Posted on April 30, 2013 at 11:16 PM
A beautiful collection of stories that are short and simple, beautifully written, and accompanied by expertly curated music to match each story's tone. I can picture each of these in my mind perfectly -- the kind face of a grandmother, the Canadian coastline, the little girls flitting about in their tutus, and a lone picture on a wall. The descriptions are not too lengthy, the stories are not too earnest, and the narration (though the fuzziness of the recording is a distraction) holds my attention and pauses at the right moments. The answer -- yes, we've all been waiting for something -- but maybe not for moments as profound as these.
Other producers can learn from many of the timing decisions made in this story. Each of the four segments last just around a minute, the pauses between them aren't distractingly long, and the music fades are artful. It's also important to note that when pieces like these rely almost entirely on the narration, it's key that the recording of the narration is the best it can be, so the listener can focus on the words, not the audio quality. It may be difficult to fit this piece in anywhere but arts and culture or poetry programming, but it stands very well on it's own.
Posted on April 25, 2013 at 10:49 PM
I love this story. Not just because deep down, I truly appreciate the Dixie Chicks rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," or because I hold a same strange pride for Hoagie Carmichael and Indiana University. I like this story because it is so very human, and so very relateable. It's fun talking about favorite songs. It's fun hearing about why people connect to the songs they do. It's even fun to hate a song somebody loves, but find out why they love it. Everyone (I hope it's just not me) has sat around in a circle with some friends and a laptop, and played a little clip of their favorite tune, or forced their S.O. to lay around and listen to a full record on vinyl, or endured a whole album, start to finish, on a car ride with family.
I could listen to stories like this every week. In fact, there's a great YouTube series that stops random people on the street and asks them to take out their headphones and say what they're listening to. This goes a step further and goes for the emotional connection to the song. The intro and outro are just right, voiced as well as a Kai Rysdall or David Green -- not too lengthy, punchy and energetic, and right to the crux. The fades between songs are seamless, the order of interviews and the length of each hit just the right note (pun!) emotionally, and keep the pace of the piece moving right along. A great, earnest story that captures something lovely from everyone involved -- who doesn't like music?
Posted on April 21, 2013 at 01:48 PM
This is an interesting piece that shows us the tougher side of one of the most joyful kinds of music in the world. One usually assumes that musicians, as artists, are rarely in it for the money, but this shows what a struggle it is for talented steelband vets to get by. It was great to hear the music sound right off the bat, but very few scenes are set after that. I would have loved to be inside a practice, or heard a conversation between the musicians. I'd love to get to know them just a little better.
A few bones to pick: the voiceovers were miced a bit too close -- a few inches would have made the VOs less distracting, and the actualities sounded a bit fuzzy in contrast. There were a couple copy editing issues that could have been caught early on that perked my ears; reading back over the transcript, I found some repetitions, problems with subject-verb agreement, and descriptions that could have been sharper. A look over by an editor or producer could have cut some time and confusion out of this story. Overall, the piece felt honest and compelling, the narration carried me through, and I came away with genuine concern for the future of these groups. I'll definitely take another look (and listen) the next time I pass a pan group.
Posted on April 13, 2013 at 08:00 PM
This is a heartbreaking piece whose twists and turns I don't want to give away. It's the first time I've heard such combination of music as poetry, and a team of voices telling one story in this style. Beautifully performed and simple, it tells the story of a veteran, his wife, and how (what seems like) PTSD is affecting their post-war life. The difficulties of the subject matter are eased by the tune, sang just as loud as the spoken word -- it's sometimes background, it's sometimes equal to the dialogue. It's tense and jagged and important to listen to, because it's legs are long enough to extend into a generation of soldiers far past Okinawa. Well mixed, no recording issues, and the perfect amount of time and story to hold my attention. It would fit nicely into any poetry hour or slam, and is definitely worth a couple listens.
Posted on April 01, 2013 at 10:11 PM
It's hard to commemorate an anniversary like this and try to cover a decade in half an hour. Regardless, WNR managed to revisit a variety of issues in their broadcast, with lots of voices that many of us wouldn't otherwise hear - doctors, humanitarian workers, and Iraqis. Voiceovers were solid, as was the writing and transitions. A few audio issues were the only technical problems with the broadcast overall. There are a few quick cuts that are missing fades, the call quality on a lot of the interviews was very poor, and at times, I had to turn my speakers up to hear.
From the beginning, I was hopeful to get a look back when I heard the clips of George W. Bush -- it's a series of memorable scenes that immediately place the listener back in time. But soon after, the broadcast slows down within the first 3 minutes because of such heavy copy. More historical and familiar clips (perhaps include some of Colin Powell's pre-invasion testimony, or news clips from those unconvinced of the WMD presence) would have kept listeners in the 2003 mindset.
