Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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FOREWORD

Rick Moody

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pp. ix-xii

My first radio station, let’s see. It was 1975, and I’d gone off to private school in New Hampshire. I didn’t really want to go away at thirteen, because I was morbidly shy. The other kids at my school seemed to have spent their lives in private institutions and knew the sociological nuances therein. That’s the back story, anyway. First day there, in the midst of a tour being given by some upperclassman, I...

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INTRODUCTION

John Biewen

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pp. 1-14

It was way back in the last century, around 1998, and some colleagues and I at Minnesota Public Radio were getting ready to launch American RadioWorks, a new documentary production unit for the public radio system. The aim was to make one-hour programs exploring issues and recent American history, with an emphasis...

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ARE WE ON THE AIR?

Chris Brookes

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pp. 15-26

There is one feature that distinguishes me from other radio makers: geography. I am the only one whose production studio is located on the cliff where radio, as we know it, was born. Long-distance radio transmission was delivered into the world at the top of my cliff in 1901 when Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio transmission. So a century...

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THAT JACKIE KENNEDY MOMENT

Scott Carrier

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pp. 27-35

My work in radio production can be traced to a moment when I was twenty-one years old, sitting in a college auditorium watching the Richard Leacock film Primary, of the cinéma vérité. I have not seen the film since, so my recollection of what happened is somewhat blurry. In my memory there’s a shot about halfway through...

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TALKING TO STRANGERS: The Kitchen Sisters

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pp. 36-43

Someone at the station taught us how to use a razor blade, and we began to edit furiously. Whittling, honing little snippets of tape labeled with grease pencil, taped to the walls all around us. We began to work in a method that we have continued to refine over two decades. Sure, now it’s digital, but this too will pass. Our techniques...

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NO HOLES WERE DRILLED IN THE HEADS OF ANIMALS IN THE MAKING OF THIS RADIO SHOW

Jad Abumrad

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pp. 44-53

I have a great deal of trouble describing Radio Lab to people. What I usually say is, well, Radio Lab is a series of hour-long radio shows where cohost Robert Krulwich and I wrestle with big ideas (the ‘‘eternals’’ . . . like time, space, consciousness) and mash-up all the usual radio forms. Problem is, that description never inspires...

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HARNESSING LUCK AS AN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCT

Ira Glass

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pp. 54-66

I started working at National Public Radio’s headquarters in Washington when I was nineteen, but I wasn’t competent at writing and structuring my own stories until I was twenty-seven. I’ve never met anyone who took longer, and I’ve met hundreds of people who work in radio. Back then, I made my living by...

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COVERING HOME

Katie Davis

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pp. 67-75

I started working at National Public Radio’s headquarters in Washington when I was nineteen, but I wasn’t competent at writing and structuring my own stories until I was twenty-seven. I’ve never met anyone who took longer, and I’ve met hundreds of people who work in radio. Back then, I made my living by filling in as a production assistant on the various national news shows, and...

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WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?

damali ayo

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pp. 76-85

The first work I made for radio began with an experiment about race at a very basic level, that of skin color. I wanted to uncover what people see when they look at my skin. Wearing a hidden recorder, I walked into the paint departments of various hardware stores to find collaborators in my experiment. I approached the paint mixer...

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OUT THERE

Sherre DeLys

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pp. 86-95

Sherre: We’ve been traveling for a couple of hours through Yolngu lands, passing by the countries of about fifty di√erent nation groups, each with their own languages and stories but bound together by kinship. On either side of the road—eucalypt trees, native grasses waist high, and cycad palms hinting at a time when dinosaurs roamed...

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CIGARETTES AND DANCE STEPS

Alan Hall

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pp. 96-107

Walking along a levee in New Orleans late one afternoon in the summer of 2006, it struck me—just as a match was struck by my companion to light his cigarette—that the smallest details in a radio feature can be the most telling. They can also be the most elusive in a form that is itself somewhat elliptical in nature. Within...

