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. 24: “What are you dressing up as this year?”

October 29, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

In spirit of this weekend’s holiday, there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask virtually any celebrity. It might be even more pertinent to Ira Glass however.

As someone who has acknowledged a lack of interest in the spotlight, it has to be weird for Ira Glass to see his likeness everywhere. His notoriety isn’t even built on his image, but it’s not as if people are recording his voice for answering machines or home video voice overs. He appears on things as random as Whiskey Bar signs and has folks aspire to be him on Halloween.

Trick-or-Treat Ira…

What  is your reaction when you see people wanting to recreate your image? Are you flattered? Is it surreal? Does it make you self-conscious? (All this especially given… your medium of choice is imageless).

Links: Flickr | Hulu

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

Question No. 23: “Has anyone ever told you that you sound like…”

October 28, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

My top five all-time greatest voices:
5. Howard Cossell
3. Morgan Freeman
1. Jimmy Stewart

Um, so…

What voices did you grow up emulating? If you could trade voices with someone, would you (and if so, who would it be)?

Links: YouTube | Hulu

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. 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. 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.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. 18: “What was your degree in?”

October 20, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

To all the aspiring journalists that want to follow in Ira Glass’s shoes: you know he didn’t study journalism, right?

(He didn’t study English, Mass Media, Communications or any of the like either)

gladwellglassOne of Glass’s peers in the premier, recognizable journalist club (Malcolm Gladwell) recently did Time Magazine’s 1o Questions feature.  Gladwell answered the question, “what’s your advice for young journalists?” with the following:

The issue is not writing. It’s what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and he broke it because he’s one of the very few mainstream journalists in America who really knows how to read a balance sheet. That means Jonathan Weil will always have a job, and will always be read, and will always have something interesting to say. He’s unique. Most accountants don’t write articles, and most journalists don’t know anything about accounting. Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today, I would go get a master’s in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that’s the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter.

This American Life certainly spends a lot of time finding topics that are universal,  relateable and what I think Gladwell would call “smart.” However, despite Glass’s academic training outside of the storytelling realm, there’s no denying that skillset plays an integral part in the TAL product.

So, if he were applying to schools this very fall…

What type of academic training would you recommend for aspiring journalists/storytellers? Despite your own path, is there value in the academic pursuit of journalism/writing in today’s landscape or do you agree with Gladwell’s train of thought?

Links: Time Magazine | Wikipedia

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

Question No. 17: “When you were a little kid…”

October 19, 2009

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

I’m not going to lie – if I meet Ira Glass, I’ll be briefly shellshocked.

Meeting anyone noteworthy is a moment. If that person is considerably hip, it adds even more weight to the instant. If that person is someone who you admire strongly for their work and aspire to emulate, it’s potentially once-in-a-lifetime.

I could go on about how Ira Glass inspires me to better storytelling or how I’d do anything just to intern at TAL for a few months, but there’s no need to (largely because I even namedropped him in my profile on

The focus, as always, is on Ira. Well, in this case…

Who were some of the individuals that inspired you to become the storyteller you are today? What in particular about these individuals did you admire and potentially try to emulate?

Links: The NewsHouse

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

The First Four Weeks: What question(s) should make the cut?

October 19, 2009

November 17 isn’t too far away, I’ll need to find questions if (and when) I get the chance to ask Ira.

Question No. 1

Question No. 2

Question No. 4

Question No. 7

Question No. 15