Audio quality issues, a lack of natural sound, and copy heavy writing are this episode's biggest issues (and I blame resources mostly, not the production team entirely -- it's difficult to find a way to cheaply record a phone call). But the raw information within the stories told make up for issues. The most compelling portion were the reports of human rights abuses, by far, and it's always interesting to hear from people with boots on the ground, and how the rest of the world reacted to their findings. Though the classic "I told you so," does less good today, the fact that a generation of reporters are aware of these canary in the coal mine situations is extremely valuable for future international reporting (what kinds of things are we hearing out of Syria? Egypt? Afghanistan and Iraq?). I have no doubt that given more resources, this team could very easily produce some of the most unique and much-needed reporting that others in our generation can connect to.
Posted on March 24, 2013 at 11:53 PM
This piece is a fun listen for people like me, who aren't comic book enthusiasts, but have enough fanboy/fangirl friends to know what's going on in the DC world. It's interesting to get inside a world I don't explore very often, with its own set of conflicts and progress (or lack thereof). As a female listener, though, I was disappointed Mitch didn't include ANY female voices (aside from a short singing Buffy stint). Even a brief fan interview would have filled what feels like a diversity gap in a story about diversity gaps in making stories (State of the Re:Union also explored this topic in an episode called "Comics" that's worth a listen).
My only other critique is some wonky fades that made me feel as though I'm missing out on the last part of the speaker's comment, when maybe I wasn't.
Otherwise, a nice range of voices and opinions. I was glad to see Mitch point out how obvious some of the obvious points were (write women like people? Who would've guessed?!), and address the fact that there are some great writers out there who have created well-rounded female characters. A good use of natural comic con sound, solid voiceovers and writing, and a perfect piece length that kept my attention. This would fit nicely into any culture and arts programming.
Posted on March 17, 2013 at 10:50 PM
The producer had the right idea there in the beginning, try to paint me a picture of a big gray cell... it's not a prison, it's a school. I can hear the natural sound of students bustling, and a picture is starting to form in my mind. But then everything veers left at about :45 seconds, hitting me with a technical definition, then all the verbiage of an op-ed. The only two voices are the producer's and an activist's. By the time the story gets to Josh, the activist, I'm a bit confused, so I pause to Google school to prison pipeline. Turns out, it's a big deal. The ACLU, education researchers, and progressive activists have been working against its influence for awhile now. So why haven't I heard any of this yet? And why am I pausing to go look it up, instead of waiting for the producer to fill me in? How do you get me to care and realize that this is a huge thing that I should be ticked off about? Tell me a story.
Instead of getting technical, bring me to a specific school. Describe that school -- what's the graduation rate? Is it losing funding? Why? How much? What's the demographic? How has the school changed? What are it's problems? Or zoom in on a student. One that exemplifies the issues you're trying to address. Maybe he or she is a truant. Maybe he or she has got problems at home, or lives in a rough neighborhood, or has a sibling or friend that has traveled that pipeline. Talk to a teacher, someone who has researched this, or maybe a legislator who has worked for more public school funding and less prison funding -- someone with experience and authority. I need you to illustrate how real this problem is as soon as possible, or I'm lost to Google searches instead of hearing your voice.
It's obvious that the producer is passionate, has an opinion on this issue, and the facts to back that opinion up. The narration is great, the writing is solid, and the barest skeletons of natural sound really take me there. This piece needs a story, and an additional voice of authority (or even some attributions) to back up the facts. This is a great start to coverage of a crisis that more people need to know about, and has tons of potential to rile listeners up.
Posted on March 15, 2013 at 05:46 PM
When I pushed play, I thought I was hearing State of the Re:Union host Al Letson. The narration was just spot on (with a couple of some over-enunciated bits that I only noticed on a third listen). This piece had some great natural sound, and as a former piano player, there's something so pleasant about a plinky piano. Seamless tracking moved this piece along (I'm hesitant to say story, because it was more of a captured moment), and overall it was a pleasant, simple listen. I'll never get sick of hearing the theme from Jurassic Park! I'd like to hear something more substantive (other arts and culture-related, perhaps) from this producer, because his micing, narration, and production skills are great, and his speaking voice is lovely. This was a nice little peek into someone's secret world, and one I'd be happy to visit again.
