How I inspired Ira Glass and kept my job for another week
Welcome. You've just been sucked into clicking on a link because of a pretty misleading headline that included a big name. I feel dirty about that and now maybe you do, too. I apologize, but it's a dog-eat-dog world out here in blogville.
The trip down memory lane I took this week has got me thinking more about my long road of working in radio. My guess is my radio career peaked some years ago and each day I become "that guy" that most young radio people encountered on their way to a long radio career: the guy with the long radio career that peaked years earlier.
Whatever. I can hold on like most other men in their mid- to late 50s in this recession that's claimed a disproportionate number of them, which is to say: holding on tight and hoping to survive to work another day. Besides, I'm used to it. It's the way I started every day in broadcasting since 1975. Scared.
Some years ago -- 1996 -- I was in San Diego covering the Republican National Convention. Earlier in the day, I was in Balboa Park where a "Faith and Freedom Rally" was held. It's no big deal now, but back then it was one of the first public displays that the religious right had gained control of the Republican Party. The moderates were left out.
I was voicing a piece I wrote, noting that the event was a metaphor for the party as a whole. After I finished sending it back to my organization, a man standing nearby, who overheard it said, "that's the best piece I've heard all week."
I was flattered, of course, but I had no idea who it was and it wasn't until years later that I was told it was Ira Glass, host of the Public Radio's "This American Life," who is widely considered a god among public radio employees.
I'm remembering this because a week or so ago, a flurry of "tweets" appeared in my account. It was from colleagues of my company who were in Denver for the Public Radio Program Directors convention. They were surprised when the speaker at the "benediction" gave me something of a shout out. The speaker was Ira Glass.
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That sure surprised my colleagues. It surprised me, too. Frankly, there's something wrong with journalism when a 56-year-old man who's been doing it for 35 years is its "new face." It's more than amusing, I think, that a group of colleagues went to Denver only to find out this "new face" was the old face in a cubicle in the city they just left.
The reality, however, is that I'm not "the new journalism," I'm the old journalism I described in my previous post: just having a conversation with the audience rather than a sermon. The "antique aesthetics" of journalism, as Ira Glass says, threatens to kill off broadcast journalism now. It's already killed off most of it in commercial media.
But, beyond that, there's a more disturbing reality: The "face of the new journalism" may well be the guy in a cubicle, working too long, and too hard, because he starts each day with the fear that this is the day he gets laid off.