Posts Tagged ‘Academic Pursuit of Journalism’

I. Sat. Down. And. Talked. With. Ira. Glass.

November 17, 2009



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. 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. 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.9: “What the f*ck?”

October 1, 2009

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

I had the opportunity to cover an event where Ted Koppel interviewed Frank Langella tonight. I enjoyed it immensely but, man, it was nothing like I expected.

Koppel and Langella provided the wisdom you’d expect from giants in their respective fields. They did so while going back and forth like some reuniting fraternity brothers, bantering of sexual escapades and…

…well, I heard Ted Koppel say “asshole” and “Tickle Trigger’s testicles.”

Ted Koppel  may be the man I’d least expect to hear vulgarity from. It definitely added to the event and helped reinforce the rapport between him and Langella, but still, when your reputation is built on very mature and honest journalism it’s a bit jarring to hear that.

So, what the hell?

What are your feelings on vulgarity and cursing within storytelling? Does it add realism or is it simply used for shock-value and the like?

Links: 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. 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.