Saturday, August 28, 2010

Now You Can Be as Smug as a Linguistics Student!

This may be a little more Nerd than Public Radio, but if you're anything like me, dear reader, you'll be interested just the same!

If you are a frequent visitor to Miriam Webster's Ask the Editor video series, you will recognize the dulcet tones of Associate Editor Kory Stamper. She has done quite a few of these short little videos, and this time she explains: What really is the plural of octopus?

I actually had a linguistics professor who told us a similar story on the first day of classes, only without all the background history and context behind the changes. I think he may have missed out the best part!

So while this might not have anything to do with public radio, it is something all public radio folks should learn from. Not only is this a top notch little english/history lesson, it's also exactly the type of story people love to retell. So enjoy, and try not to be too smug when you correct the next person who tells you about the "Octopi" they saw at the aquarium.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Radiolab Strikes Again!

To welcome the newest batch of hour long Radiolab episodes (care of NPR and WNYC) to grace our airwaves and podcatchers, the gang over there have released a short video-poem of sorts, called words.

In this Filmmakers Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante (also known as Everynone) string together a series of scenes exploring what meanings and emotions we apply to some of our most common words.

Well, that's what I got out of it, anyway!

The video accompanies the first new hour-long podcast, also called Words.

And don't forget to add the Radiolab RSS feed to your favorite reader, to makes sure you don't miss a single episode. Happy Listening, and tell me what you think about the film, in the comments!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Great Tweets from Behind the Curtain

Recently the folks over at PRI's Here & Now have stepped up their Twitter game, in a way that I wish all pubcasters would follow. They've started tweeting their morning meetings! Having sat in on quite a few of those myself when I was an intern there, I can tell you, the morning meeting is where the action is.

I don't know if any of you loyal readers have been following my Twitter feed (find me at RPRNerd, but you knew that already, didn't you?) and if you have, you've seen some of these notes featured in my re-tweets. What is so appealing about these early morning e-missives, is you see both the germs of a story idea come to fruition and also when stories fall through (Like these tweets about the Barefoot Bandit case) or are superseded when more pressing news breaks. I don't think too many people realize how much of a show is set in stone weeks before it airs, and how quickly things need to be able to change.

But that flexibility is exactly what makes radio so brilliant in the first place! If something big happens, you don't need to send a whole van out to the scene with reporters, cameras, crew and lighting equipment, you just need someone who can answer some of your questions.

I think this is very brave of Here & Now to expose their inner workings to their listeners. I know Here & Now isn't the first pubcaster to do this, but they certainly are the first from my list of local shows to do so! So add them to your following list, and let them know how you feel!

But what do you think? Do you like this peak behind the curtain, or do you wish they had left that door closed? Does exposing the things that don't work out seem unprofessional? Let me know, in the comments...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Trip to D.C. Part II

Another "must see" stop for all news junkies, Washington's Newseum ate up 2 of my afternoons, when I barely made it off the top floors during my first visit. To the casual observer, there might not seem to be much there for those who like their news to be Public Radio flavored, if you do a little bit of research and look closely, there are some pretty cool nods to our favorite purveyor of news, arts, and culture.

Firstly, if you are visiting the Newseum from Boston, than you might feel right at home inside those highly topical walls, as they were designed by James Polshek and Partners. Who are they, might you ask? Why, they built WGBH's studios in Brighton! That alone might put a smug look on the face of any Boston centered visitor to DC, but there are a few more things to keep an eye out for if you're headed that way. (Special thanks to WGBH's Tom Devlin, for pointing this out to me before my trip!)

On the third floor of the Newseum, there is a section dedicated to electronic transmission of the news, covering milestones from the rise of the Internet, Television and Radio. While Radio certainly looses it's prominence to the other two media there, there are some great public radio tidbits to find on those walls.

