Ira Glass mentors the internet
March 20, 2007 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Ira Glass sits at a soundboard and schools us on the art of storytelling.
posted by bigmusic (74 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
"The power of the anecdote"... so THAT's how tkchrist does it!
posted by wendell at 4:00 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

From the third clip...

You don't UNDERLINE every third WORD for EMPHASIS because it SOUNDS really UNNATURAL...

"This helps CUT our own trade DEFICIT and benefits EVERYONE in the U.S. ECONOMY"

posted by wendell at 4:15 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's so true wendell... One thing leads to the next thing, which lead to the next thing and the next thing, and before you know it, Lee Majors is urinating on you.
posted by psmealey at 4:15 AM on March 20, 2007

And then Lee Majors cuts the trade deficit or something.
posted by wendell at 4:21 AM on March 20, 2007

Am I the only person who doesn't really like Ira Glass's manner of speaking? Everything is underemphasized or something. He ends on a down note (literally) with every sentence.
posted by DU at 4:27 AM on March 20, 2007

It's a nice counterbalance to Terry Gross? Whose uptalking problem, for a radio interviewer, would be equivalent to Stephen Hawking as a Calvin Klein underwear model?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:32 AM on March 20, 2007

Terry Gross does do that teenage girl question thing? A lot? But maybe I'm just more used to it? Or her voice in general is less "I just got up and I haven't even had a glass of water" in the first place?
posted by DU at 4:39 AM on March 20, 2007

Oh, so this is the thread where we discuss the voices of NPR! This would be the place for me to admit I think Tom Ashbrook has the best male radio voice, then. I also think Terry Gross's enthusiasm is cute.
posted by knave at 4:42 AM on March 20, 2007

I think each of these NPR (and really, many other talk-based radio people) often rely on sounding basically unique. I hadn't paid much attention to Ira Glass before he got lots of interview time in the They Might Be Giants documentary "Gigantic". And there, I heard him the same way some people seem to, as a quietly downturned nerd, almost afraid to piece out his crafted little audio gift to you, which turns out to be quite wonderful.

After that, I started to listening to This American Life and naturally found the whole thing fascinating and entertaining and wonderful and all the rest of it. His presentation is what it is, and you either buy in or you don't. Same with Terry Gross. Nothing bland about the deliveries.

That said, I hate Sarah Vowell's opinion and delivery entirely, and would be comfortable with her waking up one morning inside 1,000 catfood cans.

But misguidedly murderous thoughts aside, the important point is: Glass' content in these multiple presentations about presentation is brilliant.
posted by jscott at 4:45 AM on March 20, 2007

Oh, so this is the thread where we discuss the voices of NPR!

Alot of that was talked about here: Why does NPR sound so unique?
posted by bigmusic at 4:51 AM on March 20, 2007

What's amazing about Terry Gross is when they play clips of interviews past and she sounds exactly the same. Even from 20 years ago! And she used to smoke! WTF!

Maureen Corrigan does pretty good book reviews but she tries to pack too much IMPORTANCE! into each syllable. Robert Segal is awesome both as an interviewer and as a voice as is at least one of the ATC female hosts (but I'm never sure which is which). Steve Inskeep--meh. Joanne Silberner sounds like a little girl with marbles in her mouth but...dammit, the woman with the Indian accent--what's her name? has a great crisp delivery. The guy from Texas (who must be "John Burnett" according to this page) has a strident, nuance-free Texan sound that I can't stand. "Ofeibea Quist-Arcton" has the best name, "Ira Flatow" the worst. Frank DeFord is a moron and I can hear the underarm hair in Sylvia Poggioli's voice.

Does anyone know why Nora Raum pronounces her name "NORAUM"?

Discussing the personalitii and voices of NPR would make a good internet.
posted by DU at 4:58 AM on March 20, 2007

Diane Rhem for the win, Alex.
posted by BeerFilter at 4:58 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah the Texas guy is awesome too. Wade Goodwin is his name, DU.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:01 AM on March 20, 2007

I like Ira Glass and his show very much. The delivery is nerdy, but that's great. Noah Adams mentioned in a book of his that the great thing about NPR is that you're allowed to have quiet air- you don't have to over-stimulate your audience. And the background music is fabulous driving-at-night music.

