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Ira Glass on innovation in radio
August 23, 2005 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Does public radio sound fresh to you? Ira Glass is interviewed about the current state of public radio, as well as the ongoing experiment of re-tooling This American Life for TV. From the CJR.
posted by Jazznoisehere (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
TAL on TV? *shudder*

As far as public radio sounding fresh, here in Boston we have several stations including the excellent 90.0 WBUR. They have good news readers, and the audio clip segways they play seem to be new music + lots of medeski martin and wood.
posted by parallax7d at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2005


god bless NPR.
posted by markovitch at 8:54 AM on August 23, 2005


WJSU in Jackson, MS (Jackson State U.) was one of the best radio stations around. Period. It may have changed since my days down there, but it was all blues, funk and jazz all the time. Who needs "fresh" when you've got that?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:59 AM on August 23, 2005


KOPB in oregon is one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) state-wide radio station. Pay attention to where callers hail from on the weekday talkshows--many many many people from KOPB's listening area.
posted by markovitch at 9:08 AM on August 23, 2005


Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading the interview, and I hope the TV thing works out much, much better than it does in my head.
posted by odinsdream at 9:23 AM on August 23, 2005


Teri Gross didn't work on teevee, I can't see This American Life working there either. Good luck, I guess...
posted by Eekacat at 9:26 AM on August 23, 2005


Yes, actually, listening to All Things Considered with a hot cup of tea is an excellent way to spend an hour in late fall once it gets cold and gray out.
posted by nervousfritz at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2005


Another article on the subject.
posted by pandaharma at 9:46 AM on August 23, 2005


It's interesting to compare shows on PRI with shows on NPR. PRI clearly has the better line up, probably because they aren't tied to the by-the-numbers news shows. Have you listened to Morning Edition and felt challenged? They parrot the AP wire and layer on emotive upper middle class angst. Bleah I say, bleah. Of course I don't like tea either, so maybe I'm just a philistine.

Maybe if our right-wing overlords eliminate funding it will free the news shows to say something interesting. Better than having them further water down the programming and force NPR into yet more defensive programming. In terms of music, who cares- that's cheap- see the KEXP archive and any college radio station (of course, being in Seattle I'm very spoiled, with 6 good commercial-free radio stations).
posted by efbrazil at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2005


Teri Gross didn't work on teevee, I can't see This American Life working there either. Good luck, I guess...

Not a great analogy. The difference between TAL and Teri Gross is that Gross is interviews and nothing else, while TAL is sort of a variety show of topics and story styles. There's a lot more that can be done just following the show's mission statement: "Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme."
posted by me3dia at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2005


My girlfriend is absolutely OCD over Ira. She listens to the show every week and is constantly digging through their website looking for something she hasn't heard. We even make the effort to see him when he's involved in events here in Chicago. She even has that dumb comic book he put out a while back.

WBEZ (Home of TAL) is an okay public radio station here in Chicago. It's about all we listen too. I'm a news junkie but cable news drives me nuts - it's way nicer to keep NPR on all day long.

Before moving to Chicago, I listened exclusivly to WNCW in Spindale, NC on the campus of Isothermal Community College. It's a great station - I sure do miss bluegrass.
posted by wfrgms at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2005


WBEZ is really disappointing, I think. Not nearly enough local flavor -- like local politics and news. I'm pretty sure other stations break into the Morning Edition slot with local-interest pieces. WBEZ seems to never do this, except for really short what's-happening-in-Springfield tidbits from Carlos Hernandez Gomez. Snoozerific.

Also, Morning Edition could use some major freshening. The little music "bumpers" or whatever they are called are just horrible and dated. Not the main theme song, but the little "time for your letters" or "time for focus on your money" tunes. Bleck.
posted by Mid at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2005


My girlfriend is absolutely OCD over Ira.

My wife would split at the faint hint of a chance to bear his love child. I think I sealed the deal with her when I asked her out to the TAL road show for a date. She religiously tapes the shows. Since 120 minute cassette tapes have become scarce, she bought an MP3 player that records radio and burns CD's.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2005


TAL is a RADIO SHOW.

What the hell is wrong with a f-ing radio show?

I thought Ira was better than this.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:16 PM on August 23, 2005


I'm with BTGOG.
posted by Specklet at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2005


I agree that PRI material and shows like TAL sound much better, these days, than the core NPR news programs. Ironically, I think this came about as a miscalculated deal with the devil. In their attempt to revitalize NPR programming by opening up "NPR West" they simply diluted the strengths of the programs they already had (e.g. the new Morning Edition and ATC).

Additionally, they axed shows like Performance Today, all so NPR West could cover such vital topics as "World of Warcraft." The end result is a hybrid of softer news, recycled chestnuts like the hokey "This I Believe" segment, and a few guest commentators like Andrew Sullivan and Grover Norquist.

I complain because I do love public radio, especially here in Baltimore where we can pick up WYPR and WAMU which both feature great local shows, great music (largely jazz and bluegrass respectively). This is also the first community in which I've lived that features a public radio station mostly focused on music, WTMD.

