William Elliott Whitmore show review in Ohio

I’ve posted about William Elliot Whitmore before, and he made an appearance on the last Six Song on RadioZoom[rz#126]. When I pulled down my feeds this morning, Benjamin Cossel made a raving review on BlogCritics.org about a recent show of Whitmore’s in Ohio. I think he hit the nail on the head.

Bob Dylan, New York City 1961. Tom Waits, San Diego, early 1970s. What must it have been like to see these legendary performers when they were still unknowns? When the gathered crowd was small and you were so close to the artist that you could make a request in a conversational tone?

It struck me, as I watched and listened to William Elliot Whitmore, Feb 19 at The Basement in Columbus, Ohio on the kick-off date of a national tour, that this was what it must’ve been like; to see a performer at such an early point in their career who, in your heart of hearts, you know is destined for greatness with only 20 or so others are there to share the experience with you.

In many an article about him, Whitmore is compared to such legends as Waits and Johnny Cash. I’m sure it’s more to do with the deep gravelly voice and genre fusions than actual stylistic similarities – one thing that does run parallel with the Iowa born and raised Whitmore and those who transcend mere greatness is the honesty in their lyrics. [blogcritics]

Keep reading the rest of his review for sure, but oddly enough, it was one of his songs that was the last things I listened to as I drove out of Iowa to make my way to Vancouver. I think it might have been his song “Midnight”, but it’s hard to recall now. He was doing a live performance on the same radio station that I used to work at, WSUI.

It was the very same program that I had the chance of shaking the guy’s hand and running his sound for as well, nearly a year or so before my departure. That live remote could have been one of the first live programs that I ran by myself, calling the shots on the technical end and managing the part-time student help. I could be completely wrong because my time there is almost like a blur now, but it’s crazy how music can trigger your synapses like that.

Podcast: The Exchange from IPR

Caught this via the official IPR blog.

“The Exchange” is now available as a podcast. You can download any episode of the show and listen whenever you like, or you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, or in feed readers like Google Reader and Bloglines. And, of course, iTunes is one way to transfer the show to your iPod so you can listen while you’re on the go.

Welcome to 2004, IPR. Ok, that is mean, but I tried really hard to get a podcast effort going at WSUI/KSUI during my time there. A lot of it came down to huge concerns over music rights, mainly music used in bumpers and bed music. After that, it was an uphill battle of trying to teach staff, with explicit radio frame of minds, what podcasting is.

There was a short run of a weekend program that I was able to get setup, but I was instructed to shut it down due to said licensing concerns. Yes, there was a legit reason to follow the rules and not distribute material that we lacked the rights to do so for. Being the only person trying to push the new medium on top of the impending IPR consolidation, there was no room for the project on the agenda. It was in the early portion of 2005 that the plug was pulled.

That single weekend program pushed out about five episodes, and the response was immediate. There was hardly any promotion for it, but people were either Googling or pinging their way to the feed. The comments were coming from around the world. This was a whole new audience we were taping into, and they didn’t care if the content pertained to Iowa related topics. It was quality programming, plain and simple.

I think what IPR wants to do is become a stronger force in the world of public radio, much like what Minnesota Public Radio or Chicago Public Radio has become. This new program, The Exchange, is the first big push to get into the ring for IPR. However, quality programming has always been there. That little weekend program was a glimpse of that. If someone would have made a bigger effort to secure podcasting and the licensing worries, they would have seen that.

This American Life going to the little screen

It almost seems like a trend right now. First, Garrison Keillor[wiki] took A Prairie Home Companion and turned it into a movie[imdb]. Now it’s This American Life, probably one of my most favorite programs in the world of public radio that I hardly listen to. But hey, it’s a podcast now, so I think I’ll have to subscribe.

That’s just one of the many odd discussions that took place in the process of transforming a radio program into a television series. The show is This American Life. The host is Ira Glass. The TV series will debut in March on the Showtime cable channel.

There’s a certain simplicity to the art of radio. At its heart, it’s all about storytelling. And This American Life is a radio show that revels in storytelling — quirky stories, sad stories, scary stories.

This American Life seems so wedded to the medium of radio that when the Showtime cable network first approached Glass about turning it into a TV show, he couldn’t imagine it.

“We basically said ‘no’ for a year and half,” Glass recalls. “And we kept saying we have no idea how to… be filmmakers. You have to hook us up with people who could design something that got across the feeling of the radio show.” [npr]

I’m not too sure how I feel about it. The beauty of radio is the theatre of the mind and how it comes across the airwaves. Being an audio junkie, you would think that my gut reaction would be to hate the whole concept, but I take comfort in the idea of Showtime(or potentially in Canada, Showcase) being the network to throw this on the tube.