I hated Sarah Vowell's voice for a long time, but I love her stories and opinions so I tolerate the voice.
posted by MtDewd at 5:01 AM on March 20, 2007

Don't forget about Kai Ryssdal, he always sounds so cool.
posted by knave at 5:03 AM on March 20, 2007

Oh yeah, how could I forget "Wade Goodwin"? It's like he's trying to deliver his report in a windstorm but without shouting.
posted by DU at 5:04 AM on March 20, 2007

Don't forget about Kai Ryssdal, he always sounds so cool.

I think this is part of the Marketplace "personality"...the last three Marketplace male hosts have had this smooth confident alpha-male baritone.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:41 AM on March 20, 2007

I've found that Ira Glass's voice has always lacked... "command," which is something I couldn't put my finger on, but when you listen to an episode where David Sedaris reads or speaks and can make the juxtaposition, it's clear. Sedaris is someone who is very self-depracating, yet has an incredibly commanding way of speaking. Luckily for Mr. Glass, most everything he's saying is concise and is chock full of information that you may actually want to hear - which is generally not what you expect when you hear a voice that is not... commanding. It's an odd counterpoint, but it seems to work for him. Definitely turned me off when I first started listening, but I got past it pretty quickly. The man really does know how to put together a compelling hour of audio! Now I have to go take a gander at this interview and find out why.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:00 AM on March 20, 2007

Sorry, that should be "self-deprecating." Hopefully I sounded like I knew what I was talking about, and you didn't notice. right?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:02 AM on March 20, 2007

Oh, also, I've wondered if Ira Glass may have overcome a speech impediment at one time, or maybe it's that he just doesn't pronounce all of his "L's" or something - you can hear it at the beginning of the first interview linked. He says something about story "building blocks," but he says it more like "bihwding bwlocks." It's not quite cartoonish as it looks written out - it's pretty subtle in his speech- but I always notice it. It's almost like he's rushed or something, always a little hyper. It's odd, and like what was stated in the above linked askme thread, it's something that makes him sound almost more normal, (everyday American, to me) in the sense that I knew a bunch of kids growing up who sounded a lot like that, or people now who seem to talk too fast for clear pronunciation. So much information to get across and not enough time to do it.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:17 AM on March 20, 2007

Also, watching this now, the third video is a really good Hard Truth that (as he says), nobody seems to talk about. Which is that when you want to be in a creative endeavor, you generally have better taste than what you're capable of, and there's a large gap that takes a long time to close - and most people get discouraged and don't follow that through, when in reality it's a completely normal phase.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:32 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Years ago I recieved a comment that I sounded "very much like" that "host of This American Life." I started listening the next week. I have to say, I'm still not sure if it was a complement or an insult.
posted by cavalier at 6:33 AM on March 20, 2007

The thing about This American Life is that it sneaks up on you. I often find myself wondering why the hell I'm listening to this story about building super-intendants(for example), and then before you know it, it's turned into a story about international intrigue and the power of man to re-invent himself.

I wonder how he finds the stories and how much he, uhm, enhances them before going to air. Some of the stories, I find it hard to believe that they are so neat and tidy in reality.

I'll still never forget the first episode of the show that I heard (I think it was TAL, at least)-- a follow up about a school teacher who had been changing lives in a low-income school, who had been gradually been beaten down by the school bureaucracy and mandated 'standards' until she was completed jaded and had given up on things ever being better. The way they juxtaposed the idealism of her youth and her bitterness as an older person was devastating. I had to stop the car and cry.

That kind of storytelling ability, to take something mundane and commonplace and make it seem profound and important, is a unique gift, I think. It's too bad that more radio stations don't try to emulate what NPR does. It would seem to me, that with NPR's ratings, it would be worthwhile to try and compete.
posted by empath at 6:37 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hate the voice of the guy who does the news where you can practically hear his jowls flap as he speaks. Lately it seems NPR has been going for more quirky voices over traditional radio ones.
posted by drezdn at 6:50 AM on March 20, 2007

Oooh, NPR name thread! What ever happened to Mike Theodoulou? and is he still in Nicosia? And I always loved stories involving Nkhata Zulu Chief Buthelezi.

Also, didn't Ira Glass and cartoonist Lynda Barry grow up together? Didn't she do a cartoon about it or something?
posted by Mcable at 6:54 AM on March 20, 2007

drezdn, you've got to be talking about Carl Kasell. If I sit too close to the speaker, I actually have to towel myself off after he speaks. Juicytalk!

