29 November 2006
Not all great radio comes from the U.S. On December 6, we'll air Between Friends from the CBC's Outfront series. In this first-person narrative, we hear a woman's dark secret from her childhood. By Neil Sandell and Jody Porter, this piece won a Radio Impact Award from the Third Coast International Audio Festival in 2006. I won't give away the secret, but this is a powerful 13 minutes of radio. Tune in.
What's it like to live in a flophouse for 25 years? Listen in on Wednesday for Charlie's Story. Charlie Geter lived in the Palace Hotel in New York City. He's always had trouble completing things. After being handed a tape recorder to document his life, he procrastinates before finishing his goal: Telling his life story. You can hear this --- the last piece in our David Isay of Sound Portraits series --- on the Listening Lounge.
22 November 2006
Get an inside look at a skid row hotel. Producers Stacy Abramson and David Isay spent 24 hours at the Sunshine Hotel, one of the last flophouses in New York's Bowery neighborhood. "It was like stepping into King Tut's Tomb," Isay says. "The Sunshine is this fascinating, self-contained society full of unbelievable characters. While it's a profoundly sad place, it is, at the same time, home to men with powerful and poetic stories." Listen in on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. And don't forget to bring your own towels.
I often take the time to review documentaries on the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). My review of Witness to an Execution can be read here. Feel free to add your own comments on this blog or become a member of PRX (it's free to listen and review) and share your insights with people who love great radio.
16 November 2006
Last week, we listened as David Isay visited a Louisiana prison where many inmates had been sentenced to life without parole. This week, we tag along as Isay interviews people who carry out executions at a Texas prison. Here's how Sound Portraits, Isay's production company, describes the documentary: "Witness to an Execution tells the stories of the men and women involved with the execution of deathrow inmates at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Narrated by Warden Jim Willett, who oversees all Texas executions, Witness to an Execution documents, in minute-by-minute detail, the process of carrying out an execution by lethal injection. Most of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees interviewed have witnessed over one hundred inmates be put to death. One-third of all executions in the US have taken place in Texas, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977." Chelesea Merz of Atlantic Public Media urges stations to air this insightful documentary: "This piece is too poetic to not leave you feeling something. The cumulative effect of images, and information leaves you breathless. As long as there is capital punishment in this country ... in the world, it is essential to broadcast this." So, we will.
09 November 2006
Every prisoner has his release date memorized. It's his future, his hope for a new beginning. But what about those condemned to life in prison? What do they think about? What are their days like? "I've been here so long that it's difficult to imagine what it feels like to be free," says inmate Joe White. "I don't think people can conceive what it's like to spend your whole life in prison." In this documentary, David Isay of Sound Portraits traveled to Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana to examine life behind bars for those destined to be locked up until death. Reviewer Bill McKibben called it "a great piece of radio, one of the finest half hours around." Listen in to this program as David Isay month continues on the Listening Lounge.
01 November 2006
This is the documentary that started it all. David Isay's "Ghetto Life 101" transformed public radio docs in this country. Here's how Sound Portraits, Isay's nonprofit organization, describes this piece: "In March, 1993, LeAlan Jones, thirteen, and Lloyd Newman, fourteen, collaborated with public radio producer David Isay to create the radio documentary Ghetto Life 101, their audio diaries of life on Chicago's South Side. The candor in Jones and Newman's diaries brought listeners face to face with a portrait of poverty and danger and their effects on childhood in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. Like Vietnam War veterans in the bodies of young boys, Jones and Newman described the bitter truth about the sounds of machine guns at night and the effects of a thriving drug world on a community. Ghetto Life 101 became one of the most acclaimed programs in public radio history, winning almost all of the major awards in American broadcasting, including: the Sigma Delta Chi Award, the Ohio State Award, the Livingston Award, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards for Excellence in Documentary Radio and Special Achievement in Radio Programming, and others. Ghetto Life 101 was also awarded the Prix Italia, Europe's oldest and most prestigious broadcasting award. It has been translated into a dozen languages and has been broadcast worldwide."