An Ode to Independents Everywhere

June 20, 2013 in GPRX Blog by Barton Girdwood

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Photo: Lynn Beavin, Independent Producer in Bloomington, IN

You can hear us from our closets, stuffed between dirty laundry and pillows. From our dorm rooms, when our roommate heads to Anthropology 101. From our parent’s laptops, mixing whatever sound we’ve managed to collect on the freest software we can find. We’re the few. We’re the brave. We’re the independents.

No one understands our idols (“Robert Krulwich? Isn’t he in Harry Potter?”). No one understands our dreams (“Don’t you know Journalism is dying?”). But when we find each other, it’s like meeting your estranged twin for the first time, and they just so happen to be as equally brilliant, devilish, and pure-hearted as you.

I met one of the following producers, John Kreitzburg, through PRX last week. I heard his piece, Ashes, and I sent him a message. *BAM* we’re exchanging essay-length emails about story and production ideas. John’s a 20-year-old college student who won Best Dressed in 2nd grade, and he’s one of the hundreds of us youth who make audio off of a whim.

We take what we see around us—rioting on television, open fields for miles and miles, an interview with the local gas station attendant—and we turn it into something that matters, if not to anyone else, at least to us. And we put it out there. This week for Generation PRX we’re going to honor those independents: those of us who don’t have a local radio group, class, or even a friend who gets why we do this.

Each of the following pieces were produced by individuals and posted to PRX on their personal accounts. Some have been doing this for years; others, this is their first piece:





Find the whole great collection on this playlist.

Youth EB Picks: Judging Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

June 10, 2013 in GPRX Blog by Kristopher Buttafoco

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Lately I have been on the bus, walking around the city and just out and about in general, and all around me I see graffiti. Some of it looks like my pre-school art while other pieces can be a rich narrative spanning across the walls of the neighborhoods it is speaking of. How do you feel about graffiti? How do you feel about artistic expression and criminals? How are the people in a community affected by the graffiti there? All of these questions arise in this piece, Judging Graffiti: Art or Vandalism from KALW. Producer Lupe Hernandez does a great job walking the fine line of this controversial topic while not stepping on anyone's toes.

Whatever side you are on with this subject, if you even have a side, I strongly encourage anyone to check it out. This piece also highlights certain aspects of life in San Francisco usually unseen and gives a raw view of the city and its art/crime from the community perspective.

Youth EB Picks: Space for a Big Sister – Philly Youth Radio

June 5, 2013 in GPRX Blog by Kamna Shastri

Photo: Kamna Shastri

Photo: Kamna Shastri

Recently, I've been ruminating over what it means to be a big sister. Between my younger brother and my younger cousin, there often seems to be a pressure to behave responsibly, to set an example, to engage the younger ones while still somehow maintaining a level-headed calm. Sometimes, that just seems impossible. Thien To’s reflection in ‘Space for a Big Sister’, echoes the challenge that comes with being an older sibling. Her answer to the question of how to stay sane lies in a room that she calls her ‘sanctuary’. However, even this room isn't exempt from trespassers.

With the sanctity of this place being threatened by other family members, To takes a new look at what it means to be an older sister.

The strongest part of this piece is To’s emotive delivery and the way she presents her story with light hearted humor. There are some segments that are hard to understand in terms of delivery. While To provides a good outline of her story and the conflict in it, I still find myself wanting more details. What did she do in this room that she considered her sanctuary?

This would be a great piece suited for programming themed around family, sibling relationships, and perhaps even challenges faced by teenagers.

For me the takeaway of this piece wasn't so much what was said as what wasn't said. “Space for a Big Sister” not only allows insight into how another person deals with their sibling relationships, but also pushed me (as the listener) to reexamine my own role as an older sibling.

Learn more about Philly Youth Radio

 

Youth EB Picks: Mixed Blood Majority from Radio K

May 6, 2013 in GPRX Blog by Kristopher Buttafoco

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I'm going to start this with no hesitation like the guys in Mixed Blood Majority, from the start of the song "Fine Print" the beat comes on thick with a hypnotic feel to it. Then, the vocals come on aggressively with some groove, really riding these beats well. Next, comes "Hallucination Music" which has the chorus that is still stuck in my head, bringing melody of the woozy chords and the hard chanting with a lot of depth to it. In the interview, these guys seem pretty laid back with their stories of rap records and brunch.

