04 October, 2008


I wanted to learn the ropes of public radio through intensive, hands-on experience. At NHPR, I am.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, I'm with The Exchange, a daily call-in show covering issues and affairs that affect Granite Staters. During the show, which airs from 9 to 10 am, I man the phone lines. At first, I found the task daunting: I had trouble distilling callers' often long-winded comments into short cues for Laura, the host, on the call screen, while simultaneously explaining, "I'm going to have you turn down your radio and listen through the phone. When you hear Laura call your name, you're on-air." Flustered, I absorbed nothing and typed novels on the call screen. Now, several weeks in, I look forward to my Monday morning challenge of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Post-show, I gather with Laura, Keith and Dan for a production meeting. Afterward, my primary task is to write a roadmap for the next day and research topics for upcoming shows. I'm also in the midst of revamping The Exchange's page on Facebook and last Wednesday, I made my first on-air contribution to The Exchange, a 34-second montage of House floor speeches in defense of and against version one of the infamous bailout bill. The montage aired in the billboard of the show, The Disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.

I spend Wednesdays and Thursdays with Word of Mouth, a new show on NHPR that explores current trends and new ideas, and broadcasts live from 12 to 1 pm. My days are as varied as they are busy, with the morning coffee-sipping production meeting as the only constant. In my first month, I brainstormed show ideas, booked guests and blogged on clubbing green in Rotterdam, a puppet festival in the Green Mountains and shrinking groceries. I pre-interviewed guests on topics from tech etiquette to technology failure. I wrote and produced several promos--an exercise in succinctness and the art of smooth board operation. I also wrote Virginia's script for a segment, Crows Know Who You Are.

After running circles this past Wednesday trying to contact a Fox News reporter about her article on mind-reading security devices, Thursday felt like a day of small victories. We'd been talking about getting Word of Mouth on Twitter for weeks; on Thursday morning, I successfully tracked down the owner of the username, 'wordofmouth,' and got her permission to adopt the name. I put forth Word of Mouth's first Twitter query, "How are you using Twitter this election season?," and got several tweets which we aired in the show close. In the afternoon, I ventured into the field for the first time with my new Marantz PMD620 and Shure mic--both recent birthday presents--to gather some vox pop on voters' expectations for the evening's debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Initially I had difficulty thinking on my feet, but interview by interview, I felt more sure of myself. Upon returning to the station, I delved into editing and didn't quit until debate time.

A few takeaways from my first month at NHPR: live radio is never predictable nor dull; interview questions should be conversation starters, not essays; edit on line intersections and hard vowels for crisp tape.

1 comment:

alw said...

and possibly the most important takeaway -- don't tick-off the senior producer.