In 2001 I stopped by Stetson’s house, on a beautiful marshland near Jacksonville, Florida. We talked about his 1939-40 recording expedition, accompanied by Zora Neale Hurston, documenting the songs and stories of Florida. That interview and those recordings become the NPR story “The Sound of 1930s Florida Folk Life” (22:00 mp3):
The Klan Unmasked is Stetson’s story of infiltrating and undermining the KKK. He tell it in this next clip, “Nazi-minded Klansmen” (4:26 mp3):
His good friend Woody Guthrie wrote a song about him, “Stetson Kennedy.” lyrics: Woody Gurthrie; music: Billy Bragg & Wilco, from Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (2:40 mp3):
I done spent my last three cents
Mailing my letter to the President
Didn’t make a show, I didn’t make a dent
So I’m swinging over to this independent gent
Writing his name in
Writing his name in
I can’t win out to save my soul
Long as Smathers-Dupont’s got me in the hole
Them war profit boys are squawking and balking
That’s what’s got me out here walking and talking
Knocking on doors and windows
Wake up and run down election morning
And scribble in Stetson Kennedy
I ain’t the world’s best writer, ain’t the world’s best speller
But when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller
If we fix it so you can’t make no money on war
Well we’ll all forget what we was killing folks for
We’ll find us a peace job equal and free
We’ll dump Smathers-Dupont in a salty sea
Well, this makes Stetson Kennedy the man for me
The publshers of Reality Radio have allowed to post a bit of their book. From John Biewen’s Introduction:
The goal is to bring together producers with distinctive, powerful, and richly varied approaches to their craft. Some of our essayists call themselves audio artists. They push the boundaries of journalism to the breaking point—okay, beyond the breaking point—in the service of an aesthetic vision but also in pursuit of a different (higher?) sort of truth. Others describe themselves primarily as storytellers, drawing mainly on the narrative power of the spoken word. Still others see themselves as journalists; on the surface, at least, they emphasize information over formal innovation. But the journalistic documentarians, too, give careful attention to form and, in fact, employ plenty of (conventionally sanctioned) artifice along the way.
Here’s an excerpt of the essay “Coming Home,” by Katie Davis:
A boy rumbles by on his skateboard, says his name is Julio and asks to pet the dogs. Sure. Another twelve-year-old bellows like a carnival hawker, “Hey lady, you got a tire patch?” Sure. And I give Joaquin ten dollars to run to the bike store to buy three patch kits, one for him, and the rest I’ll keep for other kids. The super from the building down the street notices the cluster of kids and lugs up two old bikes he found in the alley. And this is how, without planning, I start a recycle-a-bicycle program on my front porch. Everything takes place on my front porch for a long while.
I become known as the “bike lady,” the lady who always has granola bars and time to sit and listen. After a year, I form a youth group called the Urban Rangers and begin raising money to pay for bike parts and snacks. Two teenagers ask me start a basketball team. Sure why not? And then as I explain my philosophy to the guys, that winning is not important on this team, and everybody will get to play in every game. “No, no,” the boys interrupt and begin coaching me on how to be a coach. The dialogue is funny and that night the rusty part of my radio brain begins chanting, Good tape. Good tape.
So, I call an old friend at NPR and float the idea of writing an “essay with tape” about my team. I warn the show producer that the story will be personal, like a diary, that I break the rules of journalism in every paragraph. I write in the first person and I have not kept any objective distance from these boys. I give money to two brothers because I know they are hungry. I hire another kid’s father because they are struggling on $12,000 a year. The boys hang out at my house, they come to tell me about problems. I no longer wanted any distance between me and these neighborhood kids. NPR solves the issue of my status by calling me a commentator. My transition from reporter to commentator took four years of neighborhood porch sitting and trouble shooting and is distilled into this one word.
Wes ‘Scoop’ Nisker tried to transform what news can be, blurring the lines of communication between newscast and sonic-collage. His reports aired on KSAN, the wildly popular commercial station, in the 1970s.
Selected casts were later compiled as “A Decade In your Ear” by New American Radio, and are now posted at Scoop’s site. This underground classic “helped define and express the counter-culture of that era. You will hear the voices of presidents, people in the streets, and the Swami from Miami.”