Posted on February 25, 2013 at 10:33 PM
A great story that cracks the door open on the reality of the transgendered transition. I could easily picture Cayden's room, his smile, and his childhood. Good use of scene setting and clip choice, with easy flowing writing and fantastic audio quality. My only gripes are that the story got a bit wordy in the middle and lost the charm of Cayden's everyday life. If Nina could have talked to Cayden's doctor or "showed" us instead of "telling," this story would have been darn near perfect. This is a very solid longer form human-driven piece that would fit nicely into a sexuality, youth focused, or gender issues show. A great exploration of an under-covered topic and well worth a listen.
Posted on February 22, 2013 at 08:04 PM
This is an incredibly relevant and moving collection of stories. Kirkpatrick compiles both sides of the gun discussion in a pre-recorded debate using sources who both have experience with firearms. Gun violence, the conversation around concealed carry, and mental illness are all on the collective American mind - from Sandy Hook to Aurora, to Tuscon and Virginia Tech. Sources were balanced and easy to understand, and presented their arguments well. My attention stayed on the segment for the most part, only wandering when questions came to mind. How many people died at Virginia Tech? How long ago was this? What are the concealed carry laws like in Colorado? Why are we talking about Colorado?
This story could have used a bit more reporting - the raw elements deserve it. Audio quality could have been better as well - Goddard's interview sounded like it was done over Skype, and the concealed carry advocate sounded too far away from the mic. This was only a little distracting, as the content was so solid.
Goddard's story of surviving the Virginia Tech shooting was riveting, but it was missing some context. I needed a reminder of what exactly happened there, who exactly this person was, and why we were hearing from him. This story could have been absolutely hit out of the park with a little more background. Just after "Right outside of our room," the reporter could have hopped in and said, "This is Colin Goddard. He was in Norris Hall, on the Virginia Tech campus on the day Seung Hui-Cho opened fire in the deadliest shooting incident in US history," then jumped right back into the story. Not only does this give listeners a brief reminder of what happened, but it also gives them a clue to where the rest of the story is going and set the tone for the rest of the discussion. Overall a great long-form segment on a fitting topic for the times.
Posted on February 20, 2013 at 10:56 PM
A simple piece that combines very personal storytelling with the universal themes of cooking, family, and growing up, this is about a change of scenery leading to a change of attitude. Some of my favorite Food Network personalities - Paula Deen, Giada de Laurentiis, and Ina Garten (who some would argue overdo comfort food and Americana, but so nicely fit into this story), help Dinh fall in love and find a home in the kitchen. With ease and sincerity, Dinh To explains her transformation from lazy student in Vietnam to burgeoning family chef in Philly.
So many great stories express the power of food, but it was especially nice hearing it from an Asian perspective. Without the transcript, I might have had trouble understanding fully, and I would have loved to hear more from Dinh To's parents, but the natural sound and fluid pacing propelled me through. The narration had great tone. The sounds of utensils clanging against pots and pans brought me right next to the stove, and familiar voices from the Food Network made me smile. It could have easily delved a bit deeper into family issues and the past, but this simple treatment was sufficient, and made me hungry for more. This would fit nicely into a weekend feature show on food, family, or immigration.
Posted on February 11, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Throughout the piece, I'm a little too busy enjoying the EDM to pay close attention to the voice overs, and almost immediately had to rewind to catch the information again. A fade a bit earlier on would have brought me into the studio scene quicker. The initial interview with Nathan had some natural sounds and funny bits that would have been nice to hear without the EDM. It's such a forceful music style that it easily overpowers anything else going in your ears. The same happens again near the 5 minute mark.
Regardless I loved the synth description, the choice to bring a familiar name (Skrillex) into the story, sonic branding, and insider info. Source choices were great, very conversational, and informative. It's a music style I'm not crazy about, but it was still fun to learn more. Some of the cuts were a little abrupt, I had a little trouble remembering who everyone was, and the end fade could have been smoother. Otherwise, it's a good fit in any music programming, with a peg that can be adjusted accordingly.
Posted on January 31, 2013 at 10:32 PM
I started smiling as soon as the narration began. This is an incredibly sound rich, dramatic piece of fiction. The accents that could use some work, and the plosives popped a bit when the Scottish character appeared, but these errors are somewhat covered up by background of sheep, hens, and footsteps. I lost track of which character was which a little ways in, but the narrative kept moving. At times, it seemed that the story was trying to do too many things at once, but overall it was an enjoyable listen. The narrator and character acting was passionate, the scene setting and sound effects were perfect, and dramatic flare was in no short supply. It's always nice to get back to the fictional bit of storytelling in radio, and this story satisfied my craving for old time soaps, for now.