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UNREALITY RADIO

Natalie Kestecher

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pp. 108-115

I’ll be honest with you. When I started making my first radio feature I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was in my early thirties, was totally sick and tired of teaching English, and was getting a graduate diploma in communication. My radio production class had been given an assignment —to make a full-length radio documentary....

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FINDING THE POETRY

Dmae Roberts

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pp. 116-127

When I started producing radio in college, I had no idea I loved sound. I knew I loved writing my own words or being onstage and speaking incredible words written by classical playwrights. But sound? At the time I was a theater major and wanted to find a way to support my acting habit. So I changed my major to journalism...

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DIARIES AND DETRITUS: ONE PERFECTIONIST’S SEARCH FOR IMPERFECTION

Joe Richman

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pp. 128-134

Here is a story about a cough. It was 1963, in a stuffy courtroom in South Africa, during the trial of Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists for treason. The prosecutor was just beginning his opening statement when somebody in the courtroom coughed. It was an ordinary cough; it lasted less than two seconds. The prosecutor’s words—and the cough...

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LIVING HISTORY

Stephen Smith

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pp. 135-146

When it’s done well, history on the radio is like a ride in Mr. Peabody’s wabac Machine: you end up somewhere you’ve never been before and meet characters you never quite imagined—and it’s all in color. To explain: on the 1960s television cartoon show Rocky and Bullwinkle, the canine genius, Mr. Peabody, would instruct his...

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THE VOICE AND THE PLACE

Sandy Tolan

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pp. 147-156

In the summer of 1982, wide-eyed and pumped with a post-Watergate journalistic fervor, I climbed into a borrowed, beat-up Datsun and headed north out of Flagstaff, Arizona, into Navajo country. I was drawn there by two stories that astounded me both in their intensity and their near invisibility to people...

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CROSSING BORDERS

Maria Martin

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pp. 157-164

My mother was adela garcia ríos, whose family came from the indigenous community of Texcoco and who worked as household help in Mexico City. My father, Charles McGlynn Martin, was a gringo escapee from a cold climate. He’d ventured south from Chicago after World War II to find sun and cheap living on the gi...

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ADVENTURERS IN SOUND

Karen Michel

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pp. 165-170

One of the better pieces of radio I’ve heard in many years was made by a blind teenager in a small town in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Not that I listened to it on public radio; the story was broadcast locally on a— get this—hydropowered community radio station. I heard it presented in a workshop for teenage radio producers...

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DRESSY GIRLS

Lena Eckert-Erdheim

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pp. 171-175

I grew up without a television and, for as long as I can remember, was fed steadily on National Public Radio instead. Because of this, I was pretty much the dorkiest kid I knew all the way through middle school. While my classmates progressed through Barney, Pokemon, and Friends, I was rushing to my radio at five o’clock every...

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SALT IS FLAVOR AND OTHER TIPS LEARNED WHILE COOKING

Emily Botein

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pp. 176-182

I came to radio through food. At age twelve I began cooking for a caterer, stu≈ng chicken breasts, baking chocolate chip cookies, and (this being the early 1980s) making pasta salad. After college I landed a job at the Quilted Gira√e, a four-star restaurant in New York. It was famous, among other things, for caviar beggar’s...

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AFTERWORD: LISTEN

Jay Allison

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pp. 183-196

When I was small, I was quiet. Not shy exactly, but not someone with a radio future either. My father, on the other hand, was a wonderful talker. A big man with a big personality, he was full of funny stu√ and everyone enjoyed him, including me. There was no sense in trying to match his a√able, amplified self. Instead, I watched...

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About the Contributors

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pp. 197-204

jay allison is one of public radio’s most honored producers. He was the host and curator of This I Believe on National Public Radio. Over the last thirty years, he has independently produced hundreds of documentaries and features for radio and television, and has won virtually every major industry award, including five Peabodys...

Editor’s Note: Hearing the Documentaries

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pp. 205-206

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 207-208

Reality radio had its beginnings a number of years ago when Iris Tillman Hill, longtime book editor at the Center for Documentary Studies, floated the question. Would I be interested in developing a book exploring contemporary documentary radio? Well, I replied, the world could certainly use one. By the end of that...