When normal people quit their jobs in dramatic fashion, they flip tables, spit in the soup and storm out the door. Public radio people write earnest Medium posts.
That’s what Steve Henn did a year ago when he quit his job covering Silicon Valley for NPR; he wrote about his concern that public radio “may not get its act together to make the jump into the digital age,” adding, “I want to help.”
If Henn is right, help has arrived in the form of 60 dB, the app he’s created with his partners — two former Netflix guys. It resembles NPR One, in that it serves up a curated stream of spoken audio in response to user preferences and behavior, but it differs most significantly in that it focuses on short-form pieces.
60 dB also draws from a much wider pool of content, some of which sounds decidedly un-pubradio.
“I think there’s an appetite for intelligent conversations and reporting on a variety of topics that don’t just appeal to the core NPR audience,” Henn says on this week’s episode of The Pub.
Also on the show, host Adam Ragusea offers a review of what he thinks are the three best new services for recording high-quality audio interviews over the internet. None of them is, by itself, the answer we’ve all been waiting for. But ipDTL, Zencastr and Ringr each have their uses.
Lewis Wallace says he’ll “cop to clickbait” on the headline that marked the beginning of the end of his reporting job at Marketplace — “Objectivity is dead and I’m ok with it.”
But he was shocked that his bosses found the actual content of the essay — a not especially edgy or unusual meditation on the evolving nature of journalistic standards — to be so objectionable as to immediately suspend him after he posted it last Wednesday.
They also ordered him to take down the post, which he did. And when he put it back up Saturday in direct defiance, he had to know what was coming next; Marketplace chief Deborah Clark fired him Monday.
Wallace declined a modest severance offer in order to preserve his legal right to talk about what happened, and this week he brings his story to The Pub.
Also on the show this week, NPR’s dilemma about whether to use the L-word or the F-word in reference to President Trump (or rather, his statements), and one station news director’s dilemma over a T-shirt printed with words that shouldn’t be political but are.
Should public media’s role on the internet be to make content for commercial platforms? Or should public media try to be the platform?
The new RadioPublic mobile app is an attempt to do the latter.
Last spring, Public Radio Exchange’s Jake Shapiro spun off from the organization he helped found in 2003 and started a new public benefit corporation “to build a mobile listening platform that makes listening to podcasts as simple as radio,” as set out in PRX’s announcement at the time.
Well, now that platform is here. This week — as The Pub returns from hiatus — we take RadioPublic for a test drive with Shapiro and Matt MacDonald, RP’s chief product officer, and we talk about why they felt they had to leave the non-profit world in order to create it.
Also this week, host Adam Ragusea uses the very silly new podcast he and his friend made about Billy Joel to make a vaguely serious point about how and when to insert clips into talk shows.
Host Adam Ragusea explains why there hasn't been a new episode of The Pub for a few weeks and previews what's coming up after the holidays.
Does an interview with a founder of the "alt-right" movement on public media give a platform to hate? Or is it shining a disinfecting light on a movement that has multiplied in the shadows?
Public media veteran Rekha Murthy says public media do need to do stories about “alt-right” figures who now have a seat in the incoming Trump administration, but some probably shouldn’t get a full-on interview.
This week on The Pub, we contemplate public media’s proper role in the coming Trump presidency. Host Adam Ragusea offers a counter-argument to a policy of replacing the term “alt-right” with “white nationalism”
Also, Andrew Ramsammy lays out a vision for how public broadcasters should value and pursue diversity in the Trump era. Ramsammy has recently founded a consultancy focusing on diversity in public media. We ask him: Who does public media need to try to include now? The people who elected Trump, or the people imperiled by his policies and rhetoric?
In this episode of The Pub, we hear three talks from the Third Coast International Audio Festival, featuring Jay Allison, Jenna Weiss-Berman, and host Adam Ragusea.
In this episode of The Pub, we hear three talks from the Third Coast International Audio Festival, featuring Jay Allison, Jenna Weiss-Berman and host Adam Ragusea.
What are the best practices for recording a podcast or radio show in front of a live audience? We recorded a podcast in front of a live audience to find out. This live episode of The Pub about how to do live episodes (a new height of meta-ness) was recorded at the Public Media Institute’s Co-Prosperity Sphere at the Public Media Millennials Facebook group Third Coast after-party in Chicago, organized by host Adam Ragusea and Colorado Public Radio’s Stephanie Wolf.
Why did McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc leave more than $200 million of her wealth to NPR and not a cent to PBS? Because no one at PBS returned a phone call. That’s one of the revelations reported by longtime public radio journalist Lisa Napoli in her new book, "Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away."
Also on The Pub this week, we continue our conversation with UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh about whether journalists are at all different from regular people in the eyes of the law, apropos of a prosecutor’s attempt to charge "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman in connection to her Dakota Access Pipeline reporting.
If doctors make the worst patients, what can you expect when you have the most celebrated radio producer of his generation as a guest on your radio show? WNPR’s Colin McEnroe found out when he had Ira Glass on The Colin McEnroe Show Thursday and they ended up having an extensive on-air conversation about how to edit the sound of Glass getting up to adjust the air conditioning in his New York studio.
McEnroe guest-hosts The Pub this week and presents his complete conversation with Glass, which they recorded just a few weeks after the 2016 Public Radio Program Directors conference where Glass singled out McEnroe’s show as a rare example of innovation in public radio (and where he erroneously referred to McEnroe as “Chris” in front of basically everyone important in the system).