(Note: as I write this, I am listening to Terri Gross on Fresh Air, and am recalling how much I dislike her strict biographical approach to interviews/criticism. This could use a change).
posted by Verdant at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2005


Additionally, they axed shows like Performance Today, all so NPR West could cover such vital topics as "World of Warcraft."

I don't know - this type of news coverage is vital to the NPR-listening gamer community! OK, not really, but I have noticed that the NPR out here is different than the NPR in Wisconsin. 'Diluted' is the right word, I think. It really seems like it's the 'bland news and programming for bland liberals' station. I try to listen, but it makes my teeth itch. I can't get into it. (And I am a loyal PBS watcher, so it's not that it's public broadcastig, but the quality of NPR I just find lacking.)

Give me the BBC and KEXP any day over Seattle NPR.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2005


WBEZ is really disappointing, I think. Not nearly enough local flavor -- like local politics and news. I'm pretty sure other stations break into the Morning Edition slot with local-interest pieces. WBEZ seems to never do this, except for really short what's-happening-in-Springfield tidbits from Carlos Hernandez Gomez. Snoozerific.

Not to derail, but you must be listening at the wrong times. There's a lot of local news on during both Morning Edition and All Things Considered -- they regularly take half-hour chunks of ATC over for local stories. And Carlos Hernandez Gomez reports city and suburban politics, not so much Springfield -- that's left to Bill Wheelhouse.

(Yes, I listen to a lot of WBEZ. I drive an hour to work.)
posted by me3dia at 1:16 PM on August 23, 2005


I'm surprised to read that WBEZ, serving the Chicago market, doesn't try to produce much local programming. In smaller Columbus, OH, WCBE airs local news (especially the ongoing soap opera of Gov. Taft's ethical tailspin), local news and traffic segments, and environmental stories from Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

What surprised me even more when I first came up here, though, was my first encounter with NPR on AM radio, via WOSU 820.
posted by alumshubby at 1:45 PM on August 23, 2005


me3dia is right that I am probably exaggerating WBEZ's lack of local focus. I guess what I'm getting at, though, is that I don't feel like the morning or afternoon local hosts add any special local personality to the mix. Many other places I go, it seems like the local NPR affiliate just has more personality than 'BEZ. Maybe you just get tired of what you are used to.
posted by Mid at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2005


Also, Bill Wheelhouse = snoozerific.
posted by Mid at 2:47 PM on August 23, 2005


I'll watch TAL on tv (OK, I have to buy one first). It will probably be disappointing or flat out suck. But IG deserves to try. He is a great talent, and it won't taint TAL on radio one bit.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:09 PM on August 23, 2005


PS: one indication that it won't work, albeit a small one, is that TAL wasn't compelling at all done live from Town Hall a few years back.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:10 PM on August 23, 2005


Or, it'll work, but, for, like one episode. The intensity (and quality) of what you can do on radio doesn't happen on television.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:12 PM on August 23, 2005


the morning or afternoon local hosts add any special local personality to the mix.

I'll agree with you there. But I think that's a management decision, an effort to make the local hosts blend with the national feed. You're right that it's probably not the best move in terms of interest.


alumshubby, WBEZ produces a bunch of shows, several of which are heard regionally/nationally -- This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Odyssey (which is unfortunately being canceled in October) -- but most of their shows aren't focused on Chicago. Which, I agree, is a shame.
posted by me3dia at 3:14 PM on August 23, 2005


Me3dia, I think it is a valid comparison. There are interview shows on teevee too, and some of them are even successful. The cool thing about "This American Life" and "Fresh Air" is I can listen to them while doing something else like working on the money pit, or driving someplace, and I can get this totally great experience in my mind. To me that's the success of TAL, or Fresh Air, I can use my brain to imagine the things that are going on. I do wish Ira Glass luck, and I hope if he's successful that his radio show goes on undiminished.
posted by Eekacat at 4:05 PM on August 23, 2005


Man, week after week, I try so hard to give This American Life a chance and I'm always left feeling bitter and annoyed. The format, the "Acts," the defiantly non-radio voices, the pieces of interlude music I recognize from my own record collection, the predictable revelatory moments ("And that's when I realized that mothers are like ______" or something). I don't know...
And yet whenever it's on, I totally give it a chance, and afterwards, I always find myself annoyed and disappointed. And god bless him, but I can't stand Ira's voice. Joe Frank for pussies, I say.
posted by ghastlyfop at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2005


Joe Frank for pussies, I say.

Joe Frank - "A lot of people refer to other people as larger than life."
posted by Jazznoisehere at 7:01 PM on August 23, 2005


Joe Frank did some live shows after he was canned from KCRW (stupid, stupid decision), and apparently they worked very well. He should get a TV show.
posted by kenko at 7:22 PM on August 23, 2005


He should get a TV show.

Better yet, Joe Frank for President in 2008.
posted by Jazznoisehere at 7:29 AM on August 24, 2005


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