radio

So the timing of this Must See Monday could not have been better – in the middle of the radio segment of broadcast, sound is a big topic on all of our minds lately. This week’s speaker, Susan Feeney is Senior Editor for Planning at All Things Considered.

Why is this relevant to travel? Well, I probably inherited the itchy feet and restless nature, but I might have gotten the idea that I could tie this into making a living from somewhere else. As I listened to the clips Feeney brought as examples, I was transported back to how I felt when I was a kid and the radio, especially NPR, first started to take me places. Growing up without reliable television reception meant I spent a lot of time listening to radio in the house, as well as in the car; I heard news long before I got older and interested in newspapers. The drive to school, five minutes early on but, as I got older and switched around a bit, up to half an hour, meant morning updates. Road trips meant frantic searches on the radio dial for the next public broadcast station, because static and station boundaries always seemed to hit just at the good parts.

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One of the reporters I remember most is Sylvia Poggioli – her stories and, even more, her frequent signoff from Rome, sunk deep into my memory and imagination, even as she continues to broadcast.

Now, I still put radio on whenever I’m in the car. However, a bike commute means I drive much, much less and the unexpected (and probably only) downside means much, much less radio.

It was startling, after just a semester, to see how differently I could listen to a radio piece. Feeney’s discussion of each piece, and radio in general, really made the presentation even deeper. Information, like behind the scenes information like what happened to the journalists reporting on the earthquake from China, how their stories got put together, or the reaction afterward made good listening. But they helped us understand how reporters operate in tense, emotional, possibly dangerous situations and still get their jobs done. These examples also illustrated some of the differences between radio and other formats, especially the discussion of whether the family’s search for their son would have been different in print or television.

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Feeney played a piece on Hurricane Katrina by Robert Siegel to discuss accountability journalism, a piece which also happened to have very little natural sound, but a high emotional impact for many listeners.

She also played two pieces from a series by Melissa Block that took place in Sichuan province, China. The first actually recorded the 2008 earthquake that hit Sichuan province and the second documented a couple’s search for family members. A third piece, which I came across on NPR’s website, has Block’s follow-up work one year later in pictures as well as sound.

Overall, while I wish I had more time in radio this semester, an evening listening to/with Feeney is the perfect way to keep me interested in sound – and set the bar very, very high for anyone who wants to get involved.

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