Author: Kip Cheroutes
Public Radio International personality Ira Glass was in Denver recently to talk about his show and his method of journalism. My family and I went to the historic Paramount Theater expecting to be mildly entertained. We left greatly impressed.
Since 1995, Ira Glass has hosted and produced This American Life, a weekly one-hour examination of ordinary life in a not-so-ordinary way. He links three stories by a common, innocuous theme then binds them at program's end to make us appreciate or ponder the peculiarities of our society. Listen at www.pri.org/this-american-life.html.
My family first listened to him during long car trips a decade ago. His show made the miles fly by and left a lasting impression on my now college-aged daughter. For her, seeing him was like seeing a rock star.
Glass explained how the program comes together. He and his co-producers conceive story ideas and sort through listener ideas early each week then simultaneously produce several. With only hours left before the finished program is sent to 500 stations, his team frantically conducts last minute interviews, checks facts and mixes voice to music to tell accurate stories in his trademark style and unmistakable voice.
Allie Cheroutes and Ira Glass at The Paramount Theater in May 2010
This journalistic method is powerful in a subtle way. He interviews his subjects in a storytelling fashion, asking what happened, then what happened next. After this timeline-style of questioning, he distills a theme and a deeper meaning for the listener.
Traditional journalism is powerful in a different way. That way leads with the dramatic and timely. The listener quickly learns who, what, where, when and why. Deeper meaning is left for the listener to decide. Significance is left to the editorials.
Why applaud Ira's journalism? One, because it is entertaining. Two, because we should learn to listen for the mundane and draw significance from the off-beat. This way we learn a lot about ourselves and about our society - lessons worth learning.
Thank you, Ira Glass, for using a different lens of journalism.