Current's The Pub with Adam Ragusea

Current's weekly podcast about news and trends in public and nonprofit media, hosted by Adam Ragusea.
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Current's The Pub with Adam Ragusea



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Aug 19, 2016

What are NPR's most active commenters going to do now that NPR is banishing comments from its site? On this week’s episode of The Pub, my favorite perennial commenter speaks — “Sanpete from Utah” is his handle. Call him Kent.

Also on the show, should your organization follow NPR’s lead in dumping on-site comments in favor of engagement on other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter? Inside Higher Ed v.p. and former NPR social product manager Kate Myers and WDET g.m. Michelle Srbinovich disqus — er, I mean, discuss.

Aug 12, 2016

What do the Public Radio Exchange, WGBH in Boston and the Nine Network in St. Louis have in common? All have recently made significant investments in brick-and-mortar facilities for public engagement. On this week’s episode of The Pub, we talk about why public media organizations would want to reach people in person instead of over the air — so much so that they’d build a facility in which to do it. Plus, host Adam Ragusea offers a metaphor about what public media can learn about community engagement from religion ... by forcing his audience to sing together.

Jul 29, 2016

A couple years before all the cool kids started quitting NPR and launching podcasts, political reporter Andrea Seabrook quit NPR in 2012 and launched a podcast, "DecodeDC." She’s the OG of that particular trend. Seabrook left "DecodeDC" last summer after a successful run, and now she’s come back to public radio as the new Washington bureau chief for "Marketplace." On The Pub, she tells us how she’s going to do public radio political coverage differently this time around.

Also, host Adam Ragusea reviews the NPR/"PBS NewsHour" collaboration on convention coverage. Unfortunately it seems as though TV and radio are like chocolate and vanilla — you can’t mix them without the former totally overpowering the latter.

Jul 23, 2016

Matt Martinez of KPLU in Tacoma, Wash., shares what he thinks others can learn from his station’s shockingly successful bid for self-preservation and independence. Also, the GM of KUOW, at one time planning to buy KPLU, discusses lessons from the year-long saga.

Plus, host Adam Ragusea tries to diagnose the cause of a dramatic spike in NPR newsmagazine ratings, and he visits a Next Generation Radio boot camp to find out why even some of the young people of color who would attend such a training aren’t big NPR listeners.

Jul 15, 2016

Here’s a protip for broadcast reporters who might get arrested: Turn on your recording device’s key lock, so that when the cops tackle you, it won’t matter if the stop button gets mashed. You’re going to want that tape.

 That is one of many lessons that Ryan Kailath learned this past weekend — the hard way. The reporter for WWNO in New Orleans was covering an anti–police brutality march in Baton Rouge on Saturday when police arrested him for obstructing a highway.

This week on The Pub, Kailath tells his story, shares other tips he picked up for reporters who might find themselves in a similar pickle, and talks about where his case stands.

Also, some updates — and some mea culpas — on last episode’s interview with Code Switch leader Alicia Montgomery, which at least one listener found troubling.

Jul 1, 2016

People (read: online commenters) ask NPR’s Code Switch team all the time: “Why do you guys make everything about race?”

Alicia Montgomery, supervising senior producer for Code Switch, sees that question and scratches her head.

“I wonder if these are the same people who read the sports section and say, ‘Why is everything in here about a game that was played?’”, she told us on The Pub.

This week on The Pub, Montgomery talks about the long-anticipated new Code Switch podcast, responds to criticisms of her unit from both the right and left, and her take on NPR’s broader efforts to sound more diverse.

Also on the show, host Adam Ragusea begs public media to stop referring to the podcasting market as the podcasting “space,” and three of public radio’s most exciting podcasters — Embedded’s Kelly McEvers, We Live Here’s Kameel Stanley and The Organist’s Andrew Leland — talk about how they made their shows stand out in an increasingly crowded space market.

Jun 25, 2016

On this week’s episode, recorded live at the Public Radio News Directors Inc. conference in St. Louis, two editors play a game we call: Betcha Can’t Fix This Script!

Also, NPR Collaborative Coverage Senior Editor Bruce Auster discusses the impending editor shortage in public media and ways that the system could help foster the next generation of editors.

Plus, host Adam Ragusea considers whether public radio is really experiencing an “existential crisis,” as proclaimed recently by The Wall Street Journal.

Jun 10, 2016

If you work at a station and you create a new show, does your station necessarily own it? Can you make money with it? What about if you only do it in your off-hours, like Rebecca Lavoie does? Lavoie works as New Hampshire Public Radio’s digital director by day, but at night she privately produces a “surprise hit” podcast that draws six-figure downloads and thousands of dollars in sponsorship per week. This week on The Pub, we talk about the weirdness that can arise between entrepreneurial podcasters and their public media employers.

Also, Carmel Delshad talks about her transition from being a radio reporter at WMFE to being an engagement producer at AJ+, Al Jazeera’s innovative social video unit.