From 2005 to today, J-Lab has tracked $135,859,660 million in grants awarded to at least 128 news projects [325 grants from 207 foundations]. In the searchable database you can find these grants by the name of the foundation that issued funding, by the name of the news project that received grant support, or by state.
This database includes funding only for news and information projects. It does not include funding for public broadcasting programs, for the underwriting of documentaries, for journalism training or student news services.
Virtuoso Voices has compiled interviewing tips from pubradio personalities Bob Edwards, Susan Stamberg, Kurt Andersen, Lisa Mullins, John Diliberto, Lynn Neary and others. It’s all in a 25-page Interviewing 3.0 pdf (296KB).
David Schulman’s (of MITOW) thots on interviewing “feng shui” are revalations. Below are some excerpts from “Interviewing Performing Artists… and Others: A Practical Guide”…
Think of it as a conversation and not an interview. If you do an interview, it will likely SOUND like an interview. How do you talk to a friend over a beer? First you LISTEN—and you react to what you’ve heard. If someone tells me something really interesting, I’ll simply say, “Really?” or “No!” Those are little words of encouragement that signal the speaker to continue—and to expand on previous remarks. If your guest is truly confusing, try “Huh?”
Indulge yourself. Ask the question you’ve always wanted to ask. “What’s that lyric about?”
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard question. They aren’t your friends and you don’t have to worry that they won’t like you or walk out. Although occasionally they do.
Don’t be afraid to ask the obvious question. I got this from listening to Terry Gross, who, besides being a probing interviewer, also knows where the good stories are and isn’t afraid to query into known terrain, because a good story is still a good story, even if it’s been heard before. Chances are, most people still don’t know it. Then find a different angle on that story.
by Jay Kernis 2006-12-19 (Presentation to NPR Stations)
It’s an exciting time to be in public radio — as we all try to figure out how we will become public media.
For more than a year now, under the New Realities banner, the public radio community has been talking about everything from how to use new technology to share stories from the past and present — to creating a new business model to fund public radio — to articulating our mission in a media world that offers so many choices. A new world where the biggest challenge is just getting the attention of the audience.
Here’s one provocative statement from these discussions — a challenge — that really got me thinking:
“NPR has found its distinctive SOUND.
It is now time for NPR to find its true voice.”
–Quote from an NPR reporter (February 2006)
To me, that reporter was saying: it is time for us to discover what we truly want to become.
Because if we fail to do so, audiences will go elsewhere. If we fail to do so, we will be prey to the others who will define us. The others who call us “liberal” or “effete” or “boring.”
The statement by the reporter differentiates between our sound and our voice. I’m going to talk about both for a few moments.
To help us find our true voice, I asked NPR News to make a few what I called “tweaks” — SIX OF THEM actually — most of them involving the issues we’ve been discussing for years. Decades, actually.
First, I told them that when people tune to an NPR program, I want them to hear reports and interviews and essays that inform them, of course, and that ask them to question preconceived notions — but that’s not all.
I want the air to SING. I want programming that carries listeners to new places — intellectually and emotionally; programming that awakens you, that keeps you in your car to hear the ending, and that makes you want to tell a friend about what you heard. That makes you want to tune in again and again. Programming that soars — and sings.
But, the six areas I want us to pay a lot of attention to — right now — are: More…
Michael Massing, in the The New York Review of Books, has a numbers-packed eval of the newsprint biz, “A New Horizon for the News.” Among the insights:
Last year, circulation dropped on average by 4.6 percent.… Yet amid all this gloom, statistics from the Internet suggest that interest in news has rarely been greater. According to one survey, Internet users in 2008 spent fifty-three minutes a week reading newspapers online, up from forty-one minutes in 2007. And the traffic at the top fifty news Web sites increased by 27 percent. While this growth cut across all age groups, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism found, “it was fueled in particular by young people.”…
According to one study, of all the time readers spend with a newspaper, 96 percent of it is spent on print editions and barely more than 3 percent on the Web. Similarly, of the $38.5 billion spent on newspaper ads in 2008, just $3 billion was spent on the Web. With numbers like these, print is not going away anytime soon.…
How could the financial fortunes of a $50 billion–plus industry decline so swiftly while its product remains so prized? The most immediate explanation is the collapse of what has long been the industry’s economic base: advertising. The traditional three staples of newspaper advertising—automotive, employment, and real estate—have all drastically declined, thanks to Craigslist, eBay, the travails of Detroit, and the consolidation of department stores (resulting in fewer retail ad pages). Meanwhile, the steady expansion of space on the Internet has caused online ad rates to crash, and these are not expected to recover even when the economy as a whole does.
