Dear Jian Gomeshi & Ira Glass,
You host two of my favourite podcasts – Q (Jian) and This American Life (Ira). Your shows differ in format, focus and country of origin, but coincide in their optimism about the possibilities of public radio journalism and their interest in human stories. I listen to your shows while I exercise, while I travel within and beyond Montreal, while I cook, while I do work around the house, while I make my many ‘to do’ lists and sometimes while I fall asleep. Unbeknownst to you, we spend a lot of quality time together and, in the spirit of optimizing that time, I offer the following suggestions for the upcoming year.
1. Jian: Despite seemingly good intentions, the “Cultural Hall of Shame” is haphazard, inconsistent and shallow rather than culturally observant, insightful or funny. Your tone and commentary suggest that you are embarrassed by it. I recommend that you and your producers ask yourselves the following questions and then proceed accordingly: What are we trying to achieve with the Cultural Hall of Shame? Is a new curator in order? Are the goals of the Hall of Shame better served by Torquil Campbell’s “Rant or Rave” column? What does it contribute to Q?
2. Jian: Please let your guests finish their answers! Q is your show and you are entitled to creative control. But the success of your long-form interviews depends on spontaneous collaboration between interviewer and interviewee. Interrupting your guests – whether a product of enthusiasm or ego – is rude, disruptive and counter-productive.
3. Jian: Q’s media and sports culture panels are strong segments. The panelists are articulate and opinionated. They are knowledgeable and often polarized. But, are the panelists really diverse in opinion, perspective, outlook, commitment and allegiance? Are these panels as penetrating of media and sports culture as they could be?
4. Ira: This American Life’s narrative journalism explores the relationship between the general (community, collective, indefinite, global) and the particular (individual, personal, specific, local). While often implicit, this exploration could easily – and explicitly – sustain multiple shows and it could do so well beyond the buzzwords of globalization. Consider, for example, shows about: local experiences of foreign policy, non-state based and/or unwritten laws and legal systems, networks of individuals across national borders (i.e. transboundary local networks), the pedagogical possibilities of intergenerational relationships (see, for example, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/kindergarten-in-a-retirement-home-proves-a-hit-with-young-and-old/article2287922/).
5. Ira: As “Grad Life” is a shared blog about the experience of graduate education, I would be remiss not to pitch “grad life” as a theme worthy of consideration on This American Life. Like your show on “Middle School”, the experience of graduate school – its trials and tribulations, its goals and outcomes, its promise and possibilities, its limits and its pitfalls – is rich with questions, stories, and contested ground. Some of the following articles and stories reveal only the tip of the iceberg:
I hope these suggestions are helpful. I look forward to our time together in 2012.