Blog: How To Talk Like a NPR Host in 1 Easy Step

So you want to sound like Ira Glass. Here's a hint: Don't bother. If you really want to have a successful career in radio, you better find your own voice.

The idea that people sound best when they stop trying to imitate someone else is ubiquitous. It's practically a fact. Nearly every radio conference has a session on "Finding Your Own Voice." If you ask a radio pro for advice, they'll almost always tell you to "just be yourself." I've heard it so many times that I was surprised to learn that it sprung from the mind of just one man - David Candow.

Yesterday's Washington Post ran a feature on "The Host Whisperer", the guy who's responsible for much of NPR's sound. David Candow has coached everyone from Ari Shapiro to Scott Simon and his advice is so simple that it sounds like common sense:

- Don't imitate. You'll sound fake.
- Write like you talk. If you wouldn't say something in real life, don't say it on the radio.
- Leave your adjectives at home. Let your verbs do the talking.
- Pretend your having a conversation with someone, not announcing anything.

These rules are a tremendous departure from the "voice of God" newscaster of decades past. And yet, any young broadcaster worth his/her salt swears by them. Well done, Mr. Candow.

Blog: Brand New Blogs

If Bryant Park Project taught NPR anything, it's that listeners like blogs. Especially young people. We love those blogs. We like to read and comment and enjoy the dinner party credibility boost of saying, "I heard on NPR..." -- just like adults!

In that sprit, NPR has launched two new blogs. The first is a pop culture blog (ugh - pop culture! how unsophisticated. oh wait, I secretly love the stuff). Linda Holmes is a very clever blogger. I was entertained by the venn diagram explaining the name of her new blog for NPR, Monkey See. Also, her dire warning against Rainn Wilson's new movie was greatly appreciated. While it's clear she's never watched an episode of Gilmore Girls, I'll definitely be adding her to my RSS reader.

The second new blog is from Rob Sachs, host of one of my favorite alt.NPR shows What Would Rob Do?. Rob's funny, honest and completely irreverent. I could go for more Rob in my day. While the first few posts haven't been stellar, I'm holding out hope. Rob Sachs is NPR's moral compass and I know he won't let us down. Let the pithy, NPR-worthy comments begin!

Redux: Saving Pennies and Ketchup Packets

At last fall's Third Coast Festival Conference in Chicago, Neil Sandell did a session called, "Secrets, Whispers, and Lies: Crafting a Personal Documentary." It was one of the best sessions I attended at the conference, as Neil pulled back the curtain and showed how the producers at Outfront capture such personal and engaging stories from Canadian citizens every week.

For those of you less familiar with Outfront, it's a CBC program that invites listeners to approach them with the stories they want to tell. So, in that way, the producers at Outfront have an advantage. The person they are interviewing already wants to be there. There's no convincing them of the value of the experience, in having their story told. They are the ones wanting to tell it. So the techniques Neil described - having them complete sentences you start, having them imagine with their eyes closed the place where the story takes place - probably are a bit more successful in this kind of scenario.

Redux: Denver: Podunk or Posh?

Sorry, no audio. Try the permalink.

As delegates and reporters flock to Denver for the Democratic National Convention, they may think twice about packing their cowboy boots. Denver has undergone a bit of a makeover since it last hosted a convention in 1908. It's fancy downtown is chock full of art galleries and coffee shops. And haven't you heard? Cattle are only driven through city streets once a year now.

While this piece about Denver's image feels a bit long, you have to give the reporter credit for saying Mayor Hickenlooper's name with a straight face. Check out these cowboy shirts he commissioned for every Democratic member of Congress. Yehaw!

Blog: Trapped in an Elevator

I recently came across this article and accompanying video in The New Yorker (the magazine that most induced guilt in me, piling up faster than I had time to read it). Trapped in an Elevator explores the "lives of elevators," but perhaps the most captivating (and is what I've linked to) is the story Nicholas White, who spent forty-one hours trapped in an elevator in New York City’s McGraw-Hill building. He was working late that night and had left his office for a cigarette break, telling his co-worker he'd be back soon. The video here is a "condensed look" at what White experienced. Using just a haunting melody to accompany the security-camera images, what results is a powerful documentary of an experience that we have all probably feared at one point or another.