Posted on January 30, 2013 at 07:11 PM
The story starts off right, with great voice work and use of sound, mixing today's media hungry landscape with Hester Prynne's literary reality. It's a bold statement to say that online slut-shaming is the new Scarlet Letter, but given the prevalence of these pictures and the response they get from peers -- it's a title that isn't far from the truth.
Fearless with the use of words that many would shy away from - slut, ho, hussy -- the producer gets right to the crux of the issue. There's some great mixing here, not only technically, but in the way the producer mixed her own experience into the story without hesitation. It's obvious she is young, immersed in this world, and only a little ambivalent about what's happening in it -- "maybe I should report it..." The personal side of this story is not too intrusive, and helps listeners relate. Not once did I feel dictated to, instead I felt like I was getting educated. This story lacks statistics and the nuts and bolts of a “reporter piece,” but effectively shines light on many sides of this issue without losing listener interest. The prevalence of social media in spreading information (approved and unapproved), the nature of girl-on-girl abusive gossip, and what little power victims of sexual cyber bullying have over their own online reputation are all addressed. This piece would fit perfectly into any series on technology, privacy, or web-crime.
Seamless scene transitions and conversational tone give authority to her commentary on a very pressing issue. When I first read the title, I immediately thought of the Steubenville rape case, where pictures and videos of a drunk, naked teenage girl spread through text and Twitter. Though an obvious crime, law enforcement is still having trouble pinning down who is guilty of what. The blame game is hard to play, when thousands of potential viewers can access private information at the click of a button, delete their history, or just sit by without reporting. I was glad to see the producer not only focused on the way young women talk about their classmates, but the way that young men, families, schools and social media sites react to the spread of these images. There's a lot of issues that generation "i" will have to deal with, but privacy issues will certainly be near the top of that list, and this story is just a piece of the puzzle -- but a nicely crafted one.
Posted on January 22, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Noise pollution is something that's probably adding stress to many of our everyday lives. Whether it's tougher to sleep, to study, or just to sit peacefully, everyday sounds of roads, buzzing fluorescent lights, and general bustle can subtly put us a bit more on edge. This story sheds light on a problem that most of us probably only think of in passing. It's a great idea, and the short piece is nicely scripted, but the producer falls ill to his own diagnosis: his micing is too close, making for a distracting listen. His p's and t's pop a bit, and indeed, my eardrums did blow out unpleasantly on cue. This and his other examples certainly illustrate the point well, though. I was acutely aware of which sounds were pollution, and which were not, and just how disturbing those noises could be. But with headphones in and my ears acutely tuned, the sound quality of the voiceovers and interviews were the first thing I noticed. His second interview is crowded out by office noise, and both sources go unidentified. Who are we hearing from? Why did the producer choose them? Who else could we be hearing from on this issue? Some quick IDs, a sense of an authoritative voice, and a couple inches away from the microphone could really make this story pop in a science or environmental show.
Posted on January 20, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Music is such a wonderful way to peek into someone's life, and this piece does just that. Giving us a tiny window into a complicated stranger's world through a couple of songs that made a difference when they were growing up. It's just a short story, but a lovely listen that left me wanting a bit more. Deedee has a great voice and obviously much more to say, but it is nice knowing her for this 2 minutes. The production is great, fading in the music at just the right time, and fading out just perfectly without overwhelming DeeDee's voice. The vox pop style makes it feel honest and authentic, but not overdone. The interviewer moves aside and lets the subject tell her own story, and though it doesn't feel entirely complete, it's not lacking anything specific. It's an enjoyable two minutes with an interesting person that would sandwich nicely into a human-driven music or LGBT series. Worth a quick listen!
Posted on December 30, 2012 at 11:04 PM
As a stereotypical, constantly-connected twenty-something, it was interesting to give some serious consideration to my online "brand" and whether my web personality matches the real thing. I'm one person on Twitter, another on LinkedIn, and depending on my privacy settings, an entirely different species on Facebook.
This vox-pop style production has a nice lead, good writing, and great music choice (that was at first a bit distracting, but then wholly appropriate). Tessa keeps responses as short as a typical status update and mixes up voices nicely. It was a timely story for a generation whose lives will be totally mediated and documented online, and would fit great in any tech or social media focused program.
The host lead and some of the interview responses were a bit distractingly tinny, but it doesn't take away from the overall good flow. The idea itself carries the story, which is a good one -- who are we online, and what does being filtered through social media do to us? I felt like I was hanging at the end. A nice outro could have tied the ideas of the vox pop together, even one sentence would be nice instead of a fade-out. Regardless, this piece is great food for thought, and an interesting listen.
