Radio host Ira Glass visits SMU to share his years of broadcast experience

Ira_GlassEDITBethany Montgomery, Editor-in-Chief

Sophia Lim, Section Editor

 

On Sunday, March 24, popular radio personality and host of the show “This American Life,” Ira Glass, visited the Saint Martin’s campus to discuss the art of conveying information, and engaging an audience. Born and raised in Baltimore, Glass was a very involved student, working on numerous stage productions for his high school, as well as serving as a prominent figure on his student government and yearbook. This, paired with his co-editorship of the student literary magazine, sparked his interest in journalism. In 1978, at the age of 19, Glass began his career in radio broadcasting. An intern at National Public Radio (NPR), Glass served as an assistant, writer, reporter, and host of many NPR’s programs, including “Morning Addition” and “All Things Considered.”

In 1989, Glass moved to Chicago, and spent the next five years co-hosting a local radio program. In 1995, he produced his own show “This American Life,” which he hosts today. This weekly broadcast bends the rules of classic journalism, focusing on stories and plots- all with the purpose of moving and entertaining the audience. On their website, they describe their ideal content; “Our favorite sorts of stories have compelling people at the center of them, funny moments, big feelings, surprising plot twists, and interesting ideas. Like little movies for radio.” The show also has several spinoffs and has explored a few experimental themes, including performing radio shows suggested by the hosts’ parents, and putting together a band using ads from various musicians in the classifieds.

According to their site, “This American Life” draws in over 2.2 million listeners per week over their 500 public radio stations, and is also considered one of the top podcasts in the United States, drawing in another 2.5 million listeners.

Glass’ appearance at Saint Martin’s, although less formal, was a more intimate one. Regardless of being taken aback by the lack of journalism students that showed up, the presentation was informative. Although Glass came to the school prepared to talk to those interested in the field of journalism, his speech was relevant even for those outside of that field, by speaking on ways others could convey information and engage an audience. Political science professor Alexis Walker, Ph.D, shared, “Even though he had designed the talk for journalism students, I thought it was a wonderful and funny presentation.  We all have to think of creative ways to convey information. As a professor, I found myself thinking about utilizing his techniques in the classroom to engage students.”

By referring to segments of his radio show, he provided pointers leading up to a series of events which is centered on the beats of a narrative. He claims that a good story raises questions as it progresses, then is answered at the end. In a way, all stories can be compared to that of a detective story. By sequencing anecdote, idea, anecdote, idea, and so on, this forms a narrative beat in journalism. Three principles in journalism that he highlights would be: “to be accurate, to be fair to all in the story, and if you have something nasty to say, say it to the person’s face and give them a chance to respond.” The end goal is to be able to connect with your audience. Glass’ message comes from years of experience and offers practical implementation for students and teachers alike.

On Sunday, March 24, popular radio personality and host of the show “This American Life,” Ira Glass, visited the Saint Martin’s campus to discuss the art of conveying information, and engaging an audience. Born and raised in Baltimore, Glass was a very involved student, working on numerous stage productions for his high school, as well as serving as a prominent figure on his student government and yearbook. This, paired with his co-editorship of the student literary magazine, sparked his interest in journalism. In 1978, at the age of 19, Glass began his career in radio broadcasting. An intern at National Public Radio (NPR), Glass served as an assistant, writer, reporter, and host of many NPR’s programs, including “Morning Addition” and “All Things Considered.”

In 1989, Glass moved to Chicago, and spent the next five years co-hosting a local radio program. In 1995, he produced his own show “This American Life,” which he hosts today. This weekly broadcast bends the rules of classic journalism, focusing on stories and plots- all with the purpose of moving and entertaining the audience. On their website, they describe their ideal content; “Our favorite sorts of stories have compelling people at the center of them, funny moments, big feelings, surprising plot twists, and interesting ideas. Like little movies for radio.” The show also has several spinoffs and has explored a few experimental themes, including performing radio shows suggested by the hosts’ parents, and putting together a band using ads from various musicians in the classifieds.

According to their site, “This American Life” draws in over 2.2 million listeners per week over their 500 public radio stations, and is also considered one of the top podcasts in the United States, drawing in another 2.5 million listeners.

Glass’ appearance at Saint Martin’s, although less formal, was a more intimate one. Regardless of being taken aback by the lack of journalism students that showed up, the presentation was informative. Although Glass came to the school prepared to talk to those interested in the field of journalism, his speech was relevant even for those outside of that field, by speaking on ways others could convey information and engage an audience. Political science professor Alexis Walker, Ph.D, shared, “Even though he had designed the talk for journalism students, I thought it was a wonderful and funny presentation.  We all have to think of creative ways to convey information. As a professor, I found myself thinking about utilizing his techniques in the classroom to engage students.”

By referring to segments of his radio show, he provided pointers leading up to a series of events which is centered on the beats of a narrative. He claims that a good story raises questions as it progresses, then is answered at the end. In a way, all stories can be compared to that of a detective story. By sequencing anecdote, idea, anecdote, idea, and so on, this forms a narrative beat in journalism. Three principles in journalism that he highlights would be: “to be accurate, to be fair to all in the story, and if you have something nasty to say, say it to the person’s face and give them a chance to respond.” The end goal is to be able to connect with your audience. Glass’ message comes from years of experience and offers practical implementation for students and teachers alike.

 

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