Blog: Why Hello, John Moe

When you turn on Weekend America this weekend, things will sound a bit different. Sure, you could chalk it up to summer, when NPR hosts play musical chairs with their hosting duties. But a delightfully solo John Moe is what we'll hear from now on on American Public Media's Weekend America.

For about a year, hosting duties have been split between Bill Radke in Los Angeles and Desiree Cooper in St. Paul. It was an odd combination. The geographical distance made co-host banter a challenge. While both are top-notch hosts, sometimes it sounded like they'd never met. The show's real highlights included sound-rich pieces from indie producers as well as John Moe's weekly "weather" report, a tongue-in-cheek rundown of quirky events across the country. If you liked that segment, stay tuned for all John Moe, all the time, since he'll be taking over as the show's solo host this weekend.

Sadly, it looks like Bill Radke will be leaving the show. Too bad, I liked his style. Desiree Cooper will stay on as Senior Correspondent from her home in Detroit - good news for the environment, since she's been commuting to St. Paul for almost a year.

Well, goodbye Bill Radke. You will be missed. But I look forward to hearing more of John Moe's wit and creativity each weekend.

Redux: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Before diving into this "story of the day" from July (clearly I have some catching up to do...), I just wanted to apologize for disappearing for a while. I knew that July and August would be nutty, what with camping/documentary trips ( and wedding activities galore, but I had no idea just how busy these past several weeks would be.

So I'm back now (shout out to Jen Nathan for keeping the blog a-goin') and ready to get these ears back in action.

This short piece features performance artist Hillary Carlip, who collects discarded shopping lists and uses them as a basis for creating fictional stories and characters. And, as she explains, it's not just the items on the list that factor into her character assessment/development, but also the handwriting and the paper these lists are written on.

So next time you jot down your grocery list and leave it in your cart, be mindful that there might be a performance artist out there who is imagining who you are and then performing that character for all to see.

(Please note - Latest grocery list of mine [written on a yellow post-it in red ink] includes: 1 onion, toothpaste, toilet paper, Amy's burritos, chick patties, pirate booty.)

Redux: If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

Only Robert Krulwich - the most creative science reporter in radio - could be tasked with this problem: Find 3 Nice Things to Say about Mosquitoes. At the moment, I have nothing nice to say about these buzzing, biting, vicious little creatures. Currently, I'm trying not to scratch the giant bug bite on my face - yes my face - not to mention the myriad of bites that dot my legs, arms, and ankles. Oh, summer in the South. But once again, Krulwich comes to the rescue.

With his signature wit and creativity, he finds not one, but three generous things to say about summer's favorite hellion. I suppose a true environmentalist would feel good about propagating an ancient species with one's very own blood, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming of a giant bug zapper.

Blog: Hot Dog, Getcha Hot Dogs

Every city and most small towns have at least one - a place where you can pick up a hot dog, slather on some mustard, and have a little chat with the owner. Most of these street vendors have carts with wheels, so they can pack it up and can find a new corner when business gets slow. But not Mark's Hot Dogs. Mark has locked his wheels at the same corner of Portland, Maine's bustling Old Port for the past 25 years.

Chances are, you've walked by a cart like Mark's a million times, but Salt alumns Kelly Creedon and Annie Larmo give us reason to stop. Listen in as they spend the day with Mark, using photographs and sound to capture the community he's created -- a group of folks who meet at the same corner, day after day, because they crave some casual banter and a cold soda. In this world of cell phones and Facebook friends, it's reassuring to see that something as simple as hot dogs can bring people together.

* To view this thoughtful, well produced multimedia piece, visit:
Be sure to click on 25 Years of Mark's Hot Dogs towards the middle of the page.

Redux: Yuck!

Flesh eating fish. Scary, right? Not if you want smooth, supple feet. Yes, feet. The Turkish trend of having flesh eating fish nibble at the dead skin on your feet - carnivorous pedicures? - is becoming popular in the United States.

No, the fish don't look as vicious as the one pictured above. They're really just an inch long and actually kind of pretty. But as you'll hear in Daniele Anastasion's report, they sound pretty mean. That slurping, sucking sound sent me running for my pumice stone. The best moment is when the salon owner joyfully says, "Thanks for helping me feed my fish!" Ewwww.