He's also the Official Judge and Scorekeeper on on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and supplies the "prize" to the "winner," where he'll record an answering machine greeting for you.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:06 AM on March 20, 2007

"Lynda Barry is the funk queen of here, there and everywhere."

I remember reading that in a Matt Groening "Life In Hell" book from my (admittedly hip) childhood.

Ira Glass makes me happy. The whole TAL extended family makes me feel smart and nerdy-cool. And I like that.
posted by Bud Dickman at 7:16 AM on March 20, 2007

I remember catching Ira Glass doing a presentation at Northeastern University where he was pretty much giving the same "sequence of events + moment of reflection" lecture. This was back when TAL first released their "Radio Illustrated Guide" comic book, which was basically a radio documentary HOW-TO.

That lecture came just as I was starting to maintain an online journal, and it had a significant influence on my journalling style -- especially with thinking about pacing and incorporating the moment of reflection. That was probably, like, five years ago, with a brilliant flowering of online narrative method that have followed so it's certainly worthwhile to have a reminder.

oh, and on the side topic of NPR Oratory Fanclubbing, I still pine for the former presence of Dick Gordon on The Connection. The soft Canadian accent added a wonderful mellifluousness that is amiss in Tom Ashbrook's bulldoggedness.
posted by bl1nk at 7:34 AM on March 20, 2007

I was just listening to a TAL podcast this morning (#328: What I learned from television). In one of the acts, Ira Glass plays a clip from The O.C. in which TAL is name-dropped. One of the characters says, "Is that that show by those hipster know-it-alls that talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?"


I am so glad that TAL podcasts are now available for free, even if only for a week. I never remember to listen to the show when it's on the air, but thanks to the podcasts I have become a true addict of the show.

stupidsexyFlanders: I think there's a voice on NPR even juicier than Carl Kasell. The guy sounds like he has marbles in his mouth, but I can't for the life of me think of his name.
posted by misskaz at 7:47 AM on March 20, 2007

Daniel Shore, I think. He sounds ancient and decrepit. But he's got good things to say, if you can swim through the delivery. :)
posted by Malor at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2007

Even juicier than Carl Kasell (that guy's first name is krying out for changing the c to a k, btw): Daniel Schorr. He's 80 years older than the universe and was on Nixon's personal enemies list.
posted by DU at 7:55 AM on March 20, 2007

I love Ira Glass, but he often sounds like he's doing his show while eating a sandwich.

Either Michele or Melissa on ATC has really mastered the much-parodied "My guest is a wounded Iraq vet so to show my empathy I'm going to talk to him like I'm trying not to wake a sleeping baby" technique. Drives me batty.

And don't get me started on Dolores Handy at Boston's WBUR. Holy cow can that woman mangle a sentence.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:56 AM on March 20, 2007

Oh man, Dolores. And the worst thing is, she's actually a better radio voice than the guy that announces there. Him and his random.....pauses.

Also, the woman that does the headline news during ATC. Look, you are going to have to have your smoking-induced laryngeal tumor removed eventually--just do it!
posted by DU at 8:01 AM on March 20, 2007

Hey, bl1nk, did you ever pickup that TAL 'Comic Book? how to? Has anyone else picked it up?

I'm tempted to buy it, but I'm worried about the legibility. The online preview is awfully hard to read.
posted by cavalier at 8:24 AM on March 20, 2007

"The power of the anecdote"... so THAT's how tkchrist does it!

It's funny you mention that. Glass is my hero. For years now.

Last week we went to the This American Life live show here in Seattle (which was AWESOME). As I get to do stuff through KUOW I got to go to the meet and greet and I was dying to try and find a way to hook Ira Glass on one of my fathers stories of being stationed in Vietnam before it was a war. When my dad still believed in Making The World Safe For Democracy. I really think my dad's stories would make great (and topical) This American Life fare. But this is selfish. My old man is 76. He has been on and off writing a book about it for years but get's distracted by fishing in Patagonia and shit. I was hoping something like this would get him to knuckle down and document some very rarely heard history before it's too late. Plus. My parents are of that very entertaining "media clueless" generation.

I was talking with Dan Savage (I may not be Teh Gay but that guy is adorable - everybody assumes he is a jerk but he is very sweet and charming I think) and attempting to make my way to Ira Glass when I realized pretty much everybody was doing this... though politely and in that passive-aggressive-never-get-to-the-point North West way we have up here. So I chickened out. Probably a good thing.

