Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Question No. 30: “How the heck did you do that?”

November 10, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

Today I got rejected from the Carnegie-Knight foundation’s News21 journalism initiative.

The application-to-interview-to-result timeframe was so fast I haven’t really had time to process it. I know I was up against some heavy competition – folks who have been doing videography/design/ flash  for years, people with professional experience at high profile outlets, students with awards in all the high profile student competitions.

I like to think my materials are strong, I interview well and I display a willingness to  learn the skills and techniques I haven’t mastered. There are plenty of other young journalists like me that for one reason or another just haven’t had opportunities like News21 to devote ourselves to a meaningful project with the opportunity to really expand our skillsets. It’s a Catch-22 however. Without the skills/experience to begin with, you can’t participate in opportunities to gain skills/experience.

That’s where Ira Glass becomes a bit of a role model. Somehow, some way he took his non-journalism degree, interned at NPR in Washington and eventually worked his way through, “nearly every NPR network news program” and “held virtually every production job.”

So, Ira, it’s too cliche to ask for advice, but…

Is it possible to have a professional rise like yours in today’s professional media culture? Can you grab an opportunity to showcase your abilities without previous indicators and then somehow work your way to the top echelon of an outlet?


E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 29: “Do you have the time?”

November 9, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

With the big lecture just over a week away,  I managed to get a few of my classes to agree to hold TAL TV showings.

We opted to watch the “Escape” episode because it’s so rich and offers a journalism class tons of topics to draw on (visuals, interviewing, narration, angles, staging shots… the list goes on).

The one question that came out of it that no one seemed to have a pulse on was about time however. Clearly a story like the Mike Phillips piece in “Escape” requires tons of time to research beforehand, conduct multiple interviews to develop that frank rapport, and then clean-up time for follow-up interviews or additional shoots if you need visuals to match some great audio.

I know time is a limited resource, but when you’re only filming six episodes a season…

On average, how much time does it take to produce a great story? What is the time breakdown between preparation, actual filming and reporting, then tying all the loose ends (refilming, follow-ups, etc.) in post-production? How does the TV preparation compare to doing the same for a radio episode?

Links: n/a

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 25: “Is this censored?”

November 2, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

It’s an easy out to ask an interview questions about the local scene. It’s a topic easily applied to notable folks from any walk of life. Local readers will always have some interest in what these experts have to say about their home.

When Ira Glass comes to SU in roughly two weeks, it’s a bit of a heightened situation. We’re a top journalism school, he’s a top journalist (who’s not shy to speak up for that matter).

The writing is literally on the wall and Ira’s opinion it would be relevant and informed…

Where do you stand on first amendment and freedom of speech issues? While producing TAL, have you ever encountered any troubles around first amendment rights?

Links: n/a

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 22: “When’s the book tour?”

October 27, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

I like to think that deep down inside all journalists share the same secret desire.

They like writing, but really want to write a book.  Since journos are trained in reporting, it has to be a subject driven text.

Chuck Klosterman said he’d take the Real World culture. Bill Simmons took the Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m on record for Ra Ra Riot.

So, Ira Glass the journalist: If you had two years to immerse yourself in a subject and produce your signature text…

What subject would you most like all-access to in order to write the definitive text on? (Radio comic books not included)

Links: Amazon | USA Today’s Pop Candy

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 20: “Seriously?”

October 22, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

This weekend we have a project for my web journalism class that’s largely based on sequencing (basically the idea of storyboarding out your video, but applied to documentary/journalistic video).

The issue with storyboarding out something journalistic is that you don’t have creative control over pure documenting.  This leads to the lure of staging shots in order to complete your ideal vision.

It’s not the most ethical practice, but in the commentary for “Reality Check” episode from season one of TAL TV,  Ira Glass admits the crew uses fishing wire to lead the bull around the yard to complete the background aesthetic.

For real?

What are your thoughts on staging visuals to complete your stories? Is that one of the reasons you opted to stop doing the TV show?

Links: Mastering Multimedia | YouTube

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 14: “Thanks anyway…”

October 13, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

We heard the five most dreaded words in journalism education today during my web course.

“…man on the street assignment…”


It’s easy to seek out individuals because they are related to a development or because they hold a specific area of expertise. Most of those sources are more than willing to acknowledge your presence and often talk to you.

An M.O.S. piece isn’t as kind to the budding journalist. People wonder why you’re bothering them specifically, they claim to be unfamiliar with the topic at hand (even if it’s usually a global trend) and no one seems to have a minute to stop and talk.  Don’t even bother getting into the discussions about if this will air/be published and if they have to provide their name.

TAL however seems to have mastered this process. They have entire episodes that are largely based on interviews they conduct with people that aren’t special for any reason other than being present.  (My favorite radio program included). I’m sure a lot of it has to do with their resources (they send a team of reporters for hours, individuals in my class go out for 45 minutes alone) but you never hear about TAL having issues finding willing and interesting M.O.S. interview subjects.

