Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

NPR’s ‘Miranda rights’

In journalism on 13 Jul 2017 at 2:23 pm

Have you ever had a “driveway moment?” That is the goal of any radio producer. It’s that moment when you are so engrossed in something on the radio that you turn off the car in your driveway, but just sit there like an idiot listening on to the song or the interview on the radio.

I spend a lot of time in my driveway with Audie Cornish. She’s one of the dulcet-toned hosts of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” And last week, she offered some of her insights on interviewing and sound-producing for a podcast sponsored by CJR and Maximumfun.org. (There appear to be some really great interviews as part of this series, including talks with Mark Maron and Susan Orlean.)

I wanted to point out Cornish’s version of the Miranda Rights. She tells interview subjects that their conversation will be edited down and if they aren’t comfortable with an answer they are free to start over.

I think that’s fair. You could argue that newsmakers shouldn’t be allowed to do that in the same way that your print sources shouldn’t take back accurate quotes. But the producer is editing things… It only seems right that sources should have some control over what they say.

Cornish talks of trading on intimacy. That is an interesting concept for an interviewer and definitely not reporting 101. It’s an advanced concept, but all the best stories reveal something about the writer. Don’t you think?

I hope you’ll take a look at this series.



Activist or journalist?

In Ethics on 3 Feb 2017 at 12:13 pm


This week, Margaret Sullivan writes in the Washington Post about how a guy named Lewis Wallace got fired from a journalism job for eschewing objectivity in a public forum. It’s a good reminder that, while we all have opinions and should act in accordance with our moral compass, we have obligations as employed journalists to rise above the fray.

Wallace, then a reporter for radio’s “Marketplace,” posted a blog on Medium in which he wrote, in part, “We need to admit that those who oppose free speech, diversity and kindergarten level fairness are our enemies.” He subsequently wrote another post, a very intelligent and reasoned defense for his position.

In this instance, the company says Wallace violated stated policy by saying he wouldn’t treat everyone fairly. If that is the case, I’m not surprised he lost his job.

Regardless, with great respect for Wallace’s obvious moral stance, I think publishing the fact that you plan to treat some potential sources as enemies is bad form. Company policies aside, some things are just common sense. Don’t go to pains to say you are taking sides in the ongoing, intensifying culture wars on which you report. … Read the rest of this entry »

‘Go somewhere interesting’

In Writing techniques on 13 Mar 2014 at 5:15 pm

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I confess that before today I did not know the work of Matthew Power. The 39-year-old journalist died this week while working on a story about a British explorer who was walking the length of the Nile. I heard on NPR that Power died of heat stroke.

Power made a living writing about things others didn’t cover. He joined a bunch of anarchists and floated down the Mississippi River in a homemade raft. He covered the story when a conservationist was murdered in Costa Rica. He sold these stories and others to big-name magazines because he wasn’t afraid to boldly go with no other reporter had gone before.

He explained his process in a podcast that originally appeared on LongForm and was excerpted on NPR.

“The advice that I’ve always given to young writers who are starting out and trying to figure out how to get to do this kind of stuff — and I think it still applies, even in the sort of atomized, fragmented, media landscape that we live in — is to go to somewhere interesting,” he said.

What? You say you can’t pack up and go to Uganda or Costa Rica? Well, me neither. But there are plenty of interesting places near me and I bet you can say the same.

Let’s start with the places that aren’t interesting and then talk about what’s left by process of elimination. City council chambers aren’t interesting. Police stations, elections offices, strip malls – not terribly interesting. In fact, most of the places that appear in your paper from day to day, from week to week, aren’t all that interesting precisely because they are in the paper all the time. … Read the rest of this entry »

The digital difference

In Online media on 5 Dec 2013 at 5:46 pm


Does your website merely mirror your print product? Do you post headlines and links and little else on Facebook? Do you ignore platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest?

If, in all honesty, you can only answer, “yes, yes and yes” to those questions, you are actively aiming to lose the digital revolution.

This week, a smart guy named Alan Mutter (you can read his blog here) noted how one news outlet is taking a much more sophisticated approach to audience development and retention. I wish I could say the focus of his praise was a newspaper, but it’s NPR.

On his blog (in a post that was later reprinted in Editor and Publisher), Mutter notes that the first step for NPR was noting the different demographics that responded to differing platforms. He says that NPR’s average radio listener is 49 years old, while the average reader of the website was 40. It skews even lower for the podcast. The average podcast downloader is 36. That may seem relatively insignificant, but it’s not if you want to truly tailor your product to your audience.

NPR – which has always provided only a survey of the vast world around us – works hard to appeal to each separate demographic with appropriate platforms.

Whether you know it or not, your demographic split is probably somewhat similar. Some of our newspapers have recently done nonscientific surveying that shows newspaper readership is in its 50s and above. Nationwide research suggests newspaper readers are 58, on average; news website readers are 49, or there abouts. I think it’s reasonable to assume your readership follows that pattern. … Read the rest of this entry »