Archive for the ‘This American Life on Radio’ Category

Question No. 21: “Can I use ‘I’ in this paper?”

October 26, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

I had the opportunity to roadtrip with a friend this past weekend. Any drive over two-hours requires a little more entertainment then just plain music (which lead to)…

The Kindness of Strangers Fear of Sleep

Both of these stories begin with first-person narratives for their initial acts. It’s the literary form you’ve been discouraged from taking ever since eighth grade (“Don’t use first-person in your essays. No ‘I'”).

In the scheme of TAL, I can see why. The brilliance of the program is how honest, ordinary people are fascinating due to their unexpected depth and frankness. First-person narratives seem to contradict this. They are meticulously thought out, at times consciously (or sub-consciously) veiled, lacking a multitude of perspectives.

It’s an easier listen when you’re familiar with the author/character and their voice (someone like Birbiglia, Sedaris, Vowell, Savage), but it’s considerably more difficult in the case of something like “The Kindness of Strangers” (first story is the account of a lock smith, hasn’t had years of developing his voice and his story is noticeably slower).

So if it isn’t too much, I’d love to know…

What  does it take to get a personal narrative into an episode? Would you prefer all reported stories in an ideal production or do you see a place where the narrative needs to be included?

Links: This American Life

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

Question No.19: “Did you ever ask that guy?”

October 21, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

If I was ever offered the opportunity to appear/read/write/hold a microphone for a This American Life story, I’d drop everything and start driving to Chicago.

I’m an aspiring journalist with a super high love for the work of Ira Glass and Co. however.  I know they’ve been turned down on offers to contribute before (I’m looking at you, Ed Norton. Johnny Depp said yes).

After salivating over the thought of Malcolm Gladwell and Ira interacted on something, it got me thinking about a lot of my other favorite writers. They’re all incredible storytellers who find unique angles and utilize a great literary voice for storytelling  (Bourdain, Klosterman, Eggers… I mean Amazon probably recommends them if you like TAL regular Sedaris).

So, have you asked yet…

Do you ever entertain the idea of having some recognizeable storytellers contribute to This American Life? Have you been turned down by some of these folks or do you simply never consider it because you worry about the story losing some of its focus to the teller him/herself?

Links: Wikipedia |

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

Question No. 16: “What’s on your iPod again?”

October 15, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

I don’t want to ask, “What’s on your iPod?

It’s not what I really want to know. Sure, I like indie rock, jazz, classical… and all of those genres mysteriously show up in TAL programming.  Those aren’t picked because they’re Ira Glass’s personal preferences however (nor are they selected because it’s the music of choice for any of the audio producers for that matter).

When dealing with storytelling on the level of TAL and with the preferred-medium of TAL, sound is a major stylistic component. It can push a reader towards an emotional reaction regardless of whatever speech is being surrounded by it.  That said, there is an unusually high amount of indie rock and jazz that sneaks into TAL stories.

Turn it down for a minute…

What goes into your music selection for any episode of TAL? Is there an exact science to it? Are you trying to match story content to lyrical content or a song’s “feeling” to the story’s?

Links: This American Life | SPIN Online

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

Question No. 11: “So the 3 a.m. shift, that was the short straw?”

October 6, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

I’ve tried pitching the 24-hour approach to numerous media outlets throughout my journalism escapades. The “24 Hours at The Golden Apple” episode is simply my favorite This American Life story to date. It epitomizes everything I like about the show – the focus is universal, the storytelling is so compelling virtually anything is interesting, it’s largely (or solely in this case) based on interesting people.  Not to mention, I’m very partial to diners.

Full Episode

The episode was so successful that TAL eventually took the same approach at a NY Thruway rest stop. I’m finally getting the opportunity to take the 24-hour plunge with Syracuse media outlet TheNewsHouse at the end of October. We’re doing an infamous local locale so stay tuned for that if you’re in CNY (or at a college campus).

Until then (and especially now that I have the assignment)…

What was your approach when crafting these episodes? How much prep work can actually be done? Is this the ultimate example of allowing the available content/sources organize the story?

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.