The fall-off in ad revenues has been compounded by another phenomenon that newspaper executives would rather not discuss: their own greed. The relentless stress placed on acquisition and consolidation, which dominated the industry for decades, helped drain money out of newsrooms and into the pockets of shareholders. It also shifted the locus of decision-making from locally based citizens to distant corporate boards. Most harmful of all, efforts to build large media conglomerates have saddled newspaper companies with astounding levels of debt, much of it taken on to buy other newspaper companies.
And, at the end, a salute to NPR:
To date, the funding of nonprofit journalism has been led by the Knight Foundation, with added support from Carnegie, Ford, MacArthur, and George Soros’s Open Society Institute.… When it comes to cultivating such sources, everyone looks to one organization for guidance: NPR. At a time when not only newspapers but also commercial broadcasters are struggling, NPR has thrived.
In the womb, our first connection to the outside world is through sound. Heartbeats. Voices.
When we’re born, our first impulse is to make sound.
Some creation myths say, in so many words, in the beginning there was sound.
Our voice starts deep within us and moves out into the world and into another person. Touch at a distance someone once said. And yes, sound enters us — all the time. We can’t help but hear. We don’t have earlids, as producer Jay Allison likes to say.
Our voice is a mixture of the air and our thoughts. They mingle together.
And this is a new thought to me. I’m still working on it. But, humans make sound. Think about it. We don’t make light. We don’t make taste. We don’t make touch, per se. Okay, I suppose you could aruge we make smells but that’s not something we fully control. But sound…we can create sound. We talk. We sing. We’re able to make noise with our bodies and because of our bodies — that’s how we’re constructed. That’s unique among the senses.
Have I gone off the deep end yet? No? Well try this.
Radio taps into something ancient. Something primal. Long before the printed word. Long before pictures and film. Waaay before Facebook, we communicated in sound. It’s all we had. We’ve been passing along information and telling stories sonically for about a bazillion years. At this point, it’s just how we’re wired. Radio plugs right into that.
With radio, the listener is a co-author. Radio engages the mind like a good book and we paint our own pictures. Television, which I know is an easy target, but for comparison, television tells you everything you need to know with its combination of pictures and sound. Radio lets you think.
Radios are inexpensive and ubiquitous — most homes have a good half dozen. You can be illiterate and ‘get’ radio.
There’s something magical about the radio. How the hell does sound get into that little box? If you talk to old school radio engineers, they’ll tell you the “M” in “F. M.” Stands for magic. I’ll let you guess what the “F” stands for. In fact, when radio was first discovered, it was thought that we tapped into a mysterious atmospheric element, the ether. I actually like to believe that’s true. More…
[John Rieger’s three-year bi-weekly late-night experiment in radio programming, Artifacts: KPFA-Berkeley 1985-1987, introduced the idea of “audiography”…]
“Artifacts” is an experiment in the esthetics of non-narrative audio figuration and thematic organization. The sound recording media have produced figurative works primarily in such narrative forms as journalism and drama. Non-narrative audio composition has been understood as a musical enterprise rather than a figurative one. The poverty of this accepted wisdom is suggested by the analogy with photography. While painting begins with “stuff” — paint, the elementary color stuff — photographic composition begins with what might loosely be called “semantic” elements, visual records of world objects which contain a world reference. Photography has a passive or receptive moment which painting does not; for while painting may be a wholly abstract enterprise, photography must at least begin from the figuration which occurs when the film receives the light image from the world object.
So we may compare sound recording with musical composition. Music begins with the elementary sound stuff, whose fundamental property, we shall say, is timbre. Sound recording, however, begins with the passive or receptive moment which we noted in photography, where in this case the audio image of the world object is received and recorded. Sound recording is “audiographic”. But while photographic figuration has long since freed itself from the compositional constraints of the narrative tableau and the news photo, audiographic figuration still serves almost exclusively the dramatist and the journalist. Only by considering the audiographic record as sound stuff (musique concrete) have we managed to break these narrative shackles; but in so doing we have lost the reference to the world object and so destroyed the audiographic image qua image.
