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Comments by Ali Tahir

Comment for "Youth Council gives students hands-on peek at municipal government"

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Review for Youth Council gives Students Hands on Peek at Municipal Government

In this informative radio story, producer Jordan Nelson tells about the Oklahoma City Youth Council and their activities. They listen at City Council meetings, yet also voice the opinion of youth to the Council.
This piece does a great job at setting-the-scene. From the start, Nelson paints a scene at the Oklahoma City Town Hall and a typical council meeting. The mayor then introduces the youth council and says, “We’re now going to hear from our youth council.” He then segues into the Youth Council’s individual members and focuses the piece on the Youth Council’s yearly activities. This technique was certainly useful and attracted attention to the piece, helping show the impact Oklahoma City youth have on their municipal government.
My favorite thing about the piece was the voice of the narrator. Nelson’s volume is at the right level and he paces the story well. A good voice coupled with a good story can make for a great radio piece.
In regard to improvement, having clearer audio or re-recording some of the background sound playing during the narration would be helpful to the piece.
Overall, this piece is informative and is a prime example of what a narrator’s voice should sound like in a radio piece. The story was certainly interesting and made me wonder if other cities besides Oklahoma City have Youth Councils and the impact they have on their municipal governments?

Comment for "High school youth is national chess champion"

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Review for High School Youth is National Chess Champion

In this enlightening radio story, producer Will Wright does a piece on DJ Hooker Jr. and his passion for chess.
The piece does a good job of letting this recently deemed national chess champion tell the story and history of chess. In this case, this technique is used especially well as the producer lets DJ tell his own story, rather than the producer telling DJ’s story. Doing this allows the audience to understand DJ better as they are listening to the high schooler. While chess may seem old school, DJ talks about how it improves life skills and the listener learns how he came back to win.
My favorite thing about this piece was the organization of the piece. Wright does a good job in using a variety of voices, while still focusing on DJ. Along the way, common myths and stereotypes are debunked and even a brief history of chess is told. I found this both fascinating and informative.
Things to improve would mainly be word choice. Instead of saying “youngsters”, “young people” would be better. Also some of the transitions could be improved by changing the word choice or re-phrasing.
Overall, this piece is informative and does a good job in not only letting the audience know about a chess champion, but of understanding the game itself. It makes me wonder if DJ from Minnesota will become the best chess player in the world someday?

Comment for "Occupy Chapel Hill"

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Review for Occupy Chapel Hill

In this stirring vox pop, producer Sunny Osment tells of her local Occupy demonstation. Having attended a similar event in New York, she wanted to see if there were similarities in Chapel Hill.
This piece is a great example of a vox pop, as it uses a myriad of voices to inform the listener and to help understand why and what people are protesting. Doing this allows the listeners to understand firsthand from the people who attended, helping with the effectiveness of the piece.
My favorite thing about the piece was the format used by the producer. Sunny talks only in the introduction of the vox pop and from there on lets her interviewees tell the story of Occupy Chapel Hill. I felt that this was very effective and a primer example of a vox pop.

Clearer audio would enhance this piece. Some of the background noise was a little distracting, Sunny's ending could have been smoother. The piece just ends and you don’t know if there is going to be another demonstration, and if the movement is growing. It needed a narrator to re-enter the piece and give the listener things to think about or draw some parallels to the demonstration she saw in New York.

Overall, this piece is a prime example of a vox pop.

Comment for "Joy and freedom onstage"

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Review for Joy and Freedom Onstage

In this harmonious radio piece, producer Shante Stowell tells of Aleksya, an MIT student, whose passion is performing onstage, not what you would necessarily expect given her computer science major.
The piece’s organization and the narrator’s tone are certainly above par. The organization is easy to follow and the soft-spoken tone of the narrator mixes well with the piano playing in the background. These two aspects combined helped to create a fascinating and succinct piece.
My favorite thing about the piece was the use of sound effects in the background, which brought you to the theater, and not just in the performance hall. For example when the interviewee, Aleksya, is talking about “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” you can hear it playing in the background. And when the interviewee is talking about a performance, Shante makes you feel like you are in the audience. These sound effects helped to create a very effective piece.
In terms of improvement, more interviewees who have heard Alesksya play would have helped create diversity in the piece.
Overall, this piece does a terrific job of using sound effects with narration and makes me wonder about how Aleksya was able to merge her passions of computer science and performing onstage?

