog and check out these links to the full pieces featured on the program.
Coconut Water Companies Sell Image, Not Taste
Candidate Bingo: Is Bloomberg Running?
Bus Showdown: New York vs. Los Angeles
NYC Take The A Train to Honor Duke Ellington
PS – Transom.org recently published an article by Robert and Phyllis Fletcher on spicing up short news stories. It’s called “Creativity in a Minute.”
Podcast: Download (Duration: 16:04 — 29.5MB)
WCAI’s Senior Reporter, Sean Corcoran in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Sean Corcoran made the leap. And just in time.
A few years ago, right around the time newspaper readership plummeted and papers shut-down one after another, Sean left newspaper reporting for radio. He was smitten by the sound of an interviewee’s voice he recorded merely for note taking and said to himself “I wish I was in radio.” He’s now the Senior Reporter at WCAI, the public radio station in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Journalism is journalism but print reporting is not radio reporting. To make the transition, Sean had to think differently about interviewing, writing, and story structure never mind all the gear and editing.
On this HowSound, Sean talks about what he learned from his leap to radio. He offers excellent insight on radio storytelling for print reporters who are now in the same boat he was a few years ago. And, he says there are print conventions radio producers could benefit from, too.
All that and a story from Sean’s Two Cape Cods, a series that received an Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia University award on HowSound today. Listen up.
PS – Here are links to some of Sean’s other radio work.
Facing Alzheimer’s: The Caregivers’ Challenge
Power Struggle: The Future of Pilgrim Nuclear Plant
Podcast: Download (Duration: 15:49 — 14.6MB)
Susan Anarino and her tiny but mighty ukulele on Cape Cod. (Photo by Joanna Solotaroff.)
Joanna Solotaroff was a student of mine at the Transom Story Workshop this spring. When Joanna said she wanted to do a story on a Ukulele Orchestra I thought to myself “Yeah, whatever. Go for it. It’s your first piece. Make what you can. I’m sure it will be good but not something to write home about given the subject.”
Well, little did I know Joanna would put together a piece that captures the feelings of life lived every day, what Washington Post reporter Walter Harrington refers to as “intimate journalism.“
Harrington writes “… to most journalists honored with the job of remembering the stories of the tribe, (the) momentous events of everyday life are virtually invisible. To most American journalists, such events are akin to the dark and unknown matter believed to make up 90% of the universe: We keep reporting the movement of the planets when the big news is the unseen matter in which they spin…. In the language of the craft, we’re missing the story.”
Joanna didn’t miss the story. Not only is her story something to write home about, it’s something to podcast about. Have a listen Joanna’s first radio story ever, “Mighty Tiny.”
PS – The Transom Story Workshop is accepting applications for the Fall of 2012.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 10:31 — 9.7MB)
Studs Terkel being Studs. (Photographer, unknown.)
Today, HowSound marks the 100th birthday of Studs Terkel — America’s interviewer.
Who didn’t Studs interview?! He chronicled the life of 20th century America from the ground up in books like Working, Race, and The Good War.
Syd Lewis worked with Studs for a good twenty-five years. Syd’s an oral historian in her own right and has published several books. On this HowSound I chat with Syd about Studs and we feature an excerpt from her hour-long documentary “Working With Studs,” produced by Atlantic Public Media. You can hear the entire documentary at PRX.
And, speaking of PRX, you can find a slew of programs about Studs there. Listen to all of ‘em. Why not? He listened to all of us.
Happy Birthday Studs!
Podcast: Download (Duration: 23:39 — 21.7MB)
Seek the truth and report it. That’s the core of journalism.
But the truth needs to be checked — fact checked. And when you don’t….. well, just ask the folks at This American Life.
Last January, This American Life aired a program called “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” It featured the story of actor Mike Daisey who traveled to China to see, first hand, work conditions for employees at Foxconn, a manufacturer of components for Apple computers.
Two months later, TAL aired an hour-long retraction of that story. In short, TAL failed to fully check Daisey’s account of what he claimed he saw in China. As part of the retraction, they pinpointed Daisey’s fabrications and apologized.
To be clear, Daisey’s assertions about the conditions at the plant are accurate. His personal story wasn’t. And that, in turn, calls into question the veracity of everything he said.
It also raises the question: What is fact checking?
On this edition of HowSound, no story. Instead, I speak with long-time journalist John Dinges. John teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism where he’s the head of the radio department. John also worked at NPR for many years serving as Deputy Foreign Editor and the Managing Editor for News. Let’s just say John knows his way around fact checking.
For more reading on the subject of fact checking, John recommends The Elements of Journalism by Kovach and Rosenstiel.
And, I’ve cobbled together several articles and programs about the TAL/Daisey dust-up. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it should flesh out the details of what happened.
Brian Lehrer Show
On the Media
National Public Radio
Another from Poynter
The Atlantic Monthly
The National Review
And this from Science 2.0. It’s slightly off topic but still enlightening.
Study up. There’s a test on Monday.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 20:27 — 18.8MB)
Katie Klocksin on the hunt for the weird.
Last fall, Australian radio host Richard Fidler visited the radio class I teach — The Transom Story Workshop. Richard repeatedly said to the class “Go for the weird.”
Katie Klocksin got the message. Katie was a student at the workshop and she produced a story on what just might be the weirdest building on Cape Cod — a geodesic dome built by Buckminster Fuller. Listen to Katie’s story, “Bucky’s Dome” on this edition of HowSound.
And, if you’re interested in learning how to produce radio, the Transom Story Workshop is currently accepting applications for the Fall of 2012. Come to Cape Cod, find something weird, then make a story about it.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:16 — 13.2MB)
Brian Reed — with tape rolling — wades into a lagoon on Kirabati to learn how high the sea has risen. (Photo by Claire Anterea)
Brian Reed has a knack for visual radio. Brian employs, with great effect, the old writing maxim “show, don’t tell.”
On this HowSound, we listen to clips from Brian’s work that exemplify solid visual storytelling for radio — walking waste deep in ocean water for Climate Change and Faith Collide in Kiribati; recording a man in a wheel chair in a parking lot that doesn’t comply with the American With Disabilities Act for This American Life; putting bad tape to work to create visuals in an economics story; and some good-ole-fashion “shoe leather reporting” that yielded an excellent example of “show, don’t tell” for a piece on police lay-offs in Newark, New Jersey.
Have a look…. I mean…. Have a listen.
PS — FYI, Brian’s a producer for This American Life. He got his start in radio through fellowships at NPR — The Kroc Fellowship and the Above the Fray Fellowship.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:37 — 13.5MB)