ira glass

5 lessons learned from 5 years reporting in Atlanta

Last week I celebrated a very special anniversary:

My Atlanta-versary.

I have officially lived and worked in Atlanta, Ga. for five years. I have not lived anywhere this long since high school, and I have enjoyed the chance to truly settle down and plant roots in a major U.S. metropolis.

(That chance, by the way, is by no means a guarantee when one dives into the field of broadcast journalism. I have appreciated that fact from the moment I arrived in ATL.)

In both journalism and life, my time in Atlanta has been pivotal.

My first few TV jobs came with a seemingly endless variety of responsibilities and opportunities. I worked in both news and sports, filled numerous roles in each department, learned my strengths and weaknesses, and developed my identity as a journalist and storyteller.

When I was offered a job at WXIA-TV in Atlanta, I noticed a few obvious differences. I would only work in news, not sports, and I would be surrounded by a staff of veteran journalists, most of whom largely served specific roles had logged far more miles than their newest colleague.

My life outside the newsroom also changed dramatically. Always one to explore the regions where I lived, I found myself bombarded by the excitement of a bustling big-market city. Even five years later, Atlanta never fails to keep me busy and engaged, with opportunities to blossom socially and civically.

Combine those changes with the natural maturity of an adult in his late 20’s and 30’s, and it adds up to an invaluable half-decade in the Peach State.

So what exactly have I learned? I could never fit it all into one article, but here are five major lessons from the last five years that have strengthened my work as a journalist: (more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #6: Roman Mars, 99% Invisible Podcast

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The great thing about the 99% Invisible podcast is that feels like a well-kept secret — even as it has risen the ranks to become one of the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes.

Seemingly improbably, Roman Mars has created and built a beautiful podcast that discusses the virtues of design and architecture — visual subjects that are tackled in audio form. It is a tricky challenge, but Mars and his team regularly prove worthy of it, captivating their audience with vignettes about subjects like city streets, slot machines, and — most perplexingly, from my vantage point — rebar.

In the process, Mars has developed a reputation as “the Ira Glass of design”, and that reputation is warranted — to a point. As a listener of both, I feel like Mars has developed his own persona, with more asides and unbridled enthusiasm. Both are terrific, and Mars is quickly becoming just as popular as Glass, recently launching the highest-funded journalism project in Kickstarter history.

I was honored to interview Mars for the sixth episode of the “Telling The Story” podcast. We tackle numerous subjects, including:

  • The future of podcasts: “I don’t think we have saturated the podcast market in the slightest. My most popular web page is the web page where I recommend other podcasts.”
  • The difference (if any) between journalism and storytelling: “I like to think of it as, ‘I have a column about design.’ So I have a fact-based opinion column. To me, it’s honest in that way.”
  • How to convey the beauty of design and architecture: “You kind of have to seduce the audience to care about this thing that they have been trained to not notice. Most of the good design in the world is good because you don’t think about it.”

I highly recommend this episode, especially for younger journalists looking for storytelling tips; Mars provides several important ones. I was honored to have him as a guest.

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Storytelling podcasts I love … and an announcement!

Let me start with the announcement first.

Later this month I will debut the Telling the Story podcast. This will add to the content already on the Telling the Story blog, and it will allow me to discuss storytelling in a different fashion.

For each podcast, I plan to interview a respected journalist and storyteller to expound upon many of the subjects I discuss on the blog: storytelling process, the changing role of the journalist, great stories and pieces, et cetera. I have not yet decided how frequently I will record the podcasts, but I will likely determine that over the next few weeks.

As this site enters its third month, I am excited about its current growth and look forward to adding the podcast to its arsenal. I hope you all enjoy it as well.

To celebrate that announcement, I thought I would offer three recommendations for podcasts that provide great storytelling. Give these shows a whirl, and then come back here later this month.

99% Invisible

The 99% Invisible podcast bills itself as “a tiny radio show about design”, which reminds me of when Seinfeld used to call itself “a show about nothing”.

Both assertions are true in a very, very loose sense.

Yes, 99% Invisible has tiny roots — it is a PRX public radio show that has relied on Kickstarter campaigns for financing. And yes, it technically deals with design … but in fascinating ways you would never imagine.

(Oh, and just so we’re clear, the 99% reference has nothing to do with Occupy Wall Street.)

Take last week’s episode: “The Modern Moloch“. We all drive cars and accept them as unavoidable components of modern-day life. But have you ever thought about how they were first received in the 1920s? Have you ever thought about how cars were once derided as death traps because they killed too many pedestrians playing out in the roads? Have you ever thought about the similarities between the automakers’ response to such criticisms and the NRA’s campaign against gun control?

In short, did you ever think a story from nearly 100 years ago could be so relevant today?

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