#16: Chats with Ira Glass

If you feel like I talk about Ira Glass a lot in this blog, I’m not sorry. Glass has revolutionized the art of storytelling through radio/podcast formats.

This article sits down with Glass as he talks about and expands on this idea of storytelling through a format like radio/podcasts.

“‘If you think of those old Broadway musicals like Fiddler on the Roof, it’s like — they’re funny, and then they’re really sad, and they’re about an idea. So somehow I wanted to do what I was doing in radio journalism but add that kind of feeling. I should say I didn’t set out with that goal, like I wasn’t aware of what I was trying to do, but in retrospect when I look back like ‘why did I create this’, I basically think it’s because I was raised going to those kinds of shows.'”

I can relate to Glass on this point, there are so many movies, TV shows, and musicals that I grew up on that contributed to my love of storytelling and seeking out stories to add to my own collection. We thrive on storytelling whether we realize it or not.

“It’s such an interesting lesson about how to build a story … on our show, like on any show, the big thing you’re thinking about is ‘what are the order of the actions that are going to happen in this story?’ and you’re constantly aware ‘this is the first beat, this is the second beat, this is the third beat’, that’s the spine of the whole thing. But then that’s not enough, like there has to be somebody inside that you can relate to and there have to be moments built in where you’re going to be feeling.”

In this quote Glass is referring to the show “Three Acts, Two Dancers, and One Radio Host”, which I had the pleasure of seeing for myself a couple of weekends ago.

“Usually, at least. One of the joys of touring with his live show Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host is that ‘it’s much nicer to get feedback from an audience on the spot. If it goes well, it also feels way better than if a thing goes well on the radio.'”

Without a doubt being able to react to a show like that live was one of the highlights of watching it all unfold before my eyes. If it’s coming to a stage near you I highly recommend that you go see it!

 

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#15: What has You interested?

I came across a new podcast that I haven’t actually had the chance to listen to but upon reading information on it I plan on checking it out indefinitely. The podcast is called You and it based out of Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

“The show, which varies from 45 minutes to two hours in length, is hosted by Adrienne Brown-Reasner, marketing and events manager at the museum, and Jack Woller, former associate director at the museum.”

The premise of the podcast is to ask guests on the show what they do and how they got interested in what they do. What’s so great about this podcast is that it has reached 6 continents already in its 20 episodes.

“Another aspect of the podcast involves guests giving a recommendation for a book or movie they think people should check out. Sometimes it’s related to what they do, like science-related topics, and sometimes not.”

In my personal experience learning about people’s stories on why they do, what they do, and how they got into it has been a favorite conversation of mine to have. My favorite person to talk to about this subject is my uncle Teddy.

My uncle Teddy is a Shuttle Legend, meaning he has been apart of the operations process for each shuttle mission from STS-1 in 1981 to STS-135 in 2011 while working for United Space Alliance. Working on these unique spacecrafts has been a dream of his since he was younger.

Born in the 1950’s the journey to space was just starting to take shape and he had a desire to be apart of that. He has studied at several universities and holds degrees that contribute to his career.

His first degree he obtained was his Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida. I loved hearing about his experiences in college, he worked full time at a country club in Gainesville while in school and still managed to graduate.

I hope just giving you a glimpse into my uncle’s life has you intrigued, there are several people in my life that I want to one day tell their stories and shed light on their passions for their jobs.

“Brown-Reasner said each podcast is something different and she learns something new from each guest.”

“I’ve discovered how much I enjoy the, ‘What got you interested in what you do?’ story,” she said.

 

#14: Interview Prep

Interviewing someone can be an adventure, but also nerve wracking. Here is how I prepare myself to interview someone.

First I find a subject, being on a college campus makes it easy to find someone to interview, especially during the summer when things are going a little slower.

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I found my subject and he happens to work in the same building where my summer class is held, Lurleen Burns Wallace Hall is located on the campus of Troy University and houses the Troy Digital Network.

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Doing an interview with someone always requires a camera or voice recorder, so after picking up my gear I make sure I have the absolute essentials on me. I always make sure to have a pen and notepad on hand with my questions ready on the notepad. It’s also wise to have a notepad on hand to write down notes during the interview.

Some sort of SD card to record your content is essential, it would be a bummer to have everything ready for your interview except for something to record it with! An extra battery for your camera is vital, I have experienced on more than one occasion unfortunately the mishap of forgetting an extra battery when my first battery died. Always be prepared!

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Set up your shot and have everything ready for your interview, I like to talk to my subject as I’m setting up to make them more comfortable around me and maybe get some more information that I can ask about later in questions I come up with on the spot.