The interviewer asked good questions considering the length of the interview, but I would've liked to hear more about where to hear more of them and who each of the guys are and their role in the group, but this interview definitely covered good ground. Finally, to end the piece with a bang I hear "Still Standing Still," in this song the abundant percussion jumps around my headphones with the heavy piano driving the beat, and the vocals starting with laughter but then quickly jumping in with some strong vocals and my favorite "Still, still, standing, standing still, killing time awaiting on a plane to make a crash landing."

Mixed Blood Majority brings a lot of energy and some depth to it also. Laserbeam's producing is strong and with lots of percussion panning across the sound scape. The two rappers ride the beat with energy, keeping it fresh as the beat pulls you in. Most of all these guys like brunch like me. Keep up the good work Radio K and Mixed Blood Majority.

Youth EB Picks: Have You Ever Been Waiting from Youth Media Project

May 2, 2013 in GPRX Blog by A.D. Quig

Waiting


This piece from Youth Media Project
is a touching collection of stories. Each one is short and simple, beautifully written, and accompanied by expertly curated music that matches each story's tone. I can picture each of these in my mind perfectly — the kind face of a grandmother, the coastline, little girls flitting about in their tutus, and a lone picture on a wall. The descriptions are not too lengthy, the stories are not too earnest, and the narration holds my attention with perfect footholds for thought in between. The answer to this question is yes — we've all been waiting for something — but maybe not for moments as profound as these.

Of the many multi-voiced, almost vox pop styled pieces I've listened to on this site, this has to be one of my favorites. It's most notable for its global voices (from Tanzania, Canada, United States, and Uganda) that unite under one theme – waiting. Like a condensed "This American Life," it connects disparate tales in a way that immediately conjures memories and emotions. It lingers long after the first listen.

Other producers can learn from many of the timing decisions made in this piece. Each of the four segments last just around a minute, the pauses between them aren't distractingly long, and the music fades are artful. When pieces like these rely almost entirely on copy, it's key that the recording of the narration is the best it can be so the listener can focus on the words, not the audio quality. This piece doesn't necessarily fit perfect into any one type of programming, but it stands very well on it's own.

Youth EB Picks: 10 Years Since Iraq from War News Radio

April 2, 2013 in GPRX Blog by A.D. Quig

Satellite image of Iraq in August 2003

For those of us still creating youth media, the 10 years the U.S. spent in Iraq has lasted for a huge chunk of our lives. We've all been affected, one way or another, by the political decisions of the Bush years, and the lasting impression on the Obama administration. It's hard for people our age to cover these issues — not just because we can't hop on a flight to Baghdad, grab a fixer, and stick a microphone in someone's face, but because it's just hard to cover war in the first place. Part of our job is to identify conflict and present both sides, but things get much more complicated on a geopolitical scale, and without much prior experience. But it's still important that youth producers give it a try — and that's what WNR does in this piece.

It's difficult to commemorate an anniversary like this and try to cover a decade in half an hour. 10 years is a long time, and a lot has happened in the US, Iraq, and the Middle East since 2003. Regardless, WNR managed to revisit a variety of issues in their broadcast, with lots of voices that many of us wouldn't otherwise hear – doctors, humanitarian workers, and Iraqis.  The most compelling portions of the piece were the reports of human rights abuses, and the stories of the doctors — it's always interesting to hear from people with boots on the ground, and how the rest of the world reacted to their experiences.

Though the classic "I told you so," does less good today in the case of the humanitarian crisis, the fact that a generation of reporters are aware of these canary in the coal mine situations is extremely valuable for future international reporting. What kinds of things are we hearing out of Syria? Egypt? Afghanistan and Iraq? I'm sure this reporting experience not only gave War News Radio some good lessons in finding sources and working through the tough spots, but also gave them a passion for issues-based reporting on an international scale. I have no doubt that given more resources, this team could very easily produce some of the most unique and much-needed reporting that others in our generation can connect to. They've already opened my eyes to a handful of stories I wasn't hearing from a decade of reporting, and I'd like to hear more. It's been 10 years, but this isn't the last thing we're going to hear out of Iraq.

Youth EB Picks: What Are Little Boys Made Of? from RadioActive Youth Media

March 4, 2013 in GPRX Blog by A.D. Quig

photo-4 (1)This piece about growing up transgendered is just the kind of thing the youth media landscape needs — peers talking to their peers about their part in big news. Not just because Cayden's story itself is big news — in fact, to his family this transition was just a matter of time — but because it's ordinary news that makes big issues easier to understand. It's a microcosm of a larger community that people would be well served to get to know better. Stories like this from CNN, or this from the LA times, or this from MTV, are probably just the beginning of decades of coverage on transgender issues. If we have an upcoming generation of reporters who can handle stories like Cayden's with creativity and earnestness, then I'm excited for more coverage of transgender life down the road. These kinds of stories deserve continuous noise in the new media landscape.

