Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Reinventing Radio: An Evening with Ira Glass
So, I went and saw Ira Glass on Monday night and as Jess couldn't come, I decided to write her a fairly detailed review.
The first thing is pretty much this it ‘RT @LawLOLZ: The audience to see @iraglass was of the narrowest demographic I have ever seen.’ I saw one older guy and he left before the end.
Ira did the first few minutes in the dark and talked about the power of radio and how it can be a really visual media which was really cute. He ran the whole thing from an ipad, bringing the music up and playing sound clips as he wanted which was good; made it seem less scripted. I had been a bit worried that it would feel like he was just saying the same things he had said in Brisbane and Sydney but it was much more fluid and unstructured than that.
He talked about how they put the stories together and hook people in. Their listener retain rate is about 95% and the average listening time is 48 out of the 59 minutes; so people don’t turn off after they tune in. It was kind of a master class in storytelling, about how they pace their stories as action, action, action, larger reflective point to tie it all together. He talked about how they interview; he especially prompts people with ‘and what did he say’ and ‘then what did you say’ which gives the stories a much more real time pace.
He played a couple of stories and talked about how they were specifically put together. He kept saying things like ‘and we had to be real journalism about it’ as a point that a lot of what they do isn’t ‘news’ as it is usually reported but that they are still journalists who fact check and want to get the best representation of the story out there.
There was a question section at the end and apart from one idiot who did the whole ‘thank you so much for coming here, we are all so grateful’ thing, all the questions were from people who were massive fans and had obviously thought about them a lot. Some people were even taking notes. The best answer, from probably the stupidest question, was from someone who asked about the theory that if there is something in your personal life that your aren’t good at, it can be reflected in your professional life as something you excel at. Ira, and the audience, didn’t know what he was talking about, but he answered by saying that in his personal life, he isn’t a good storyteller, or even good at talking in relationships and so he does apply himself and focus on that in his professional life and that’s why he can do what he does on the radio. Someone also asked about how they get stories for the show. He said the producers all individually research, by trawling the internet and they get heaps from people emailing them about things. They go to air at 7pm on Fridays so up until Friday afternoon, they have about 60-75 minutes of tape that they then either drop a story from or shorten them all. It was really good to hear him talk about that because listening through the podcast, I always forget they work to a live deadline every week that has to be hit with 59 minutes of content. They work on stories for months and months, but if something can’t be confirmed or things change, it can still be dropped at the last minute.
The last question was about the original pitch for the show. Ira said originally they pitched it as taking theme and getting writers and artists and then journalists to report on it. I like this idea and you can see how the show has evolved from that into what it is now.
He was a really good speaker, really relaxed and humble and engaged with a large audience, over 2 balconies that you can’t see from the stage really well, probably because most of the time he is talking to an audience he can’t see.
So, now it was like you were there too.