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Be observant of your surroundings, as you can see my subject has many awards and accolades that I was able to ask him about in the interview.

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At the end of everything make sure you have packed up all of your equipment and head out! Make sure as your taking down your tripod you don’t smash your fingers like I have in the past!

I hope these tips and visuals were helpful for you! Happy interviewing!

#13: Updates

The Pew Research Center came out with its most recent annual report about the state of the news media in 2016. In this report it analysis ever evolving way that consumers prefer to obtain their news.

“Eight years after the Great Recession sent the U.S. newspaper industry into a tailspin, the pressures facing America’s newsrooms have intensified to nothing less than a reorganization of the industry itself, one that impacts the experiences of even those news consumers unaware of the tectonic shifts taking place.”

While newspaper still has a loyal subscribing audience, TV has found itself in an interesting situation with more and more people leaving cable and satellite behind them.

Digital news consumption has been taking over the market, and news stations know this and are working to make sure their apps are the best and present the most information in the clearest way possible. I myself typical choose to look at CNN and a local news station’s app as opposed to actually watching the news.

“With audience challenges already in view and few immediate financial incentives to innovate, the dilemma facing the TV news business bears an eerie resemblance to the one faced by the newspaper industry a decade ago, except for the fact that the digital realm is much more developed and defined today.”

Now transitioning to another report that the Pew put out, this time about the rise in NPR’s listenership. The average number of unique weekly NPR listeners increased from 2.0 million to 2.5 million.

NPR also launched three new podcasts in 2015, Invisibilia, which focuses on human behavior launched in January. In September the program Hidden Brain increased to a weekly podcast, and in November NPR released the podcast NPR Politics Podcast, which increased its daily news coverage.

This last bit of information was important to note:

“Public media in the U.S. is chiefly represented by two networks. On the audio side, NPR and its large family of member stations deliver news and other content to local communities over the airwaves and through smartphones and computers. On the television side, PBS and its network of local stations broadcast educational, cultural and news content – including through its flagship national newscast, PBS NewsHour.”

I felt as though this article did a good job at presenting information from both a digital and television perspective.

 

#12: Serial not Cereal

I’ve talked about Serial before in this blog and I wanted to revisit the subject again and expand on it. Season two wrapped up a while ago and there was an announcement regarding season three.

Now let’s break down the two different seasons and the prior knowledge I at least had about them.

In season 1 Serial looked at a case I had never even heard of, partially because when Adnan was being tried for the alleged killing of his ex girlfriend I was around 10. Even though I had an interest in the news, I lived in Florida and probably wouldn’t have heard about a killing in Maryland.

The story and investigation of Adnan unfolded the more that Sarah Koenig talked to him and got to know what happened from his point of view. Koenig did talk to Jay and it did help the story move along, but it was just a weird twist that just gave you more questions than answers.

Even though the verdict called for Adnan’s guilt he maintained his innocence throughout the trial. Through Koenig’s investigations she points out some mistakes that happened during the trail and how that would have affect the outcome for Adnan.

For season two I had hear a bit about Bowe Bergdahl and the trade that happened to get him released and back to the U.S. This season was harder to follow because of the military jargon and the geographic location of where everything happened.

It was hard to understand Bergdahl’s reasoning as to why he thought it would be okay to walk off of his base but I felt as though Koenig did a wonderful job at trying to piece together his thought process.

Serial’s sophomore season wasn’t a flop in my opinion, although there are some that would disagree with me. There was a reason why Koenig and Julie Snyder chose to do bi-weekly uploads, and that was to make sure that no details were left out in their storytelling.

With the announcement of season three I can’t say I have heard about Fugazi and Ian MacKaye. Koenig’s mission during this season will be to identify the three other members of Fugazi. Which I just found out is a band, so it should be an interesting third season and I am looking forward to it this upcoming Spring.

#11: Why Storytelling is Essential

We’re taking a bit of break talking about podcasts to talk about the importance of storytelling, the two go hand-in-hand but I hope to convince you why storytelling is important.

I hope that as my audience you have gotten the vibe that I believe storytelling is essential in our society. What started out as an oral tradition has expanded into so many other formats. Visual, interactive, written, and audio are the basic forms of storytelling.

My first understanding of storytelling through oral tradition was in church and how the Bible was written. For example, 40 years after Jesus ascended back into heaven there was no written recording of his life. However there was storytelling of what miracles Jesus did, what he said, how he died, what happened when he rose from the dead, and what happened when he ascended into heaven.

I found a wonderful resource that talks about the importance of storytelling and oral tradition and explains how the gospel is a part of that.

