Ira, and the Fate/Future of Journalism

It’s always inspiring to listen to an excellent storyteller, but it’s particularly interesting when the story they are telling is about your future.

Not my future in particular, but that of the industry I’ve been lulled into loving. Ira Glass, creator and host of This American Life, the radio program that introduced me to the power of radio, was in Keene, N.H., this weekend, and I went down to see him. Ira was there to talk about his program, and about the failings he sees broadcast news.

Those failings may not have been his theme, but they were certainly what I heard most clearly. Broadcast news, he said, is all about telling you what’s important. It’s about making sure you get what it is about this event that make it news. TAL, however, is about connections — connecting the listener to the person on the other end of the interview, making you hear what they are saying and care. It tells the same story, but instead of telling its global ramifications it distills it to the implications for one person. And sometimes that isn’t all that grandiose.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about better ways to tell stories, better ways to get people to connect with the information I put out on a daily basis. This talk was a great window for me into ways to do that. And it has given me ideas for how to improve what I’m doing at the Sun. The goal of journalism is still to inform, but if the audience turns you off that goal isn’t being met. I’m looking for ways to keep people tuned in, ways to keep people connected. Thank you, Ira, for the ideas.

SHAMELESS PLUG (Not for me, but for Ira): TAL is doing a live broadcast on May 10 where they beam the performance into movie theaters around the country. They did the same thing several years ago and it was AWESOME. The closest theater to me that is carrying the show is at the Catamount Arts Center in St. Johnsbury, Vt.  I’ll be there. Will you?

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