When you listen to a public radio station, can you tell immediately whether you’re hearing local or national programming? If yes, that no doubt owes to many factors, but one is NPR’s signature mic sound. It’s bright, it’s clear, it’s crisp, and it cuts over the noisiest of cars/trains/planes or whatever is competing with NPR’s programming for the listeners’ ears.
On this Thanksgiving episode of The Pub, we reprise a pair of old segments we did about NPR’s secret mic sauce, including an interview with NPR’s chief audio engineer Shawn Fox, who gladly divulged the recipe.
Also, we revisit our conversation with former Marketplace Money host Tess Vigeland. Since we spoke, her book about quitting your job with no backup plan has come out, and she’s decided on yet another non-plan: traveling the world for who-knows-how-long.
Martha Little is only a couple months into her new job in commercial media, as senior producer for original content development at Audible. But she previously worked everywhere in public radio — "Marketplace," NPR, WNYC, WBUR, America Abroad — and she has a recommendation for her old field.
Public media workplaces work better when they are “feminized,” she says, meaning when workplaces are flatter and more collaborative, rather than being lorded over by an exalted boss, the conventional model she describes as more “masculine” (acknowledging that such gendered terms are merely a convenient shorthand).
Also on the show this week:
• Brooke Gladstone from WNYC’s On the Media helps me answer your random public media questions, including: Is it better to financially support your local station or the specific organizations that produce the shows you like?
• With the help of an excellent package of stories by Current’s Ben Mook about executive compensation, I argue that big-time public media leaders make too much money. Not way too much money, but too much.
In a live show at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace in Atlanta, host Adam Ragusea talks to travel host and guide Rick Steves about his business model (and why he thinks it couldn’t be replicated), whether he feels pressure to adopt a more “gonzo” style of presenting á la Vice, his advocacy for marijuana legalization and more.
Also on the show:
• Doc Martin actor Ian McNeice and Celeste Headlee, host of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s On Second Thought, compete in a special BBC-themed edition of our game in which contestants must identify parodies or other appearances of public media in the broader culture.
• British public television’s charming tradition of using live continuity announcers, and Channel 4’s daring 2013 experiment with temporarily employing announcers who have communication disabilities.
• The battle between Georgia Public Broadcasting and Public Broadcasting Atlanta for radio news-talk dominance, and whether head-to-head competition is a good thing for local public media organizations.
Does political polling fit with public media’s mission, or should it be left to commercial networks to follow the horse race? On The Pub this week, Sam Fleming, managing director of news and programming at WBUR-FM in Boston, responds to criticism of the practice.
Also, Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks about his show’s new economic poll, the “Economic Anxiety Index.” While he has copious journalistic reasons for investing in polling, he admits there is promotional value as well in creating new data that other media might pick up.
• Mira Burt-Wintonick, producer of the recently discontinued CBC radio show WireTap, talks about how she and her colleagues transformed an old radio segment into a viral video that’s likely gotten more exposure than the entire 11-year run of their show.
• We open up Adam’s Gripe Bag, a collection of sundry media stories that made me angry in the last week, including Pandora’s botched announcement of an exclusive-but-not-really deal with Serial and This American Life, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple’s misguided criticism of the New York Times, and why the National Weather Service can’t come up with more intuitive terms for severe weather “watches” and “warnings.”