“In the development of the oral tradition then, it seems that over time some of these stories came to be written down, and the use of these summary statements about the contents of the story of Jesus are what came to be thought of as the gospel, the good news, the story of Jesus. But the term gospel, or good news, itself, means just a proclamation of the information, of what happened – The Great Story. And that’s what the gospels are, a narrative tradition, the story of Jesus.”

When John Mark wrote the first gospel, respectively named Mark, he wrote word-for-word what Peter (and original Apostle of Jesus.) saw Jesus do and what Jesus said. It wasn’t just a one time sit down meeting with Peter to get all this information, Mark was Peter’s interpreter. Mark traveled with Peter and even stayed with him when he went to prison. He interpreted for Peter both in written word and verbal.

Do you see the progression here? Oral tradition/storytelling turning into a concrete written form. In my adult life I see the importance of knowing the context of what I read and hear because without context it is just words with no meaning to me.

Regardless of religion or beliefs the act of storytelling helps us understand who we are as a society. There are key reasons listed in this resource I found for you here that I hope you explore as to why we need storytelling.

“Storytelling is what connects us to our humanity. It is what links us to our past, and provides a glimpse into our future.”

 

#10: Radio and Dancing

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This past Saturday night I had the unique opportunity of seeing Ira Glass, Monica Barnes, and Anna Bass perform Three Acts, Two Dancers, and One Radio Host in Birmingham, Alabama. The performance consisted of storytelling through radio, and dancing. In my opinion it was magical and unique in how everything came together.

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The performance was held at University of Alabama Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. This was my first time being on UAB’s campus and I was surprised   at how easy it was to find the performing arts center.

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The staff at the performing arts center were so friendly and helpful in finding where I was supposed to go, I was really impressed! I sat up in the balcony but I usually like sitting further back from the stage so that I am able to see absolutely everything.

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The performance as I said before was magical. Getting to see Ira Glass in the flesh was exciting, but having the chance to listen to him in person was even more exciting. Ira had control of what audio would be played from interviews that they had prepared for their show.

The performance was split up into three acts, the first act was about repetition. Within the first act there was a story about a girl named Katie that was a part of the famous Riverdance tour and how the entire cast and crew bought lottery tickets. They believed that if they repeated good luck rituals and told themselves on a daily basis that they would win they would. Long story short, they did not win the lottery. On stage Monica and Anna repeated the same dance sequence several times and not only was it comical but it got the point across.

The second act was simply endearing, it was all about love, and who doesn’t love love? Staff from Ira’s radio station went out to middle school dances and asked middle schoolers how they felt about slow dancing and interacting with the opposite sex. It was so cute to hear these middle schoolers explaining why they did or didn’t want to be there and so on. On stage Monica and Anna brought up members from the audience who didn’t know each other to slow dance and participate in a mock middle school dance. They had a balloon arch, a disco ball, and props for them to wear!

In-between the acts Monica and Anna would do dance numbers that connected all of these acts together in some way. They are very skilled and graceful dancers who have been dancing together for 11 years! So there is a lot of trust, respect, and as Anna put it, healthy competition between the two of them.

The third and final act was about Anna and Monica themselves and how dance is a part of them and their friendship. This act I particularly liked because it gave an inside look at what goes through a dancer’s mind when they are performing with another dancer.

During this act Ira talked about the show and how they didn’t know who it would be for or who would care to watch it but because it was something that they believed in they made it work. It was a sentimental part of the show that I particularly loved.

It was such an experience watching and listening to radio/podcast storytelling happening before my eyes. It gave me a lot of inspiration for my blog and future content!

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Ira Glass in the flesh.

#9: Statistics

I found a couple of interesting articles from the Pew Research center. The first was a July 2006 article about podcasting in which they asked what is podcasting? They gave the following definition:

“Podcasting is a way to distribute audio and video programming over the Web that differs from earlier online audio and video publishing because the material is automatically transferred to the user’s computer and can be consumed at any time, usually on an Apple iPod or another kind of portable digital music player commonly known as an MP3 player.”

In 2006 the amount of listeners was astounding. 9.2 million downloads for audio podcasts and 5.6 million downloads for video podcasts. In an Arbitron survey they reported that there were 27 million total people that listened to audio podcasts.

At the time the most popular podcasts were news or recap podcasts. NPR being the most popular for news. Recaps podcasts served the purpose of recapping TV shows from the night before.

“Most podcasts are created by amateurs with virtually no expectations for turning a profit and are simply a way to share one’s passions for a particular intellectual curiosity or hobby. Not surprisingly, most podcasts are commercial-free programming and free to download. But, as more commercial media properties add them to their web offerings, they may well be looked to as another way to generate revenue from the Internet.”

