The first all-girl radio station in the nation, WHER-Memphis, went on-air in 1955. It was the brainchild of sound legend Sam Phillips, who created the groundbreaking format with money he raised from selling Elvis Presley’s Sun Studios contract. Women almost exclusively ran the station. They read the news, interviewed local celebrities, and spun popular records. They sold and produced commercials, directed and engineered programming, and sat at the station’s control boards.
NPR’s Susan Stamberg hosts this one hour special on WHER, produced for the Kitchen Sisters’ series Lost and Found Sound. Mixed by Jim McKee of Earwax.
Reality Radio celebrates today’s best audio documentary work by bringing together some of the most influential and innovative practitioners.
Contributors [include]: Jay Allison, damali ayo, Emily Botein, Chris Brookes, Scott Carrier, Katie Davis, Ira Glass, The Kitchen Sisters, Maria Martin, Karen Michel, Rick Moody, Joe Richman, Dmae Roberts, Stephen Smith, Sandy Tolan.
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.”
President Johnson signs the Public Broadcasting Act, November 7, 1967
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Independent producers” and “independent production” are mentioned sixteen times, including, “a substantial amount shall be distributed to independent producers and production entities…”
Some of my other favorite phrases:
The Congress hereby finds and declares that —
It is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes;
Expansion and development of public telecommunications and of diversity of its programming depend on freedom, imagination, and initiative on both local and national levels;
It is in the public interest to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities;
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.
Katie Couric’s annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined. Couric’s salary comes to an estimated $15 million a year; NPR spends $6 million a year on its morning show and $5 million on its afternoon one. NPR has seventeen foreign bureaus (which costs it another $9.4 million a year); CBS has twelve. Few figures, I think, better capture the absurd financial structure of the network news.
—”Katie and Diane: The Wrong Questions” Columbia Journalism Review
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.
Reading One Art, a huge collection of poet Elizabeth Bishop’s letters. I notice this, written
from Key West in l938:
“I have a little Victor record player that attaches to the radio. It is quite good; and a lot of records I got from Sears, Roebuck… the Negro ones are the best: “That Bonus Done Gone Through,” “Riding to Your Funeral in a Ford V-8″… but it is almost impossible to find anything about who is composing them. (They appear all over the South within three days of any major news event, it seems.)”
Sounds like an early version of twitter. I’ve never heard of this before, have you?
The band The Gregory Brothers are turning newscasters, pundits and politicians into “unintentional” pop-singers by auto-tuning their spoken voices into sung melodies. Their “Auto-Tune the News” series are videos on YouTube and songs on Amie Street.
Michael and Evan Gregory tell us about artificially (art-officially?) interacting with the media’s talking heads. Aired on PRI Studio 360; by producer Barrett Golding, “Auto-Tuned News (edit)” (6:26 mp3):
S360 was a bit time-constrained, so couldn’t present the whole piece, including the G-Bros series Songified History (free d/l at Amie Street), w/ JFK, MLK, & Churchill. Here’s the full vers…
The YouTubeReporters’ Center Channel (“Helping You Report the News”) has videos of Katie Couric, Bob Woodward, Scott Simon, Arianna Huffington, Tavis Smiley, PolitiFact. and others sharing tips on interviewing, fact-checking, story-telling and a host of reporterly topics.
Here’s AP planning editor Jon Resnick and AP Editor Donna Cassata, “Associated Press: How to Pitch a News Story:”
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…
NPR’s listenership has nearly doubled since 1999, even as newspaper circulation dropped off a cliff. Its programming now reaches 26.4 million listeners weekly — far more than USA Today’s 2.3 million daily circ or Fox News’ 2.8 million prime-time audience. When newspapers were closing bureaus, NPR was opening them, and now runs 38 around the world, better than CNN. It has 860 member stations — “boots on the ground in every town” that no newspaper or TV network can claim. It has moved boldly into new media as well: 14 million monthly podcast downloads, 8 million Web visitors, NPR Mobile, an open platform, a social network, even crowdsourcing.
[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.
One in 8 Million is a new online NYTimes series photo-sound portraits: “A collection of stories from the legions of characters who call New York’s five boroughs home. A new story will be added weekly.”