Plus, host Adam Ragusea uses a narrative structure that he calls “the long-lost twins reveal” to talk about how public media can transcend what he calls “the newsmagazine mentality,” in part by adopting an interview style he calls “the Full Buckley.” (He likes to name things.)

May 27, 2016

Newsbusters editor Tim Graham concedes that he has no evidence that a foundation influenced NPR's news coverage. But he also argues that’s beside the point. “If you’re Ploughshares, when you give money to NPR, you know what you’re getting,” Graham said. “You know that you’re not going to get a Fox News. You’re going to get what may be seen as the opposite of Fox News.”

This week on the The Pub, Graham and host Adam Ragusea debate this and other conservative complaints about public media.

Also on the show, we introduce you to Suzanna Kruger, a biology teacher at Seaside High School in Oregon who used to regularly assign her students Nova videos to watch online at home — until they started running up against the new Passport paywall.

May 20, 2016

If you’ve ever heard some digital slurp, bloop or BOOM in a radio story and thought “How’d they make that?”, listen to this episode of The Pub to find out. Sound designers Jonathan Mitchell of Radiotopia’s audio fiction podcast The Truth and Alex Overington of New York Public Radio/Q2 Music’s Meet the Composer podcast open up their laptops and demonstrate how they create the kind of digital effects that pervade today’s high-touch audio storytelling.

Also on the show:

- An analysis and a defense of WBAA’s decision (since reversed) to drop This American Life from its schedule.
- WNYC Vice President of On-Demand Content Paula Szuchman previews WNYC’s upcoming women’s podcast festival “Werk It.”
- Audience members play a game called “Auto-Tune the Radio” in which they have to identify famous public radio voices that have been amusingly altered.

May 13, 2016

On this week’s show, five steps to becoming a better interviewer from public radio's Celeste Headlee. Also, an explainer of the new public TV interconnection system that is expected to cost upwards of $200 million. Is it worth it?

Apr 30, 2016

Are journalists allowing themselves to be the instruments of other people’s policy advocacy?

A new American Press Institute study surveyed both journalists and funders to get a sense of their respective expectations. This week on The Pub, host Adam Ragusea talks with API’s Tom Rosenstiel about the study and its implications for how newsrooms should relate to their benefactors.

Also on the show, NPR’s Jim Zarroli rejects the label of “he said, she said” journalism applied to his work on last week’s episode by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen; and the one thing that men — yes, men — should never do at a Q&A session.

Apr 22, 2016

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen is hardly the only critic alleging timidity and false balance on the part of public media journalists. But his most cutting criticism is a much simpler allegation: lazy reporting.

Rosen was the main attraction at a live recording of The Pub on host Adam Ragusea's home turf — Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism, which he visited this week.

Also on this week’s episode, Adam argues that the podcasting industry is becoming dangerously concentrated in New York.

Apr 15, 2016

On The Pub this week, we ask three smart station leaders: What’s the point of local TV stations when viewers can — and increasingly do — watch national programming online? Also on the show, a war of essays about the future of public radio vis-à-vis podcasting prompts veteran public radio host and humorist John Moe to enter the fray. Hear him perform his satirical essay “Public Radio Story Private Pods: Now, Forever, and Yesterday.”

Apr 1, 2016

Get this, there’s a thing called the “Radio Scholarly Interest Group” — a bunch of academics from around the world who study radio. They invited host Adam Ragusea to talk to them at the 2016 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Atlanta.

Adam's talk was about how podcasting is changing public radio. He goes through the numbers (people still aren’t listening to podcasts that much), the creative and economic opportunities, the NPR-station politics, and the two crises that he sees podcasting bringing about in public radio: a mission crisis and a crisis of localism.

That talk, plus the extensive and enlightening Q&A afterward, is this week’s Pub!

Mar 26, 2016

NPR’s recent decision to not promote its podcasts in its radio newsmagazines has a lot of people talking about whether local stations are keeping NPR from embracing a digital-first future. On this week’s episode of “The Pub”, we ask three of the smartest station leaders we know: How do you envision NPR and stations maintaining a mutually beneficial coexistence as the primacy of radio fades?

Mar 18, 2016

Glenn Greenwald, who is most famous for helping to break the Edward Snowden leaks, is a longtime critic of public media journalism, which he sees as chronically mealy-mouthed in the face of nefarious or duplicitous powers. This week on The Pub, Greenwald and host Adam Ragusea discuss that long-maintained criticism, his 2010 confrontation with NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston, how journalists use the word “torture,” and more.

Also this week: It turns out you have to credit Skype when you use it in a broadcast; NPR decides it won’t cross-promote its podcasts on-air; a young producer makes a rookie mistake and decides to make a podcast about the experience; and did the NewsHour unwittingly interview a white supremacist?