Posted on December 22, 2012 at 02:06 PM
In a short amount of time (roughly my four years at Indiana University) the Hoosier Basketball team has gone from unranked hopefuls to preseason favorites. So it was a pleasant surprise to see my alma mater radio station covering an indeed, momentous occasion and how we (us) as a Hoosier nation experienced that moment of victory. This is an emotional, fan-driven episode with fantastic, layered production, solid writing, and great host banter.
But putting myself outside Hoosier nation, I would have liked a bit more explanation a lot sooner, instead of the minutes of reliving the fan reaction. Fill us in a little more on the Kelvin Sampson fiasco. Who is Tom Crean? Who’s our starting five? Why was beating Kentucky so especially important? Who's commentating? “AMERICA, ARE YOU SERIOUS??" Not everybody knows how once-great IU basketball under coaches like Bob Knight collapsed in a heap under Sampson and Dakich, and our recruits were leaving in droves. Not everybody knows that Indiana means basketball, and they should, because it's an important part of this amazing story.
A voice over giving some background could really help audiences get engaged – and there are surely interview-able IU basketball fans who could do that. Take a look at the first five minutes of any ESPN 30-for-30 or NBA feature documentary on any great team, coach, or player, and they can get any fan or non-fan engaged. There’s always a great story in athletics, and #1 Wildcats v. the comeback-kids Hoosiers is certainly one of them. With some more hard information, this episode could fit easily into any long-form sports or human interest programming.
Other than shortcomings in background, the nearly flawless production, great voice work, and clip selection really brought me back. I was immersed in Hoosier hysteria. It took me from an IU School of Journalism classroom to Afghanistan, to the floor of Assembly Hall, to a back corner at Nick's. Robb and Ryan effectively show how a fan's connection to a team is almost transcendent (cue Radiolab sounds). Great use of natural sound, nicely scattered fast paced transitions, and thoughtful writing.
I would have also liked some hard evidence of the impact that that game had on IU, rather than just anecdotal. The Wat-Shot got an ESPY and a drink named after it. We made it to the Sweet 16! We were 1st ranked this season! Home games are packed now! People wear IU gear to ND v Purdue games! It was certainly a big deal. This production team brings it home emotionally, but I’d like some of the harder stuff to back it up. Overall, a fun listen that most NCAA b-ball fanatics and Hoosier fans would drool over.
Posted on December 10, 2012 at 03:09 PM
This is a great, emotional story that makes a local politics real for a listener anywhere. Unfortunately, it’s buried under some crummy production – with a few key fades and some more deliberate scene setting, this could be a story straight out of This American Life that could also fit great in any human interest, local politics, or government series.
Ben Mueller has encountered what a lot of young radio producers come up against early on when they have to record themselves. It’s clear in his writing that Mueller knows how to set a scene with his words – he’s descriptive and to the point. He just needs to catch up with his voice. His tracks need more variation – think Ira Glass, Jad Abumrad, and other great storytellers that use a range of intonation and speed, mixed with (or even interrupted by) other voices and scenes from the story. This will help the pacing, which starts slow and doesn’t take full advantage of the great overall storyline. Mixing up Mueller’s voice with others from Hamden/New Haven, combined with natural sound that plops the listener’s imagination right in the middle of the action (let us hear some typing or computer noise, bring me to the roadside by the fence and keep me there until we move on, or bring the listener inside the home, let them hear what the bat or gun sounds like when it’s picked up) and some more music throughout (instead of close to the end) will really bring this story to life. The script is creative and informative, but without some better tracks, great natural sound, and more gradual fades at the end of his actualities, (the crowd, roadside, and office scenes end too abruptly, for example) the effect is lost. Overall, a well-written story on a great topic with lots of potential.
Posted on December 04, 2012 at 03:37 PM
After the economic recession hit, many Americans pointed the finger at over-zealous traders and big-time bankers on Wall Street for their dwindling savings. But at a Title 1 public school in New York City, students share subways and sidewalks with the execs, and learn the trade every day. New York City's High School of Economics and Finance seems out of place in many ways, and Rachel Krantz makes sure to answer listener questions just as you’re asking them. How could these low-income kids prep and hope for future success in the finance world that may have slighted their families? Krantz dives right into the story, using natural sound, nicely placed and paced actualities, and thoughtful narrative that could easily make it on Marketplace or any other finance/economy or education show with some tweaks. I would have loved an in-classroom scene, some statistics on how badly some of these students’ families were hit, and/or maybe an outsider perspective (perhaps from someone in the school system or a graduate who has successfully made the move to Wall Street). Regardless, the story still had great flow and tone, packing a lot of information in 4:27.