I hated Sarah Vowell's voice for a long time

YOU SHUT YOUR FILTHY DIRTY PIE HOLE YOU! Sarah is my secret girlfriend and I have taken the stalkers oath to defend her!
posted by tkchrist at 9:07 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

*sigh* I miss Noah Adams.
The guy whose voice really gives me the heebie-jeebies is Peter Overby.
posted by Biblio at 9:14 AM on March 20, 2007

This is great stuff. Thanks.
posted by humblepigeon at 9:18 AM on March 20, 2007

Don't forget about Kai Ryssdal, he always sounds so cool.

Big second here. I used to find economics entirely uninteresting, until I started listening to Marketplace about a year ago.

I still have no desire to listen to it when Kai is on vacation and someone else is filling in.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2007

Joe Frank... now there's a guy who benefitted from some post-processing.
posted by basicchannel at 9:20 AM on March 20, 2007

I may have been a community radio volunteer for too long, 'cause I'm getting kinda burnt out on Ira's advice. Believe you me, I don't underestimate his influence and skill and I still listen to TAL (though its originality is waning as other radio presentations mimic its style, while it resists change); it's just that he's relentlessly hero-worshipped in radio and occasionally, I like other people's styles and insights, too.

But Ira is everywhere. Here are some lessons he gave during a guest stint on If you're interested in more about the uniqueness of his sound, this piece gives a lot of background as to how laboriously he has worked to create his particular sound impression.
posted by Miko at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2007

Hey, bl1nk, did you ever pickup that TAL 'Comic Book? how to? Has anyone else picked it up?

I'm tempted to buy it, but I'm worried about the legibility. The online preview is awfully hard to read.

I have it, and it's legible. Not terribly interesting, though, unless you have a story that you'd like to submit to TAL.
posted by donajo at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2007

Other cool names: Kee Malesky; Neda Ulaby.

I love when they have Michelle Singletary on to discuss personal finance; she always sounds upbeat and friendly, giving me a glimmer of hope that one day I may be out of debt.
posted by Miko at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2007

I love when something funny catches Steve Inskeep off-guard and he bursts out laughing. It's incredibly indearing and sexy.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2007

I sure hope poor Peter Overby's jaw gets unwired soon.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:58 AM on March 20, 2007

Ira Glass was Lynda Barry's boyfriend for some time, and it didn't go well. She writes about their relationship (without naming him explicitly there, but has admitted his identity elsewhere) in an episode from her book "One Hundred Demons," entitled "Lice and My Worst Boyfriend."

And from Wikipedia: For a time in the 1980s, Barry dated Ira Glass, who would go on to host the influential NPR radio program This American Life. (Glass was present during Barry's 1989 The Comics Journal interview[1], and on a later appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, Barry discussed her misery following their breakup.) During their relationship, Glass influenced the development of Barry's strip by serving as a sounding board for Barry's ideas.

Barry does not remember the relationship fondly. Barry is quoted in a 1998 Chicago Reader article as saying of Glass, "I went out with him. It was the worst thing I ever did. When we broke up he gave me a watch and said I was boring and shallow, and I wasn't enough in the moment for him, and it was over."[2] Barry has written a comic story about the relationship, entitled "Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend," in her book One! Hundred! Demons!."

Down with Ira Glass.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another NPR voice I can't stand is Andrei Codrescu.

"I am a bitter, cynical Eastern European who talks in a near monotone."

posted by keswick at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2007

donajo, strangely enough I have a fascination for such things, even if I don't ever actually submit something. Thank you for the response!

And Carl Kassell to me, is a joy to NPR radio. I love his 'radio voice', both in a News capacity (serious) and as a 'Wait Wait!...' capacity (charmingly serious). His answering machine messages for the participants of 'Wait Wait!...' have me fiendishly trying to come up with a participant application that will get me on the show, and him on my phone!
posted by cavalier at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2007

And I hit submit too quick. The boon would be the message, not the show! Er... nice as the show is and everything.. ;)
posted by cavalier at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2007

knave: I've got nothing against Tom Ashbrook's voice, but his enthusiastic "mmmmph"s and "mmmmm-hmmmmm"s while his guests are talking make me want to throttle him. It's like he has to keep reasserting his presence so we don't forget he's still there.

Also, Terry Gross was totally crushing on They Might Be Giants when she interviewed them for Fresh Air.
posted by contraption at 10:19 AM on March 20, 2007

A friend of mine refers to Sarah Vowell as his "adenoidal vixen." Even after seeing the myriad fetishes of the world live and in color on the internet, those two words scare me to my very marrow.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:21 AM on March 20, 2007

Well we can't have an NPR voice thread and not bring up Nina Totenberg. She's beyond awesome, especially when she's reading from the SC transcripts.

