F* It, We'll Do It Live
June 14, 2021 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Just before 8 AM Sunday, NPR's Scott Detrow tweeted, "Well, ten minutes to @NPRWeekend, just about none of the software we use to put on a show is working. We will be on the air either way, tune in on your local NPR member station!" Audio engineer and Technical Director Stu Rushfield broke down how they pivoted to produce the show live in a Twitter thread.

The technical difficulties meant that prerecorded segments meant for the day's Weekend Edition were unavailable. Regular host Lulu Garcia Navarro had the weekend off, so reporter Scott Detrow had the unenviable task of filling in as the show improvised.

They called the reporters whose segments were scheduled to be aired, and interviewed them on air. As Stu Rushfield tweeted, "At several points, we had far more reporters calling in than we had phone lines." Detrow tweeted,
Today I have talked to @NPR people in Jerusalem, Istanbul, Freetown, Mumbai, NYC, DC, somewhere on a train in England, AND MORE.

And most importantly @DaviSusan IN STUDIO! First time since March ‘20 NPR had an in-person segment.
Eventually producers were able to broadcast some prerecorded segments … by burning them to CD.

You can listen to the whole show now. And yes, the team got pizza, and Stu Rushfield got to his son's graduation.
posted by fedward (19 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
The post title refers to a notorious Bill O'Reilly incident. To my knowledge nobody at NPR swore into a hot mic.
posted by fedward at 8:27 AM on June 14 [9 favorites]


Heh, when New York's public AM station WNYC moved to its new digs (in 2006?) there was actually a hot mic incident that went out on the air. I remember I was listening to a show and it stopped, and there were just ambient room sounds. Then a voice said, quietly, "what the FUCK?," more shuffling around, and the show resumed. My impression was that somebody hadn't learned the ins and outs of the new control room.
posted by anhedonic at 8:37 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Often a catastrophe reveals genius. During the 2003 blackout, Toronto independent TV station CITY-TV did their news coverage from the parking lot. (Their mobile vehicles, the "Live Eye" trucks, were ubiquitous in the nineties, so they were well set up to broadcast from the field.)

The station as an independent entity is no more but one of the Live Eyes remains as an art piece above the parking lot.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:53 AM on June 14 [11 favorites]


Most excitement there since the printer used the wrong color for the tote bags
posted by thelonius at 9:07 AM on June 14 [25 favorites]


Ah! I caught a little bit of it and I couldn't figure out why it sounded so "off". This is pretty cool.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:13 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Great post!
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:55 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I wasn't listening very closely yesterday morning but at one point I did notice a reporter ask someone a question that they had just answered. This explains it!
posted by Drab_Parts at 10:45 AM on June 14


reporter Scott Detrow had the unenviable task of filling in

Not to be argumentative but these folks live for challenges and he probably will get a huge radio karma bump, if not his own show.
posted by sammyo at 11:07 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


If NPR decided to do an entire day of live radio, including the 15-second palate-cleansing music breaks, as a fundraising stunt I'd listen to the whole thing. And probably contribute.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:25 AM on June 14 [17 favorites]


". . . reporter Scott Detrow had the unenviable task of filling in

Not to be argumentative but these folks live for challenges and he probably will get a huge radio karma bump, if not his own show."

I once showed up to do a full day training and realized that I had left the box of handouts in my office, 200 miles away. This was pre-internet so it was just me, 40 expectant people and a whiteboard.

It turned out to be one of the best trainings I ever did and reinforced that I really knew my stuff.

After that, when I was mentoring new staff and they had an upcoming training, I would schedule an hour with them in a conference room, take their materials away and say, "Teach me what I need to know." It could be quite an eye-opener for them and helped them to realize the importance of deeply knowing your subject matter and the training outline/facts to be covered.
posted by ITravelMontana at 11:27 AM on June 14 [33 favorites]


these folks live for challenges and he probably will get a huge radio karma bump, if not his own show

My post was intended to celebrate the effort all those professionals at NPR put in under challenging circumstances. I certainly wouldn't try to infer anybody's mental state, but I'm pretty sure "surprise, we're doing the whole thing live" is more than any guest host, even a consummate and well-prepared professional, generally considers when agreeing to fill in, adrenaline junkie or not. Good news, though: Scott Detrow already co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.

(Disclosure: I've known a number of past and present NPR employees and contributors for years, but to my knowledge I haven't met any of the people named here.)
posted by fedward at 11:43 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


more entertainment should be live. it's the only distinguishing thing some of them have left. I know we all time shift everything but sporting events but even still, it's always fun to watch/listen to people working without a net. or on only a very short delay. Reminds me of one of my favorite movies: My Favorite Year
posted by chavenet at 11:59 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


15-second palate-cleansing music breaks,

I wonder who the person was who used to sneak Steve Morse guitar solos in there. I hope they got a muffin basket or something on their last day.
posted by thelonius at 1:00 PM on June 14


Scott Detrow is an alumnus of Harrisburg's WITF, a public radio station that's pushing back against the big lie.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:24 PM on June 14


My favorite part was when Will Shortz started feeding prompts to Scott to get him through the puzzle segment.
posted by acrasis at 3:40 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


It could be quite an eye-opener for them and helped them to realize the importance of deeply knowing your subject matter

Yeah, the more I lead training sessions, the more my style becomes 1) Write a detailed script from the objectives, including exact wording of the thought-provoking questions I intend to ask at various points, then 2) delete everything in the script except the headings and time marks so I can pick up the pace or stretch to roughly hit the marks and finish on time.

Both steps are necessary.
posted by ctmf at 4:38 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Coming up next on the CBC:
As It Happens...as it (actually) happens.
posted by bartleby at 8:17 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Why wouldn't broadcasting stations occasionally (or better: annually) do unassisted live broadcasts so that every audio engineer would or could have proper training with similar losses for their individual stations?
posted by filtergik at 2:55 AM on June 15


Best times for this are deep at night - the most interesting radio interviews I've given were when there was plenty of time to do them, and no rush that comes with day-time radio. Between 3 and 4 AM there's TIME to do things in an interview, I assume that means the audio engineers have an easier time as well...
posted by DreamerFi at 4:17 AM on June 15


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