The creator of the acclaimed public radio show This American Life explains the keys to his program’s tremendous success, including the process of tracking down the great untold stories.
photo by Stuart Mullenber
For Ira Glass, journalism is more than just reporting the news. It’s about uncovering the great, untold stories of America. The New York Times celebrated Glass for approaching his interviews and impressions with a “distinctive literary imagination, an eccentric intelligence, and a sympathetic heart.”
Each week, over 500 radio stations broadcast Glass’s award-winning public radio program, This American Life, to more than 1.7 million listeners. Most weeks, the program’s podcast is the most popular in the country.
Some favorite broadcasts include a story about two girls who were switched at birth (Episode 360), the secret recipe for Coca Cola (Episode 427) and a group of prison inmates who performed the last act of Hamlet (Episode 218). Under Glass's editorial direction, This American Life has won the highest honors for broadcasting and journalistic excellence, including several Peabody and DuPont-Columbia awards. The American Journalism Review noted that the show is "at the vanguard of a journalistic revolution."
Ever wondered how Glass tracked down these fascinating stories? Not only does his performance offer a peek behind the scenes of his tremendously successful program, but he mixes pre-taped quotes, music, story snippets and of course, his acclaimed narration, to create a three hundred and sixty degree listening experience. He also shares funny and memorable moments from previous broadcasts, along with insights on their creations that the average listener doesn’t get to hear.
Glass’s musings are sure to provide more than some interesting water cooler stories. His performance explores the diverse terrain of people, events and ideas that despite their uniqueness, or perhaps because of it, are all essentially American.
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