Mar 4, 2016

In a sane world, it wouldn’t take a whole show to explain how music rights work for broadcasters. But alas, we require the services of Leah Garaas, digital producer for The Current, Minnesota Public Radio’s Triple A music station. On this week’s episode, a primer on music rights for everyone from station program directors to independent podcasters.

Also, Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal live-tweets a Republican debate and tells a presidential candidate to “shut up.” Kosher for a journalist? Our host Adam Ragusea thinks so, but others disagree.

Feb 26, 2016

Former NPR Managing Editor for Digital News Mark Stencel has just completed a census of active political fact-checking initiatives — and only two are in public media. But he thinks public media is uniquely positioned to do this work and to make the sometimes dry subject matter of political fact-checking more accessible to a broad audience.

On this week’s episode, Stencel offers a practical guide on how, when and what to fact-check, and what to do when your fact-checks are inevitably challenged or misconstrued.

Also, host Adam Ragusea and his colleagues at Mercer University asked scholarship applicants what they consider to be the most innovative media company. Did any public media make the list? Yes, but nowhere near the top.

Feb 19, 2016

On this week’s episode of "The Pub," longtime public radio host Diane Rehm discusses her impending retirement, her advocacy for physician-assisted suicide, and who might replace her in the host chair. And host Adam Ragusea shares his thoughts on NPR’s recent controversial move to conspicuously brand its hourly newscasts as “live.”

Feb 12, 2016

A food podcast, a short film about young men in a housing project, a Korva Coleman puppet named “Korvacita” — they’re all products of NPR’s new Story Lab, an innovation unit that started last June. On this week’s episode, we interview the Lab's Michael May before a live video chat audience via Shindig, and he even entertains a few pitches from the crowd. (Thanks to Shindig for sponsoring the episode!) Also, we celebrate The Pub’s first birthday! 

Jan 29, 2016

Look out WNYC, there’s a new public radio station in play for top positions on the iTunes podcast chart. WBUR’s new show "Modern Love," a collaboration with The New York Times, hit #1 on the day of its debut last week, momentarily dethroning the mighty "Serial." On this week’s episode of "The Pub," we talk about how they did it with WBUR Managing Producer of Program Development Jessica Alpert and Daniel Jones, longtime editor of the NYT’s “Modern Love” column, on which the show is based.

Also on the show, host Adam Ragusea reads through some of Bill Siemering’s 1971 "All Things Considered..." launch memo to stations, a remarkable historical document that we recently digitized. "ATC" today bears only so much resemblance to Siemering’s idealistic vision.

Jan 22, 2016

PBS’s “Mercy Street” has two daunting jobs to do at once: A) replace “Downton Abbey,” the most successful drama in PBS history; B) prove that American public television can make great scripted TV instead of just importing it from the U.K.

Has this Civil War medical drama succeeded against that nearly impossible yardstick? We ask Slate culture critic (and native Brit) June Thomas. Short answer: No. This week, we hear Thomas’ take on where PBS’s big-budget effort went wrong, and contemplate the role of expensive dramatic series in public service broadcasting.

Also, Michigan Radio proves what public media is all about with its Flint water coverage, and host Adam Ragusea argues that news people should stop referring to Martin Luther King Jr. as “Dr. King.”

Jan 15, 2016

B.J. Leiderman was an underachieving student at American University in Washington — studying “shall we say, chemistry, wink wink,” he says — when a friend who worked at NPR helped him land the gig that would define his career: composing theme music for NPR’s then-new show, Morning Edition. Commissions to score five more national radio shows followed, and now “B.J. Leiderman” is a household name among the millions of people who hear it in the credits.

Leiderman sincerely relishes his public radio fame, but it’s been a tough high-water mark to try to reach again in the years since. He’s a delightful, charming and talented guy whose life and career have been hampered by mental health problems, chronic illness and his white whale of an album — a collection of pop tunes called “Natural Public Leiderman” that he’s been working on for decades, hoping to capitalize on his NPR fame.

This week on The Pub we hear some of that album, along with the story of how Leiderman got his big break with NPR and what he’s been doing since.

Also, we catch up on some of the public media news that broke while the show was on holiday hiatus, including NPR Silicon Valley reporter Steve Henn’s very public resignation, the release of a rap album based entirely on samples from public radio programs, and Oregon Public Broadcasting’s excellent coverage of the ongoing armed occupation of a federal building.

Dec 23, 2015

Is there such a thing as excessively authentic pronunciation? If it exists, it has certainly occurred on public radio, where everybody from classical music announcers to news reporters seem to have a little too much fun pronouncing foreign (to them) words and names.

In this holiday encore episode of The Pub, we revisit host Adam Ragusea’s guide to finding the sweet spot between insensitively Anglicized pronunciation and pretentiously exoticized pronunciation.

We also listen back to an interview with veteran public radio host Celeste Headlee about the art of writing pronouncers — rough textual representations of how a word or name should be said.

Plus, we listen again to a talk with political scientist Patrick O’Mahen, who says his research proves countries that spend more money on public broadcasting have better-informed citizens.

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