...because home doesn't happen overnight.

FYI: No mention of houses here other than one swept up by a tornado.

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Last Saturday, Steve and I had the opportunity to hear Ira Glass speak at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati. I’m a regular This American Life listener but it was my first time seeing Ira live. He did not disappoint. The event was titled “Reinventing the Radio” and, even though I have no professional ties to radio or journalism, I left feeling inspired as a writer.

Ira has a way of drawing listeners in without gimmicky promos and he talked about his storytelling version of journalism. In contrast to most news media, Ira’s broadcasts aren’t a series of big news stories with an underlying serious tone. Obviously, there’s a need for major, factual news programs (I’m not talking about the biased, sensationalized, fearmongering programs. I seriously think we could do without those.) but Ira claims there’s also a need for personal storytelling to put the world into perspective, to bring down the scale of the world to a human level. I couldn’t agree more.

He gave an example of a radio interview with a tornado victim and played some audio of the homeowner recounting her experience. She talks about what she was doing, what her kids were doing, what she saw and how it felt to be in a house that was picked up, swirled around and put back down on the ground three blocks away from its original location. There were no images or video but you could envision her story in your mind as it unfolded. It was riveting and really gave you a sense of what it might feel like to live through a tornado.

Ira then asked the audience to picture the nonexistent television news version of the same story. Most likely there would be video panning the wreckage, the victim’s home, the neighborhood. A very serious reporter would stand next to the victim and ask a few surface-scratching questions all the while ticking down the seconds. Maybe viewers would subconsciously judge the victim based on her, her home’s or her neighborhood’s appearance. The focus would be the damage but there wouldn’t be any real connection. And then the program would move on to another big scary story. It’s all very abrupt and fleeting.

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Ira’s method of storytelling is the reason why I find myself sitting in my car in the driveway with the engine off, radio on, after running an errand. I can’t stop listening! I’m caught up in the story. I want to find out what happens next. And, because the story is given time to unfold, I’m more likely to remember the details and make a permanent connection. It’s probable that I will recall the story at a later time and share it with someone else. Then that one little story will spark thoughts on bigger ideas and it causes me to look at things from a more human perspective than I would otherwise. Or it brings to light issues I normally wouldn’t consider.

Ira has a genuine talent for showcasing the humor and candor inside the bigger, scarier stories and I find it all very inspiring.

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” – Ira Glass

What about you? Are you a story lover? What is your favorite way to get the news? Do you listen to This American Life? Serial? I haven’t tuned in to Serial yet because I’m too afraid of getting sucked in!

P.S. – A dog dressed as Ira for Halloween and my dream radio.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

35 Comments

30.October.2014

Love Ira, love story telling, and devour podcasts! So lucky that you got to hear him speak. Jump into Serial. You WILL get sucked in, but you’ll love it. The Moth, Strangers, and Live Through This also top my podcast list these days.

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30.October.2014

I love This American Life! But for some unknown reason, I fell out of the habit of listening to the podcasts – and I have no idea when our local public radio station airs the episodes. I’m heading to CA this weekend for a long overdue vacation and I think it’s the perfect time to catch up on what I’ve been missing!

As a fan of public radio, it’s no surprise that I prefer to get my news from NPR, as well. But since I don’t have a long commute any more, I fell out of that habit, too. Lately I get the majority of my news from the NY Times – digital version.

Have you ever read any David Sedaris stories – or heard him on This American Life? I saw him Monday night in Kalamazoo and he didn’t disappoint – he’s such an amazing storyteller and hilarious, too.

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replied on October 30th, 2014

ps – and OMG, that cone is too cool!

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replied on October 30th, 2014

LOVE David Sedaris!

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30.October.2014

So, so cool that you got to hear Ira Glass speak. I just recently became obsessed with Serial (listened to the first 5 episodes in about a day), and have since started listening to This American Life. I’m an avid reader, story lover, and audiobook listener, and I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to get into podcasts!

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replied on October 30th, 2014

Me neither…but I fear it’s time!

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30.October.2014

I’m crazy about Ira Glass and love storytelling podcasts like This American Life. I also listen to The Moth and The Longest Shortest Time.

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30.October.2014

I already listen to Ira on This American Life. Serial is great. They play the last of the Adnan’s story tonight I believe. So interesting. The Moth is also great, though nothing captures the attention quite like TAL.

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30.October.2014

i can’t get enough TAL, radio lab, or NPR ted radio hour! i’m a recent podcast addict…they consume my brain, but not my whole body, like TV. i can totally multi-task to a good podcast.

:)

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replied on October 30th, 2014

Layne (my oldest son) absolutely LOVES Radio Lab. Steve and I enjoy TED. We’re right there with you! And, yes, the ability to multitask while listening is awesome. They’re perfect for making weekend breakfasts or weekday dinners.

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30.October.2014

I too am an avid this American life listener! And I have been loving serial! Just as compelling as the weekly T.AL., but with the added suspense of being the same story from week to week. I think you really do have to hear all of the episodes in order to understand all of the implications of the story though!

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30.October.2014

You must start listening to Serial!! It’s only once a week and usually only 30-40 minutes. Do it! Now! Hurry! Sorry for all the exclamation points, but it really is that good :)

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replied on October 30th, 2014

Okay, I think the exclamation points have convinced me to just give in!