Looking back at this quote from a 2006 article things have changed a lot! Podcasts are created by people already in the business of radio and TV. Most podcasts also are either sponsored or feature ads.

Fast forward in an a 2015 article, again from the Pew Research Center podcast are becoming more and more popular and the subject matter of a lot of podcasts range from cooking, true crime, and comedy.

“The increased reach and upward trend line of podcast consumption is evident in every available measure – the percentage of Americans who are listening to podcasts, the level of public awareness, and how many podcasts are being hosted and downloaded. An additional indicator of the strong growth of podcasts in 2014 is reflected in the launch of three new podcast networks by public radio alone: Radiotopia by PRX (February), SoundWorks by PRI (May) and Infinite Guest by APM (August).”

Public radio notices what the people want in their podcasts and are getting in on the action. Also with the everyday usage of mobile phones the preferred method of listening to podcasts is the mobile phone.

#8: Slacking in Focus

So in short, I have been slacking in my podcast game. I haven’t had the chance to be able to fully focus on what I’m listening to in the past couple of weeks.

There’s really no excuse, but I am working, taking summer classes, and planning a wedding all within the same time frame, so I figured I would get some grace from y’all.

Regardless, I am planning on driving home this weekend. Home for me is Montevallo, Alabama which is only a couple hours away from where I currently attend school at Troy University.

So I tell you all this to tell you a little about myself and where I live, and to say that for my car ride to and from home will be used wisely. Meaning I plan on  catching up on the podcasts I currently listen to and start a couple of new ones.

I typically like listening to the true crime podcasts, but I want to expand my palette. Magic Lessons was a fun listen, so I will probably continue with that one.

When I listen to a podcast I want to be able to give my full attention to it. For example, the other morning while I was getting ready for the day I was listening to the latest episode of Criminal , and  while it was an interesting story that was unfolding I was only half listening.

Focusing and being intentional is important in all forms of storytelling. It is not just about showing interest, but allowing your mind to gather the information and process what is being talked about.

The faster we get our information in this day and age, the less we process the things that need time and patience to process. I’m guilty of it and I think we are all guilty of it.

One of my goals of things I would like to work on through this blog and a website I am building is to take the time to gain understanding of the information I am taking in. Storytelling takes time, but the end result is something to be proud of.

I essentially just want to be proud of the content I put out there, so with these goals in mind I plan on moving forward.

#7: K.I.S.S.

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. Whether you believe it or not you are a storyteller. Do you talk to a friend or family member about something that happened to you the other day? When your car is having some trouble and you bring it into the shop, do you talk to your mechanic about the series of events that brought you in?

It may seem kind of silly to think that conversations like these could be considered as storytelling but they are. To go one step further in storytelling I have a few things in mind of what makes a good storyteller.

1. Don’t make it complicated. Like I said at the beginning, Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. If you begin overthinking about how you can make your details in your story more interesting, you’re doing it wrong. Just let the story flow and feed off of your audience’s energy. Here is a simple template of what to keep in mind when telling your story.

2. Be observant with your surroundings. You can collect a lot of storytelling material from things you see on a everyday basis. Whenever I see something funny or out of the ordinary in my daily routine I take note and store that story away for later. People are really strange sometimes (Present company included.) and it makes for a good story when you can bring it up in a conversation.

3. Talk and listen to people. This may seem simple, but it is vital to becoming a good storyteller. In talking to people you get to learn about another world in which they have lived in. My favorite place to talk to people personally is the airport. Think about it, in a place like Atlanta Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, you come in contact with hundreds, if not thousands of people from all over the world. Listening is the other half of this point because sometimes we have a tendency to just talk and not take the time to listen. This article about the art of listening is fantastic and I recommend that you read through it!

4. Be intentional with your conversations. Don’t just look to have a conversation for the sake of it, be intentional with your questions and conversation starters. I found a Forbes article about conversation starters that would be really helpful for anyone reading this post. That is another way to be intentional with your conversations, provide resources for the person you’re talking to. If you have a book, restaurant, or recipe recommendation talk about it! People love talking talking about popular books and especially food.

5. Get out of your comfort zone. Again this step seems simple but it can be difficult for some people. This step also seems like it should go at the beginning of the list but if you have already been doing all of these steps in the first place then you’re ahead of the game. Getting out of your comfort zone in the “type of people” that you would normally talk to is important. Don’t set boundaries on who you think you can or can’t talk to. Everyone has a story and you could be the one to find someone who has an incredible one.

I hope these steps were insightful or helpful to you in some way. I myself have a hard time with some of them but I am looking to improve so that I can master the art of storytelling.