Comment for "The Backpack"

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Review for the Backpack

In this heart-felt personal radio story, producer Nofar Hamrani tells about her experience of buying a backpack in the war-torn Gaza Strip region.
Her story is one not many can relate to, but her experience of buying a backpack is one that many can. The piece starts with her going to look for a new backpack for the upcoming school year. She then segues into the terrorist attack and how it stopped her from going to school and affected her family and friends. She ends with telling about how the attack and its effects will always stay with her.
My favorite thing about this piece was the use of buying a backpack/going to school as the respective starting and ending parts of the piece. These experiences allow her very unique story to be more relatable as it is put in the common context of school-related matters. The common context allows her unique experience to be enhanced as it makes it easier for the listener to understand and shows that even though she’s in a war-torn zone, everyday life still occurs.
In terms of improvement, the use of ambient sound would enhance the piece even further and place you right at the scene.
Overall, this piece is well-made and certainly grabs the listener with its powerful story. It makes me wonder about how Nofar is doing now, one year later?

Comment for " Teen Spending Way Down"

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Review for Teen Spending Way Down

In this thought-provoking radio story, producer Asha Richardson analyzes the behavior of teen-spending habits after the 2008 economic downturn. Many teens are now thinking twice before going out to places, such as the movies, and seeing if relaxation is a necessity.
The piece does a nice job of showing the new economizing trend among teens. It uses facts and research to help provide evidence for the new economizing movement. For example: Many teens now choose to hang out at their friend’s houses rather than going out to places such as the movies, the mall, or restaurants.
My favorite thing about this piece was the voice of the narrator and the overall professionalism. The narrator’s voice is strong and well-paced and helps guide the listener through a heady topic. It also contributes to the professionalism of the piece.
The concise length of the piece, near two minutes, and the use of facts to help provide further evidence for the economizing trend also heighten the piece’s professionalism.
In terms of improvement, more interviewees from different types of teens, e.g. rich or upper-middle class, might provide further insight into the economizing trend.
It makes me wonder whether it is true beyond Asha and her friends? Overall, this piece is a good example of an informative news piece.

Comment for "The Fear Of Graduating"

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Review for the Fear of Graduating

In this expressive personal commentary, producer CeCe Olson examines her fear of graduating high school, heading to college, and making something out of life.
She is conversational with the audience: the listener truly feeds as though he or she is talking with CeCe.
My favorite thing about this piece was the use of multiple people to voice out the questions. In the piece, CeCe tells of the numerous questions and queries that others ask her about the future and gives examples of those specific questions. She could have voiced those questions by herself in the piece, yet instead she found separate voices to ask the questions that CeCe has heard so many times before. This was a good technique and made CeCe’s piece more dynamic.
In regard to improvement, talking about other students’ fears of graduation would’ve provided more variation in the piece.
Overall, though, this piece does a great job of expressing one student’s fears and is certainly relatable at this time of year.

Comment for "Little Lost Fish"

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Review for Little Lost Fish

In this personal radio story, produced by Marga Blanco, the intricacies of an individual dream are examined. The producer describes it best, “This piece is based on a dream I had and a nightmare as well. It is about finding yourself in this vast world and knowing where you will fit in.”
My favorite thing about this piece was its overall calming effect. The actual dream that Marga had was based in the ocean and throughout her ending narration, a bubbling sound was playing, making it seem as though Marga was under water. The environment around her came alive and a listener could easily feel what Marga must have felt during her dream.
With regards to improvement, the background noise needs to be dampened. From 0:35-1:22, her interviewee’s voices are diminished by the background noise and it is tough for the listener to discern their opinions.
Overall, though, this piece does a solid job of using ambient sound with narration, which allows the dream to be vivacious and engaging. In the end, I learned that for Marga, and many other young people, the world can seem like a challenging place, but with the right thinking process any obstacle can turn into a success.
In terms of where this piece could play the Radio Lab looks like a fitting option.

Comment for "Graduates' Next American Dream"

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Review for Graduates' Next American Dream

In this intriguing radio story, produced by Jordan Nelson, the hopes and worries of college graduates are captured just a year after the 2008 economic downturn.