Surely, then, we have not yet exhausted this remarkable medium!
Audiography records only the mystery. Radio journalism has fought against this mystery, doing appalling violence to what is subtle, ambiguous and profound in the name of clarity, and strapping the unruly “actuality” into a straightjacket of anemic literalism.
Consider the richness of the audiographic image. Unencumbered by the superabundance of banal visual information against which photographers and filmmakers have had to struggle to uncover what is mysterious in the Thing, audiography records only the mystery. Radio journalism has fought against this mystery, doing appalling violence to what is subtle, ambiguous and profound in the name of clarity, and strapping the unruly “actuality” into a straightjacket of anemic literalism. (Or perhaps it is the journalist who wears the straightjacket.) Radio drama, with equal violence, reduces the audiographic image to a sound “effect”, playing a perpetually supporting role, and coming and going by the servants’ entrance. Should the image then seek the seductive embrace of musique concrete it will find only the ultimate subjugation, its destruction.
“Artifacts”, then, is the audiographic annunciation of the Thing. It heralds the esthetic of the blank stare. It calls upon us not to subjugate the image, but to receive it as it is for-itself; for within these audiographic artifacts objects lead lives of their own, revealing in their gravitational attraction one to another the unconscious mass, the hidden psychic substance which sustains them. They are to be approached not with a will to mastery, but with an attitude of reverence and humility befitting one on whom a thing of mysterious beauty has been bestowed.
[Today is the final broadcast of NPR Day to Day. The show, which has aired so much HV stuff and been a pleasure to work with, has been canceled.]
Much of our news today is like much of our food today. Heavily processed. Raised in cages, fed hormones and antibiotics. It makes us sick, maybe causes cancer. At least it doesn’t seem unreasonable that you could get cancer from the news.
But we need news, just like we need food. In order to maintain a civil society we need to stay well informed of the issues at hand, and the news is how we do this. So what we need is news that isn’t processed, we need more organic news.
In my opinion as a news connoisseur and critic, Day to Day was the cleanest, most ‘wild caught’ program produced by NPR. Sometimes after listening to the program I actually felt better. I had more energy and eagerness to go about my life. I wondered what would be on the show tomorrow. More than anything Day to Day gave me hope of hearing something really fresh and true. If anything suffers in processing, it’s the truth.
Faced with alleged budget shortfalls last Fall, some of NPR’s 17 vice presidents decided to cut Day to Day from it’s schedule and fire everyone who worked there. Personally, I would have erased all vice presidents. When was the last time you heard of a vice president in a news room? There are people called editors and producers and engineers in a news room but nobody goes by vice president, let alone 17 people who go by vice president all making around a quarter million a year. Not to mention their secretaries and assistants. Maybe some country club memberships.
This class of NPR employee apparently doesn’t mind producing and consuming processed news. They’ve done tests and conducted studies that show the news they produce is made from the best ingredients, assembled by trained professionals, all approved by the Columbia School of Journalism, and brought to you at a surprisingly inexpensive price. They are marketers and lawyers, and I say they should be gathered together and marched out onto the downtown Washington street on a snowy day and made strip down to their underwear, and then every single one of them should be fired and forced to eat nothing but Big Macs for the rest of their lives.
[More from Mexico. This is last story by slain newspaper journalist Armando Rodriguez, of El Diario de Juárez , translated by Molly Molloy, research librarian at New Mexico State University- Las Cruces…]
Dead man in canal was a street corner clown
The man assassinated
Tuesday night in the Diaz Ordaz viaduct
a street clown,
according to the state authority.
Nevertheless, this person has not been identified,
but it was reported
that he was between 25 and 30 years old,
1.77 meters tall,
light brown complexion,
short black hair.
The victim’s face was painted as a clown,
green with a red nose,
reported the State Prosecutor’s office.
He wore a red polo shirt,
a navy blue sweatshirt, blue jeans,
gray socks labeled USA,
gray and white Converse tennis
and a dark beret.