Their fascinating conversation on WNPR ranged from the merits of pledge drives and why Glass enjoys producing pitch packages (his top reason has nothing to do with supporting the mission) to the semiotics of this election season and how Donald Trump is, in McEnroe’s typically esoteric words, “hacking away at the umbilicus between signifier and the signified.”
NPR put out a crowing press release this week, headlined “NPR Sees Large Ratings Increase,” that I think made a complicated and perhaps unknowable situation seem a lot simpler — and perhaps a little rosier — than it really is. On this week’s episode of "The Pub," I invite NPR audience development chief Israel Smith and researcher Susan Leland to really flesh out the numbers and speculate about what’s driving them.
Also, in the Opening Shot, I talk about the abortive prosecution of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and whether the First Amendment really does grant special rights to journalists (short answer: no).
A new federal regulation set to go into effect Dec. 1 will hugely increase the number of American workers who must be paid overtime. According to a client advisory issued by the Washington-based law firm Pillsbury, “broadcasters in particular may feel the impact of the changes given the staffing models used by many TV and radio stations.” Don’t we know it.
On the show this week, Pillsbury attorney Rebecca Rizzo explains why broadcasters — managers and employees alike — need to be particularly concerned with this enormous impending change to how people get paid, and what everybody needs to know.
Also, in the Opening Shot, veteran public radio and podcast producer Julia Barton bemoans the trend of podcast think piece authors adorning their articles with stock art of microphones.
Why has no one ever heard of Don Voegeli? He composed one of the most famous and enduring pieces of theme music ever written — the dignified fanfare that has played at the top of NPR’s “All Things Considered” every evening for four decades. It’s one of hundreds of pieces Voegeli composed for the early days of public radio.
Unlike “Morning Edition” theme composer BJ Leiderman, who negotiated a perpetual on-air credit for his work, Voegeli never asked for credit. He didn’t even ask for money. As a music professor at the University of Wisconsin and longtime employee of WHA (later Wisconsin Public Radio), Voegeli saw the music he contributed as simply an extension of his regular public service mission.
Don Voegeli died in 2009, but now his son Jim is hoping to remind the world just how talented, prolific and widely heard a composer his father was.
Jim has just completed assembling the four-CD collection Beautiful and Lovely: The Music of Don Voegeli. It includes many variations of the “ATC” theme, along with dozens of other early public radio themes, film scores, concert music and commercial jingles heard nationwide.
On this week’s episode of “The Pub,” Jim plays his favorite pieces from the collection and talks about his father’s remarkable and occasionally tragic life.
Also, in the Opening Shot, I talk about Ira Glass’ misnomer faux pas at PRPD, the BBC show “Sarah and Duck” and its amazing theme song, the resignation of BBC radio chief Helen Boaden, and the cancellation of Gimlet’s widely praised Mystery Show.
If you want NPR to pick up your radio show or podcast, you’ll want to pay attention to N’Jeri Eaton, NPR’s senior manager for program acquisitions. Eaton and her colleagues plan to launch an online portal in October for content creators — both those who work at NPR and those who don’t — to pitch ideas for new shows that NPR might help produce or distribute.
Eaton discussed the new pitch portal during a live recording of The Pub at the 2016 Public Radio Program Directors conference in Phoenix, where she also announced a major expansion of NPR’s Story Lab, the network’s content innovation unit.
Also on the show this week, host Adam Ragusea contemplates the costs of doing “edgy” programming (and the costs of not doing it), with the help of hilarious listener-complaint stories submitted by OETA’s Cassie Gage and KMFA’s Chris Johnson, and one from KBIA’s Nathan Lawrence about a lady who thought her horses didn’t like Tom Ashbrook. Seriously.
NPR reporter Sarah McCammon grew up in Kansas City in a conservative evangelical Christian home. She went to private Christian schools and even an evangelical college. Now McCammon covers the Donald Trump campaign for NPR, and if you wondered how she got into a private meeting in June between Trump and evangelical leaders, now you know. Her background has been her superpower out on the Republican campaign trail, where she says she can “speak the language” of evangelical voters.
On this week’s show, McCammon tells the story of how she grew up, how her faith may have changed over time, how she came to journalism and what it’s like on the Trump beat.
Also, New Hampshire Public Radio’s Sam Evans-Brown has the Opening Shot this week, in which he pleads with his fellow environmental reporters to lighten up a little. Evans-Brown hosts NHPR’s new environmental podcast "Outside/In."
ISSUE ONE! Do debate-style public affairs shows inherently trivialize serious issues? Arguing “yes” this week on The Pub is host Adam Ragusea. Arguing “no” is Carlos Watson, CEO of OZY Media and host of Point Taken, the new PBS late-night debate show produced by WGBH.
Also this week, Slate/Panoply podcast host and producer Andrea Silenzi makes the case for branding recurring segments with a catchy name, and the opening commentary segment of The Pub finally gets a name (with help from its listeners).
If you’ve ever worked with veteran public radio host and reporter John Sepulvado, it might not surprise you to learn that he’s an alcoholic. It may, however, surprise you to learn just how bad things got when he hit bottom before entering rehab last year. On this week’s show, Sepulvado tells his story with brutal frankness and more than a little gallows humor. It does have a happy ending; he’s now 20 months clean and the new host of “The California Report” from KQED.
Also on the show, host Adam Ragusea contemplates the various, imperfect metrics for gauging the success of a podcast. And we want your help in naming The Pub’s signature segment.
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 NPR.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)