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30.October.2014

TAL, Radiolab, and now Serial are my favorites! Serial is REALLY GOOD. I don’t know if I’m going to like the ending, but that’s part of the fun. Also, you should listen to this interview with Sarah Koenig, it’s fascinating: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/gist/2014/10/the_gist_serial_podcast_with_sarah_koenig_amicus_with_dahlia_lithwick.html

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replied on October 30th, 2014

Oooh, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the link!

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30.October.2014

Definitely listen to Serial – it’s worth getting sucked in to!!

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30.October.2014

Love TAL. Discovered Serial last week and totally binged listened (is that a thing?). Definitely recommend!

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30.October.2014

I could definitely see an argument for waiting for Serial to be finished and binge listening at the end, because the week long wait in between episodes is driving me crazy!!

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I know everyone has already told you to listen to Serial, but they aren’t wrong. Do it. You’ll just have to make up an excuse to do an errand far, far away.

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replied on October 30th, 2014

That’s it. I’m sold. We do have a vacation coming up…

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30.October.2014

I so agree, I LOVE This American Life and Ira’s way of story telling. We also have a local person (in Salt Lake City) that is similar in his way to finding the right person and letting the story unfold through their eyes, Doug Frabrizio. I will often be out parked in the car listening to finish out his segment!

I also like to listen to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, for the comedic relief ;)

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31.October.2014

I’m an NPR addict and, by extension, a lover of This American Life. I’d love to see Ira live!

P.S. I hope you’re a member of your local public radio. :-)

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replied on October 31st, 2014

Yep, absolutely!

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31.October.2014

I am in nerd heaven! I adore public radio and look forward to every Saturday. I clean my house, work on house projects, and fold laundry whilst listening to the NPR demi-gods. :D So happy to know I am not the only radio geek out here. All great programs listed above!

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replied on October 31st, 2014

Oh, and I guess it is only fair if we all take the time and donate to our local NPR radio stations after reading/sharing this post. ;) (Besides, they are going to ask for it again any day now.)

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replied on October 31st, 2014

Yes! That’s how I scored tickets to the event – by making a donation.

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31.October.2014

I love This American Life and Serial. They are excellent storytellers that capture my attention. I love the music on the shows, it just fits and gives it the right feel. I am so glad you got to see him LIVE and in person. That’s amazing.

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31.October.2014

Yes, die hard NPR fan here. My coffee mug at work says “I heard it on NPR”.

Serial is really, really good. Episode 6 aired yesterday, and I’m going to listen to it today. I’m often working at my computer all day at work, and I have headphones tuned to NPR.

Fresh Air is a favorite, but I’m also a long time Diane Rehm listener. I’m slowly hooking my girls on the station – they will often ask me to keep the radio on til the end of the story. A couple of Saturdays ago, my eleven year old daughter and I were listening to a Weekend Edition interview with Pink and Dallas Greene on their new album You + Me. The music was lovely, but so was the conversation. Not rushed or loud, just like a conversation over coffee with friends. It’s worth a listen.
http://www.npr.org/2014/10/11/354821424/a-pop-star-and-an-indie-folk-singer-intersect-at-rose-ave

Moments like these are so fun – seeing the intersection between our interests converge – mom and daughter.

Also, last thing. StoryCorps. I absolutely adore it. I still replay the interview of the father that raised his infant daughter in his dorm room while in college. I cry every single time.

Listening to stories restores my faith in humanity. There are a lot of good and decent people out there, and we’re so much more than the tiny, limited slice of the world that we generally operate in, thank goodness.

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31.October.2014

If you’re a fan of TAL, Serial is a MUST. I have an obsession!

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31.October.2014

Oh man, you will TOTALLY get sucked into Serial, and it’s totally worth it. I’ve listened to and loved TAL for years, but I think I may like Serial even more because of how deeply they can delve into one story. You talk about the feeling of connection to the people in a story; this one has it in spades.

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31.October.2014

Yes! Sitting in the driveway, listening to the story. Sometimes, my boys come out and knock on the window. Often times, I’m crying. Love Ira Glass!

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01.November.2014

Serial is soooooo good! I always tell my husband I have an inappropriate crush on Ira Glass.

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01.November.2014

Yes!!!! I love Ira Glass and This American Life so much! I didn’t realize he did public speaking events too, I’ll have to check his tour schedule. It’s funny you mention journalism school, bc that’s actually where I was first introduced to TAL. I was taking a multimedia class and our first assignment was to tell a story using only recorded sounds. Our professor would have us listen to Ira and his narrative archs and the way certain sounds can put you in the scene. Now my day job is doing multimedia at a news agency and I’m always trying to get our video producers to think about the sounds more than just images. …. Sorry for nerding out here! I also love Radio Lab from WNYC. Those two shows were our car time entertainment on a 2 week road trip :)

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13.November.2014

I am going to see Ira on Saturday when he’s in Philadelphia. This will be my 4th time seeing him live and I am in big pink puffy heart love with him. Particularly his passion for story telling. Just amazing stuff comes out of TAL. It’s the best thing in media that so many people aren’t listening to.

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