Jordan recorded his piece at a commencement ceremony where is able to talk to around 10 graduates. This helps him show both the excitement of graduation and the uncertainty of the future, which is a good contrast. The piece creates a balance of hope and worry, but is overall optimistic.

My favorite thing in this piece was the voice of the producer, Jordan Nelson. His narration is strong and is not monotonous. Many radio producers can create a good story on paper, yet the voice can distract from the story if futile or monotonous. Jordan does a good job of being authoritative without being loud.

In terms of improvement, more ambient sound during the narration would be nice. For example, when talking about hope, ambient noise of the graduation ceremony could be layered under the narration.

Overall, though, this piece is well-made. Three years later, I wonder how these college graduates are doing.

Comment for ""We need a penny!" Farmworkers Fight For Justice"

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Review for "We need a penny!" Farmworkers Fight For Justice

In this fascinating radio story, produced by Ericka Johnson, The Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s rally comes to life. The use of many voices and ambient sound helps the listener feel as though he or she is at the rally themselves at the Trader Joes in Philadelphia.

The piece presented the CIW rally in an informative and engaging way and I learned about the penny movement and the importance of supermarkets signing the fair food agreement.

My favorite part of the piece was the use of ambient sound and a variety of voices –from Oscar an organizer to the protesting migrant workers. The ambient sound was used in the background as Ericka gave her narration. This technique is good for all radio pieces in general as it helps add flavor to a producer’s narration and puts you at the scene.

It is especially good in this radio piece about a rally as it helps the listener not only hear the producer’s voice and points, but also helps them get a feel of being at a CIW rally. The Spanish-speaking interviewee and translator were also great choices for interviewees as they help the listener understand the situation from a migrant worker’s view.

In terms of improvement, just a little editing is needed as there are some odd pauses (2:02-2:09) and the narration is a little quick.

Overall, the piece is very well made with a good choice of interviewees and innovative use of background noise during narration. I look forward to seeing the results of the CIW rally and their “We Need a Penny” campaign.

Comment for "Schools that work (Youth radio production from western Zambia)"

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Review for Schools that Work

In this insightful vox pop, produced by Kezman Saboi, the evaluation of Zambian schools is well-presented.

Since this piece has no narrator, it jumps right in, and you know that the schools don’t have what they need, but you don’t know where they can get it from. It’s a great technique. A variety of voices are used, which helps the piece present the situation in Zambian schools without bias. Around seven voices are used and these voices help the listener get a understanding of the real problem in Zambian schools; that the equipment is there, but there is no knowledge of how to use the equipment to help the students pass their exams. I thought the piece presented the good, bad, and ugly just as the piece description indicated.

My favorite part of the piece was the humor at the end. Humor is a tough thing to put into a radio piece, but the natural humor about the conditions of Zambian school bathrooms provides the listener with a something they could relate to. Though the situation in Zambian schools needs attention, I thought the piece did not try to overwhelm the listener, but rather inform them.

In terms of improvement, I wondered whether these problems are the same in public or private Zambian schools. An in-depth explanation about the different types of schools in Zambia would help with this. Also an expert voice on the school problem in Zambia would provide further insight to the listener.

Overall, though, this piece provides insight into a country many Americans are not familiar with, yet makes it relatable using the problems in schools which many Americans have personally dealt with. This piece might work for PRI’s The World in Boston as they do a lot of international pieces.

This piece is about 2 years old and makes me wonder about how Zambian schools are now?

Comment for "Prison Visiting Hours"

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Review of Prison Visiting Hours

In her personal commentary about having a brother in jail, Jennifer Martinez, 18, displays her emotions vividly. She uses a flowing style and soft tone. The fluctuations in her voice help the surroundings around her come to life. She explains her dilemma with her brother's advice well, the advice is both helpful and hypocritical and she is frustrated about the bullet-proof glass which causes a barrier between them, both in the real and metaphorical sense.

The ending, “Martinez time is up,” is especially brilliant, because it's both surprising and thought-provoking. At first, I felt confused and expected something more romanticized, but then realized that Jennifer's time with her brother is truly limited. She must feel the same way, expecting a happier ending, but the abrupt command by the guard is how real life is.

In terms of improvement, more ambient sound, such as jail-bars moving, would have been good, yet overall this is a very nice piece. The piece might be good for Youth Radio, as they do first person commentaries. It is 4 years old now, yet still relevant and makes me wonder where she is now.