The body was found in the Diaz Ordaz viaduct,
at Norzagaray Blvd in the colonia Bellavista, on November 11 at 9:40 pm.
The body was found on its side,
with bullet wounds in the right side,
chest and head.
At this time, the motive for the murder is unknown as well as the
[Scott Carrier is working on an HV Hour about the murders in Juárez, Mexico, starting with his NPR series, then moving onto the current much, much worse situation. The following are some emails from Scott…]
Yesterday Armando Rodriguez, the journalist who’d written most of the stories (901) on this year’s executions in Juárez Mexico, was himself executed:
A Juarez journalist known for his work as a crime reporter for El Diario de Juarez was gunned down Thursday morning in front of his home, the newsapaper’s Web site reported.
Armando Rodriguez was preparing to take his daughter to school in Juarez when a gunman approached his car and fired several shots at point-blank range, according to accounts provided by the newspaper. Rodriguez reportedly died at the scene.
The assailant then fled to a waiting car carrying other men and sped off in an unknown direction.
Rodriguez was the police beat reporter for El Diario de Juarez and had become an expert on the brutal drug cartel violence that has gripped Juarez for the last several years.
“He was a good person and a good reporter,” said KINT-TV (Univision Ch. 26) reporter Pedro Villagrana, who has worked closely with Rodriguez for more than a decade.
Word of Rodriguez’ slaying quickly spread throughout the Juarez and El Paso journalism community. Some members of the Juarez media including his colleagues at El Diario de Juarez gathered at the crime scene to mourn his death, according to the newspaper Web site.
Juárez has always been a violent place. No rule of law. People get killed and nobody is arrested, not even an investigation. What’s new now is the rate of murders. There are more than 100 executions each month in Juárez, 1300 this year alone. Last year there were about 300.
By respecting a guest’s right to decline to answer a personal question, by giving him or her the responsibility to define what’s going too far, I’m giving myself the freedom to ask absolutely anything. Having been assured that I won’t invade his or her privacy, a guest is more likely to answer seemingly personal questions than he or she might have been otherwise.
“More and more journalists are working with audio these days and learning from radio reporters. This is a fabulous guide for journalists about using sound and audio clips in their journalism. It’s a 21-page PDF with lots of good advice about story development, writing, and gathering sound. The best part of this guide is the extensive advice about interviewing. The guide was prepared by J.Carl Ganter and Eileen E. Ganter for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. They give credit for some of the content to David Candow, a well-known broadcast trainer for CBC.”
Poynter Online hosts an online resource list of informational links on anything imaginable in field media journalism.
The Canadian Journalism Project is a collection of all things journalism. There’s advice and articles on social nets, web-searching, and beat-specific tools, along with an award-winning journalism database, ethical resources and links for teaching.
The International Women’s Media Foundation’s Online Training has these “Tips & Guides: Writing Broadcast,” of which educator Mary McGuire says, “There are countless guides to writing broadcast copy online. This is one of the better ones. It’s a clear list of 10 rules with good examples as illustrations.”:
Did I write in my own voice or did I use the words of a wire service or officials?
Did I eliminate unnecessary information?
Did I leave any unanswered questions?
Translate the jargon. Make the words your own.
The Knight Citizen News Network has just published Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive, A digital literacy guide for the information age. Available as a free pdf or $10 dead-tree vers. The book fears not the feature; the chapters flow from “Digital Audio and Podcasting” and “How to Report News for the Web” to “FTP, MB, RSS, oh My!” (did you know a YottaByte is 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 bytes, page 17) and even “How to Blog.”
When Hub Brown’s students first told him they loved “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and sometimes even relied on it for news, he was, as any responsible journalism professor would be, appalled.
Now he’s a “Daily Show” convert.
“There are days when I watch ‘The Daily Show,’ and I kind of chuckle. There are days when I laugh out loud. There are days when I stand up and point to the TV and say, ‘You’re damn right!'” says Brown, chair of the communications department at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and an associate professor of broadcast journalism.…
As “The Daily’s Show’s” Web site puts it: “One anchor, five correspondents, zero credibility. If you’re tired of the stodginess of the evening newscasts, if you can’t bear to sit through the spinmeisters and shills on the 24-hour cable news networks, don’t miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a nightly half-hour series unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity or even accuracy.”