So if you have a minute, I’d love to ask…

How do you go about approaching individuals for your M.O.S. style pieces? Do you often find a lot of resistance, are most people willing to talk after a brief explanation of who you are and what you’re doing (or do they even recognize TAL)?

Links: This American Life | The NewsHouse

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 8: “I’ll send a postcard.”

September 30, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

The This American Life DVDs are endless fodder for journalism students. The stories are remarkably creative yet universal. The production quality is really high. There are different storytelling methods employed.

…and when you watch all the episodes, you can go back to some for the commentary.

One of the more interesting bits of material in that feature is when Ira mentions his ongoing relationship with one of his subjects in the “Escape” episode. Basic newswriting courses discourage friendsourcing and I had to avoid even grabbing a drink with a source back in my lifestyle reporting days.

What gives?

What are your thoughts on maintaining or developing relationships with sources? Since the stories your share are so intimate, does this happen pretty often?

Links: The Pocono Record

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 7: “Will you be quiet?”

September 29, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

In less than 48 hours, I have a two-minute multimedia pieces due for class. It’s something the school values highly –  making all their new grad students produce one within weeks of coming to campus. Some do it successfully and others not so much. I’m hoping to be included in the former.

Naturally I sought out some of TAL on TV to inspire me on the production end (I wish I could find content like they do, my reach is simply not as far or as thorough at this point in time). Along with the multimedia work over at, there’s one immediate difference between what I saw and what I was instructed to aspire for…me.

This American Life uses narration in nearly everything. I can only recall an episode here or there that relies on old tapes to tell the story without a TAL storyteller. On TV (closer to the product I am trying to produce, it’s a Soundslides project), only the urban horseback riding story from Season II comes to mind as a story done solely through the source.

Faculty would laugh at me if I wrote a print story comprised only of quotes. I think my broadcast compadres would echo that sentiment. However, with Soundslides I am supposed to allow my sources to speak without filter or structure on my part. Yet, the folks I admire as storytellers are doing similar projects but repeatedly opting for narration.

I’m a bit confused…

Why do you opt for narration in a majority of your pieces on This American Life? If given ideal sources and an ideal story, would you still opt for it or is the Utopian goal a piece that stands solely on its own?

Links:| NHInteractive| Knight Digital Journalism

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

Question No. 6: “Is Dad home?”

September 28, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

The great thing about the Season Two DVD of This American Life is the additional content. Not only are the stories unbelievable (dental floss?) but there is commentary from Ira and the producers giving insight into the ideas and production on certain episodes.

However, even with that extra exposure, at least one question from that season really looms.

There is a very memorable episode entitled “Escape” that centers around a man with an absolutely crippling physical condition. He is bed-ridden, breathes and eats through tubes, talks via a computer monitor. The story focuses on the universal idea of wanting independence and breaking away from your parents’  home through his very unique lens.

We’re introduced to the man, his girlfriend, his caregiver, his mom and his… (wait, were you expecting “dad” here? My friends and I were too).

Now obviously the traditional nuclear family isn’t an assumption as if it were the 1950s, but in a story so focused on breaking away from  home wouldn’t it make sense to thoroughly lay out what that home is composed of? It’s understandable if someone declines to participate, but if they’re intimately tied to the subject matter do you have to at least mention their status? It’s worth asking…

How you determine when a bit of traditional information (specifically, the status of dad in “Escape”) can not only be left out, but can be completely ignored within a piece?

Links:|| TV Guide

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one

Question No. 4 (with a follow-up No. 5): “Wait, are you recording this?”

September 24, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

I received the following e-mail recently. I removed a few paragraphs and vague’d any specific identifiers to protect the confidentiality of this person, place and event (you’ll see why):

On [DATE], [FAMOUS LOCAL] will be in the [NEARBY CITY LOCATION] for a Q&A with students…

NOTE: Because this is an educational forum, [PERSON] would like to be able to speak candidly and off-the-record with students. Therefore we ask students “on the honor system” to refrain from recording this session on cell phones or video cameras, tweeting, blogging, etc.  This will not be an coverage opportunity for either professional or student media.  Please communicate this to students when you mention the appearance…

However, I feel it’s our obligation to make students aware of a guest’s wishes.  A student then has the right to ignore those wishes – just as a journalist can decide whether or not to respect a source’s request for anonymity — but at the risk of his or her own professional reputation…

I immediately wondered about being a major knowledgeable and influential celebrity in today’s digital age.  When Ira Glass comes through a town,  any and all academics and media enthusiasts come out and certainly bring their recorders/cameras/notebooks/smart phones. This American Life doesn’t exactly shy away from controversial subjects either.

So, if a local presentation could turn into a global message…

When making public appearances, do you find yourself avoiding certain topics all together or drastically diluting your thoughts? Are you worried about bloggers/citizen journalists/etc. creating unintended content?

Links: (None)

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one