Justice Breyer: ...
posted by rschroed at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

omg how did I forget Nina?! She was my first NPR love! She's still the gold standard all other NPR reporters (should) strive to meet.
posted by DU at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2007

These are great clips, especially the first one about storytelling.

On the subject of NPR announcers, I have an aversion to Scott Simon of Weekend Edition. He tries so hard to be funny, but his efforts undermine the humor. He tries so hard to be morally thoughtful, but his pompous voice and common thoughts get in the way. I listen to him and understand tragedy.

Harpers magazine published a letter a while ago where the author mentioned that he found Scott Simon "odious." Simon wrote back to say that he couldn't possibly be odious. According to Mr. Simon, Hitler was odious, he didn't resemble Hitler, thus he wasn't odious.

That's the most odious argument he could have made.
posted by ferdydurke at 10:44 AM on March 20, 2007

Kassel is certainly a litmus test, isn't he? I like his voice just fine. While intellectually I understand what my darling girlfriend is going on about when she rants about how he should take a second to swallow before he starts speaking, I have to really force myself to listen well enough to hear what she means.
posted by phearlez at 10:44 AM on March 20, 2007

Technically not an NPR-crush, but a public radio crush: Marketplace's Tess Vigeland. She's smart and sassy and has a no-nonsense-well-maybe-just-a-little voice like my 11th-grade US History teacher.

posted by infinitewindow at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2007

Another NPR voice I can't stand is Andrei Codrescu.

Seconded! The mere sound of his voice is depressing; he hardly needs the cynical, bitter commentary to back it up. He could read the lyrics to Happy Birthday and make them fairly drip with dry, world-weary irony.

Liane Hanson, from Weekend Edition Sunday, is the other one I despise; she has a way of jumping the gun on people who are trying to play Will Shortz' puzzles. She'll figure it out first, and then give condescending hints, when she should really just stay out of it. She does it with a smug tone, too, as though she doesn't realize how much easier it is to answer a question when you're not the one in the hot seat.
posted by Miko at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2007

Third the Totenberg love. Her coverage of the Roberts nomination two summers ago was totally off the hook. She had been hanging around all day waiting for the announcement, and by the end she had turned loopy and started cracking jokes and giggling on air. I was in the middle of a very long drive, and I'll never forget it.
posted by one_bean at 11:02 AM on March 20, 2007

I've always wanted to see Totenburg's Supreme Court transcripts done as puppet shows.
posted by Biblio at 11:25 AM on March 20, 2007

Your favorite NPR personality sucks?
posted by found missing at 11:32 AM on March 20, 2007

I get a chuckle whenever the morning host at the local NPR affiliate, WNYC, announces, "I'm Soterios Johnson."
posted by stargell at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2007

Nah. Silvia Poggioli's rich dark sultry tones makes me pour a big glass of Chianti and think positively filthy thoughts of Tuscan sunshine and togas.

Not to go into detail but there is a re-enactment of the Roman baths and buckets of tiramisu and Mascarpone cheese involved.

And they know. How sexy they are the little NPR minxes. Playing all coy. Talking about the Euro exchange rates... like they don't know. THEY KNOW.

But this is mere purient fantasy as I would never really cheat on that sweet virginal Sarah Vowell who is an angel from heaven.

posted by tkchrist at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

I must confess that I was very disappointed in that story. I kept expecting one thing to happen, and then another, and then for it to end with, "And that was when Ira Glass peed on my leg."
posted by miss lynnster at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2007

(Or on his 76 year-old father's leg! Even better!)
posted by miss lynnster at 11:42 AM on March 20, 2007

Andrei Codrescu's voice is what you should imagine when reading my comments.

A friend of mine refers to Sarah Vowell as his "adenoidal vixen."
Interesting choice of words.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:20 PM on March 20, 2007

For all the people criticizing the timbre of Glass's voice, nobody seems bothered by the fact that he randomly and incessantly interjects "like" into his sentences like a middle-school girl.