A great story that cracks the door open on the reality of transition inside a family – from kid to young adult, and from girl to boy. I could easily picture Cayden's room, his smile, his childhood; but also his transition – injecting himself with testosterone, standing in front of a mirror dreaming of a mustache, and playing Ken.

This story has a good use of scene setting and clip choice, with easy flowing writing and fantastic audio quality. My only gripes are that the story got a bit wordy around the 4 minute mark and lost the charm of Cayden's everyday life. If Nina could have talked to Cayden's doctor, Dad, teacher, therapist, or "showed" us instead of "telling," this story would have been darn near perfect. This is a very solid, longer form, human-driven piece that would fit nicely into a sexuality, youth focused, or gender issues programming. A great exploration of an under-covered topic. It's well worth a listen (and maybe a re-listen).

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by dylan

Youth EB Picks: Coming of Age 'Illegal' from MPR News

January 10, 2013 in GPRX Blog by dylan

Nineteen-year-old Brenda from Minneapolis, Minnesota considers herself an American citizen, but to the US government she is an illegal immigrant.  Coming to the US when she was seven, she was carried over the Mexican-American border by her mother.  Now, twelve years later, she lives with her mother, stepfather, sister, little brother, older brother and his son.  She had to quit school a month before graduating so she could work to help support her family, but has since gone back to finish her education and wants to go on to get a job working with children.

This was a well-crafted and interesting piece, with great interviews and an inspiring story.  The only problem I had was after the mother’s interview; it was a little confusing, but it made more since later on in the story.  All in all, though, I found this to be an excellent presentation.

 

Youth EB Picks: UNBELIEVABLE! from American Student Radio

January 7, 2013 in GPRX Blog by A.D. Quig

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In the winter of 2008, I made the four hour trek from my hometown down to Bloomington. The drive was bleak, the landscape was gray, and the radio signal got pretty weak somewhere between Kokomo and Indianapolis. But I was going to see Eric Gordon and D.J. White at my first Indiana University basketball game. 5 NCAA Championships. 53 All-Big 10 selections. The only undefeated champion season in college men's basketball. Royalty.

Gordon ended up scoring 28 points, I experienced the best timeout in college basketball, and didn't have an ounce of vertigo in the balcony of Assembly Hall. In short, the experience made me a lifelong fan.

But with true loyalty comes necessary tragedy. Kelvin Sampson was let go in a recruiting scandal. Potential players fled. My first three years at IU were a hard slog through coaching transitions, dashed recruit hopes, and infuriating losses. But by my senior year, we were on our way up, and the game against #1 ranked Kentucky solidified that Hoosier Basketball was back on top. This story from my alma mater captures some of that electric feeling that fans got back.

This is an emotional, fan-driven episode with fantastic, layered production, solid writing, and great host banter. There’s always a great story in athletics, and #1 Wildcats v. the comeback-kids Hoosiers is certainly one of them. With some more hard information, this episode could fit easily into any long-form sports or human interest programming.

Other than shortcomings in background, the nearly flawless production, great voice work, and clip selection really brought me back. I was immersed in Hoosier hysteria. It took me from an IU School of Journalism classroom to Afghanistan, to the floor of Assembly Hall, to a back corner at Nick's. Robb and Ryan effectively show how a fan's connection to a team is almost transcendent (cue Radiolab effects). Great use of natural sound, nicely scattered fast paced transitions, and thoughtful writing. I would have also liked some hard evidence of the impact that that game had on IU, rather than just anecdotal. The Wat-Shot got an ESPY and a drink named after it. We made it to the Sweet 16! We were 1st ranked this season! Home games are packed now! People wear IU gear to ND v Purdue games! It was certainly a big deal. This production team brings it home emotionally, but I’d like some of the harder stuff to back it up. Overall, a fun listen that most NCAA b-ball fanatics and Hoosier fans would drool over.

 

Youth EB Picks: In Preparation For Sleep

January 2, 2013 in GPRX Blog by Connor Parker

Imagine having to begin again if you make a mistake. When doing anything, even something as simple as getting ready for bed. "In Preparation For Sleep," by Sarah Lawrence College Radio, spotlights the difficulties of struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder in a brilliantly artistic piece that is definitely worth a listen.