Ira Glass on making good radio in the graphic book, “Radio: An Illustrated Guide.”
When correctly harnessed, radio can be as emotional, as funny and as satisfying as the best motion pictures or television shows.
It is a little bit, like a party — it’s also like dating, taking a test, and being a good friend. First, you search out everything a person has done, look for any scrap of anything they’ve ever said or had said about them — it’s like the “intrigued from afar” stage of courtship.
And then you take all those bits and do some critical thinking. Some synthesis. If he once said “X” and somebody else asked him “Y,” I bet he has some thoughts on letters that come at the end of the alphabet. Like those test questions that end, “Please explain…”
When you think you’ve seen enough, and thought enough, and written down enough questions, then you have to listen. Sometimes an answer will be more interesting than the next question you’ve planned — and if you’re not actively in the conversation, and just waiting for the subject to stop talking so you can move down the list, you’ll miss out.
Putting all those pieces together, and then using them to craft a TAL-style narrative? Hard. And something to try. Thank goodness there’s this handy, illustrated “How to Pitch” guide.
Now then, who to invite to the party…
Seventy four. It took 74 days from the last time I played pop music like it was my job (because it was) until I listened to another a single song.
A musical hiatus. (I think IN music it’s an interlude.)
Finally, the top songs in the iTunes weren’t Songs That I Used to Know, and so, new jams* to run to! (3 miles today, just saying.) Also, end of the year means dance mash-ups. Bring ‘em.
Songs that I don’t know the ramp to the second? Sounds good.
*Swedish House Mafia (please tell me they practice in an IKEA), Ludacris, Bruno Mars, and is it just me, or are Mumford & Sons kind of Indigo Girls-y? I’m sure it’s just me.
we_the_sheeple: Is there any awkwardness or standoff when you come across Ira Flatow in the hallway?
MrIraGlass: Holy christ yes. I’m glad you mentioned it. He and I each believe - fiercely, heatedly and to our dying breaths - that there is only room in public radio for one Ira.
Four people, stationed all over Europe, showed up to win a car this weekend. I’d called all of them to tell them they were in the running, telling them stories ranging from “I’m with Vehicle Registration,” to “I’m calling from Hot Hits Music Research.” I got to meet them all, put them on the air, and bring the whole event to radios all over the continent.
It was my last big mission, and it was a wonderful way to sign off. A big Saturday crowd, an exciting event, and unexpected recognition for a job I love doing. Finding people’s stories and using them to help make a big world, a big silence, feel smaller and friendlier.
And it didn’t escape my notice that hanging right next to my last assignment was a big “Frank’s Franks” sign. Because yes — I will take a sign as a sign.
Okay, it’s more “Showcase Showdown” than “Plinko.”
(Follow the action here and here and listen live here in the greater European area. BRAND NEW CAR!!!)
Somebody’s going to win a car tomorrow, live on the radio. A BRAND NEW CAR.
Maybe all those afternoons spent playing “Bob Barker hosting Plinko” was good training..
Two weekend shows, a year apart. Who would have thought that the cool guy on the right, would end up marrying me in between?
Though I think he said it a lot better than me.
You bet we’ve already played “Walking on Sunshine” and “Good Vibrations.”
It’s a Radio Beach Party!
(And that URL? Will stream our radio shows (to the European areas we broadcast to) starting June 1st.)
A year ago, I had just gotten to the radio station. 5 a.m., Monday morning, the only one in the building, ready to start my show. I had a stack of stuff to talk about, like I always do — I remember very clearly one hot news item was about the Weinermobile.
I walked into the studio ready to start, and 15 minutes before my mic went hot, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
I was the lowest ranking person at the station, and suddenly I had to figure out what to do. What to say. Now, my audience was tiny at the time, but given that it was PT commute time and that it had JUST happened? There was a pretty good chance that I was the first person some people would be hearing this news from.
And so, I improvised. I scoured the web for as many credible and interesting sources that I could find, I described the photos coming through on Twitter, I echoed parts of the president’s address, and I tried to be relevant — and appropriate. I tried to put out the information in the absence of guidance as to how to talk about it.
I saved that show so I could listen to it later. I sound rattled, I sound greener than I am now, but it’s something to have. No, I wasn’t in the SEAL team. Not even close by seven thousand imaginations. But I was doing my mission that morning, just the same.
There are two kinds of people: People who call radio stations, and people who don’t. I’m the former, I get it from my dad. Once he got the guy doing the local sports talk show to devote a whole hour to having listeners call in and give him tips on taking the Bro to his first baseball game.
I have never inspired a whole hour of content, but back in my more political [firebrand youth] days, I spent quite a bit of time on hold, waiting for my chance to be “Zoë from Salem is on the line..” with whatever my I’M SURE very reasonable point was.
Radio station callers also keep track of the Top 5 at 9 to have the right answer to try to win the next day, and they enter contests. I scored Blazers tickets and talked to…I’m sure he’s a very talented basketball player, I — Oh! It was “Buck’s Brain Busters,” so his name must have been Buck…something. I don’t know basketball, but I do know trivia, so I won. That was a very exciting car ride to school.
Opinions, prizes, all very valid reasons to call. Gratifying reasons. The request, is simpler. Someone who calls in a request, just wants to hear their song. I started my request career early — asking permission to call long distance, nervous when someone answered, sitting by the battery-powered radio for hours after to see if just maybe my song would get played. “Hi Q-105.” “Will you play Debbie Gibson?” Those were days of rock, those late ’80s.
Requests are even cooler now. Who has to rely on some DJ to play a song? You can find it any time, anywhere, usually for free.
So when I get them, I do them up. Especially if they come from kids. What’s cooler than hearing your NAME on the RADIO? Yesterday, I got one of those. And then another five minutes later from the brother who “Hey wait! I didn’t get to hear MY name on the radio! I want one!” Two requests, and thanks from a mom for “Making my kids feel like rock stars for .3 seconds. :D”
The radio has a way of doing that. Music career, not required.