I listened halfway through the first clip and quit. I don't listen to This American Life but I know it's popular with MeFi types (read: layabouts), so I figured maybe Glass would have something insightful to say about storytelling. Nope. After spending 3 minutes explaining what an "anecdote" is, he announced that the other building block of storytelling is "reflection." Wow, really? Thanks for the analysis. By the way, the building blocks of music are melody, rhythm, and harmony. (SUCK ON IT, MOZART! I'M GIVIN' AWAY YOUR SECRETS!!)
posted by cribcage at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2007

Does anybody out there knOW the EldERly ANnounCER frOM wEsT VirGINia pubLIC RaDIo thAT TAlks LIke torGO?
posted by Wolfdog at 2:37 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I personally don't know, but am impressed by the effort you put into typing that.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2007

This thread is amazing. It never derailed; it stayed on one topic all the way through, and yet -- somehow -- it has almost nothing to do with the content of the post.

And for the record, Ira Glass and Sarah Vowell have PRI voices, not NPR voices. Kai Ryssdal has an American Public Media voice.
posted by hutta at 9:03 PM on March 20, 2007

Sarah Vowell have PRI voices

Sarah Vowell's face may or may not be perfect for radio, but her voice is definitely right for the printed word.
posted by psmealey at 3:38 AM on March 21, 2007

Joanne Silberner's voice inexplicably turns me on. It's really distracting, since she's usually talking about health-science stuff.

Susan Stamberg sounds like somebody I wouldn't mind flirting with over drinks. Women with low voices, hoo boy.

Our local public-radio station has started carrying Fair Game with Faith Salie. Ms. Salie sounds waaaaay too young for me yet doesn't look quite as young as she sounds; in any event, she definitely makes my ears prick up, or something.

A fluff piece that should be rewritten every five years or so: "The Faces of NPR."
posted by pax digita at 4:48 AM on March 21, 2007


OMG Yes! My parents lived in Charleston for a few years, and I visited them a couple times. I totally forgot about crazy old announcer man until just now. Thanks!
posted by misskaz at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2007

To clarify hutta's comment: Public radio programming is kind of complicated. NPR is a membership organization of hundreds of independent public radio stations, which can purchase content supplied by NPR or from any other content provider. NPR is the biggest and best-known content provider for independent public stations, and produces more of its own content than any other major source. NPR also distributes content created independently at dozens of affiliate stations nationwide.

But anyone can get into the radio-production and distribution game. PRI is also a content provider for independent public stations. It draws from the CBC, BBC, and lots of other sources and, like NPR, acts as a distribution channel.

American Public Media (which also produces Prairie Home Companion and The Splendid Table and some other fine programs) is a content provider that is actually a collaborative effort of Minnesota Public Radio and California Public Radio.

Because Minnesota Public radio has been involved in both PRI and American Public Media, it gets confusing. I know I found it all confusing when I started getting involved with radio, which is why I'm jumping in about it. It's a fascinating, rather loose and chaotic structure. And then there are all the independent radio producers out there, whose work you can hear (and cherrypick!) on sites like Transom or on PRX, the public radio exchange.

The interesting bit is that all radio producers are in competition with one another for radio time on your local public station. Your station pays broadcast fees to carry any of their programs, and each group would like to maximize its reach by creating more station affiliations. It makes programming decisions quite hard, and quite dependent on what the local market wants, as demonstrated through the pocketbook during Pledge Week, and as determined by demographics and local station mission.

On another topic - Fair Game: not loving it. I wrote to PRI about the show after giving it a listen for its four weeks. I find it really grating, the product of a transparent attempt to be youthful, hip, and edgy about the news. For me, the attempt fails. I find the humor weak and distracting and the interviewing not very strong. It seems the strategy is to building Faith Saley as a personality on the order of a public-radio Jon Stewart, but she doesn't seem to have the same balance of intellect, curiosity, and incisive humor that makes that approach work. It comes off sounding snarky and immature. I'm doubly surprised, because much of the Fair Game team came up through Studio 360 a show I absolutely love.

Radio - so archaic, so simple, and yet soooo awesome.
posted by Miko at 8:36 AM on March 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

WBUR's Dolores Handy! The secret is out!

Every time I hear her complely get lost inside a two-line announcement, my first thought is "now surely, SURELY she's going to be fired". And then she's not. What the heck!

The overnight guy is A-OK with me.
posted by jscott at 5:57 PM on March 21, 2007

Daniel Schore totally looks like he sounds... but you totally want him for a curmudgeony grandfather... very amusing...

and does anyone remember Oddessy Gretchen Helfridge was awesome!
posted by stratastar at 8:03 AM on March 22, 2007

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