Audio Doc - Ira Glass
Photo credit: transomradio on Flickr

I’ve had the brief, but not the most up close, pleasure of working with Ira Glass[wiki] during my days in public radio. In fact, it was just a one day sort of thing, but he really is a fascinating guy. Not in the omnipresent, starstruck sort of way, but he is a person that knows what he’s trying to do and how that should be done. Based on that, I know that he wouldn’t make a venture into television without making sure that the end result was going to be good.

I’ll say what I have always said about television. It’s five times as expensive and takes just as much time to produce worthwhile content. That’s not to say that working solely with audio is easy. Both mediums are their respective art forms, but you should never compare the two. If you don’t believe me now, then start listening to the This American Life podcast now and see how it compares to the TV program when it comes out. The effect will simply not be the same. We have yet to see if we can call it good or not.

The slow moving, giant sloth that is Iowa Public Radio

Flickr: Public Radio daysWhen I joined the world of public radio in 2003, the general manager for the group of stations that were controlled and funded by Iowa State University issued a white paper calling for the creation of a statewide network for public radio within the state. What he wanted to do was to bring all stations from the three major university’s into a single network, the other two school’s being the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa.

It was was in the first few days that this news came out of left field and made the whole place freak out. I was fresh to the whole public radio sphere at WSUI/KSUI, and it was within the first month of coming on board that people were telling me that I should consider applying for the full time position as assistant engineer. The thing is, no one knew if their jobs were going to be there if and when this consolidation took effect.

One thing that my time in college radio taught me was that bureaucracies work at an incredibly slow, painful, and sometimes ignorant pace. A motion like this would be a matter decided by a select group of people at the top of the institute of higher education food chain, the board of regents. It was no secret to anyone inside the stations that the guy who put out this white paper was licking his lips to be the one at the top of the organizational chart. Long story short, the process out-processed him. Not only did he not make it through the motions to be considered a finalist for the job, but he eventually left altogether.

Enter the era of the executive director of Iowa Public Radio, Cindy Browne. No matter how much everyone tried to put us at ease with the situation, there was never a worse feeling that treating this woman with ill manner would cost you your career. We were told that this wasn’t an era of consolidation, but an attempt at better cooperation. There would be an examining of how running all the stations under one network could save money, but anyone familiar with the way any media organization goes about such a venture knows what that means. The less people you have, the more money you can save. Continue reading “The slow moving, giant sloth that is Iowa Public Radio”

Feeling as good as the weather

Right now, I’m just staying awake for the sake of not sleeping all day and then not sleeping tonight. Just been an all day endeavor of pains in my stomach area. It would be easy to say that it’s the water, but Rebecca has been fine all day long. Don’t know what the deal is, but I hate being sick.

Been a series of things that I wanted to highlight today. Northern Voice is ramping up. They officially opened up registration for the event, and we’re looking at going. The worst thing about the timing is that it’s the weekend of our first anniversary. NV is something we’re all about checking out, but we’ll have to really see how it works for us. I’ve thought about tossing my hat into the speaking ring regarding podcasting, but there is probably someone out there that could do something much more impacting than myself.

Rebecca setup another interview for this Saturday for RadioZoom. This time around, we’ll be talking to Wintersleep from Halifax, Nova Scotia ahead of their show at The Plaza Club. Should be a lot of fun, and I’m all about learning more about bands on the fly. I know the library a bit, but outside of that, I like taking these interviews as they go. Having a formula sounds like we have a formula.

Speaking of Saturday, we’ll have to miss the Canucks game that night, but what a good game against Columbus last night. It was a little disheartening to hear people boo Anson Carter, but I get why it was happening. Even better that we held on to win. Even at 1-0, there was enough action to keep me into the game. I could have really done with some more scoring though. Geez!

I’ve also been getting back up to speed with what’s happening with Iowa Public Radio. It’s been a little over a year since I left the radio world, and the process of consolidation was just starting to gather. I’ll be completely honest. Everything I am seeing makes me very unhappy.

I’m hearing things from the inside that are less than stellar. They even have a blog as the mouth of IPR now, WordPress and all. Sure, statewide public radio networks are nothing new, but everything that made all of those stations great, in their own respective ways, is being systematically dismantled. This is a topic I’ll expand more on in the future, I’m sure.

That’s all from the couch. Combined with some podcasts in my headphones and CNN on the tube all day long, I’m ready to feel better. You can only see those Head On commercials so many times, and that goes for the newer ones that rip on the original ones.

That does remind me that I need to touch on some of the TV shows we’ve been keeping tabs on and enjoying this fall. Jericho, Heroes, Law and Order: SVU, CSI, 20 Rock, Studio 60… I can’t remember liking to watch TV in a long time, not to mention on the major networks. Give me widescreen and that makes me interested in anything. Take away the commercials, and I’ll like it even more.

Chicago has a secret radio project that’s about to launch

I have a friend who works at Chicago Public Radio that clued me into something that is happening there. SecretRadioProject.com doesn’t give a whole lot of details, and the information that I was getting from Paul left me with more questions than answers. That’s just because I started throwing out some technical questions, and he isn’t the most technical type of guy.

Chicago will soon be home to a new radio station that is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.

It’s a creative free-for-all, with no shows and no stuffy time slots. Engaging hosts guide you through the day – whether you stop in for an hour or a quick coffee break.

Every time you tune in, you’ll hear something new and surprising – music, interviews, shout outs, essays and more. All with a local bent and an unmistakably Chicago voice.

And the best part: this radio comes from you. You’re the creator, deejay, producer and editor.

Give us your take on what’s happening in your neighborhood. Share your deepest thoughts, confessions and opinions about your world. Upload audio to our website and tune in as we play it for all of Chicago and the world to hear.

It’s two-way radio: an ongoing conversation with Chicago. Radio of, by and for us all. [secretradioproject]

Paul also added something to the effect that it will be all new content with a YouTube like archive, uploaded from anyone and everyone. This won’t be tied to NPR but will be very tied to the Chicago metro area. However, this will be a service of Chicago Public Radio.

It’s very interesting to hear about, and Paul went offline before I could IM anymore answers out of him. Regardless, the scope of the project is daunting. Radio is in desperate need of rethinking how to exist within a world of changing media. This could be the best experiment I have seen yet to try and do just that.

Compression is not in the NPR dictionary

Dear National Public Radio,

I really enjoy listening to your podcasts. Being someone who used to work in the network, I understand the content that you guys offer with your podcasts. The new is incredibly informative and a great addition to my playlists when I go running. The five minute updates clue me into news happening around the world that I’ll usually look into future among my many RSS feeds.

I also like the other content that you guys offer. The Whad’Ya Know stuff is great. I’ve been listening to Mr. Feldman for as long as I can remember. Although it’s just a small portion of the weekly program, his satire is quite humourus.

What I was to know is… why do I always have to crank up the volume when I listen to your podcasts? It’s annoying. I get that there is a certain “style” to the way NPR does things. I have also run into a number of arguments in the broadcast engineering world to know about the dislike for compression among public radio enthusiasts. To each their own, but this is podcasting we’re talking about.

When I’m in the shower, CNN podcasts are perfect. Once your news update hits, I get nothing but some mumbling. And if I decide to switch my playlist up when I go running, my ear drums get blasted when music follows said news update because I have to turn up your stuff just to understand the content. Listening to Feldman on the podcast produces some of the same mumbling followed by laughter from the audience. I completely miss what was funny and shouldn’t have to rewind to catch it.

And for the love of god, shorten up the intro and outros. That beginning music is one thing, but you can be way more brief in telling me thanks for downloading your five minute news summary. Perhaps it’s the ads that drive me even more nuts. The non-commercial rule of thumb doesn’t apply so much to podcasts, and I doubt the FCC is going to or can regulate that.

Just give me the news, and let me be able to hear it without having to crank the volume all the way up.

NPR Quick to Podcasts, Regreting Decision?

Wired.com is running an article on their site about National Public Radio’s podcasting efforts hurting their fund raising.

“Why would I sit through all of that if I can get what I like for free online, listen to it on my own time and not be guilted for weeks into giving money?” says Michaels, a real estate agent who says her husband donates to the station on behalf of her family. “I’ve even found a whole bunch of NPR shows online that aren’t on NPR here, which is so great.”

That kind of thinking reflects both the blessing and curse presented by podcasting. On the upside, the medium is expanding NPR’s overall audience and boosting some shows previously unavailable in many markets. While most NPR programming has been streamed online for several years, the portable, time-shifted, on-demand nature of podcasting affords a new level of convenience and access.

As some one who worked for an NPR affiliate and tried to create podcast content from there, this is interesting. Fund raising happens at regular times of the year for nearly all affiliates. Some stations do this more times a year than others, but it happens. The other major thing to note is that there is a lot of cooperation from NPR themselves, sending satellite feeds of fund drive programming out at specified times.

I subscribe and listen to a handful of NPR podcasts. I really like what they are doing, they get what this medium can do for their programming. What I don’t get is how they can ignore the fund raising issue. It would be very easy to tag something on at the beginning of podcasts to remind listeners to support their local stations, specifically on podcasts that are timely, such as the NPR news podcasts. Continue reading “NPR Quick to Podcasts, Regreting Decision?”