If you look carefully at the timeline on the wall, around the 70's, you start to see Public Radio make it's mark. You can even listen to a snippet of the very first All Things Considered broadcast on the interactive kiosks! NPR is only mentioned a few more times in the exhibit, but one of those stood out as particularly surprising. Maybe it's just my age showing, but I had no idea Talk of the Nation's Neal Conan was arrested by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the 1991 Gulf war! Whoa!

The Newseum had only one display of actual Public Radio memorabilia, and that was a microphone and recorder belonging to Susan Stamberg. While the modern Public Radio listener might recognize her voice from her frequent pieces across the big NPR programs, you might not know that she became the first woman to anchor a national nightly news program when she took the helm of All Things Considered in 1972.

So while there is no Public Radio wing yet in the Newseum, it is certainly a great place to visit and learn more about the news in America. While I was there they had a great exhibit on the Berlin wall, and the role that RIAS (or Radio In the American Sector) played in getting reliable news to the people of East Berlin. It's amazing to think about how important news is in our lives, and it's pretty scary to think of living in a world without it. So if you're planing a trip to DC in the near future, make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to visit the Newseum. There is an awful of interesting stories on display there. And there is a great view of the Capital building from the top floor! So what are you waiting for?

Image of the Newseum building courtesy of James P. Blair and the Newseum. You can find other pictures of the Newseum and it's exhibits here. All other photos were taken by me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mr. Nerd Goes to Washington

Sorry! I couldn't resist the easy title! Please forgive me, and read on.

Anyway, I went to Washington D.C. last week, and surprising no one, visited NPR headquarters! The tour was pretty simple, but very cool nonetheless. Here are the things I learned, to whet the appetite of any of my fellow nerds who might be considering making a similar pilgrimage:

NPR is planning to move house, to a new (as of yet un-built) building in 2013. Right now they're in the planning phase, and trying to figure out how to create a building that will satisfy their needs for the next 20 years. This includes deciding whether or not to continue the use of satellite broadcasting facilities, considering making the whole building "wireless" (and not just for internet access, but also microphones, and computer placement) and planning for adaptive, modular spaces. The real trick is trying to figure out what could they possibly need, and how might technology develop that will allow them to tell better stories?

NPR has a fully automated (meaning engineer-less) studio! Which sounds pretty cool, but could just be the first step in the eventual reign of robot-kind. While I'm always interested to see new technologies at work, I feel a little uncomfortable with this one. Reporters and Producers already have to wear a slew of different hats when it comes to the modern radio story, from photographer and videographer, to web designer and editor, so adding in an engineering cap may be a bit much to handle. But many freelance and amateur already do some engineering too, so perhaps this sort of thing is inevitable.

NPR music, purveyors of the mighty fine "All Songs Considered" podcast, also produce a really cool web video series, called "Tiny Desk Concerts." Artists come in, and in front of a single stereo microphone and 3 HD video cameras, set up shop on Host Bob Boilen's desk, and perform a few songs for the NPR staff. Guests have included pretty big-deal names like Tom Jones and Moby, and cover a pretty wide range of genres. So if you're a fan of the podcast, check out the videos!

And speaking of Bob Boilen, we got to briefly meet Bob during the tour, and we got fleeting glimpses of Tell Me More host Michel Martin, and weekend host of All Things Considered, Guy Raz. Unfortunately, dear readers, NPR only allows visitors to take pictures in one place during the tour, in a large open recording space. So here is a picture of me with a clock!

NPR has a station in Berlin, Germany! On the air from 2006, NPRBerlin (fm104.1 if you're in range) the station features many of the NPR staples you know from your local NPR affiliate, alongside local Berlin-centric stories. I assume the station broadcasts in English, as that's what their Web site is written in, but since there isn't an online audio stream available, I don't know for sure. I do know however, that Car Talk does not offer a German language version of the show. I also know I now have another reason to visit Berlin now!

So have any of you Public Radio Nerds had a chance to visit D.C.? Did you make it to NPR's headquarters? Are there any other landmarks of Public Radio that you would suggest to a public radio nerd with a valid passport? Let me know, in the comments.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Friday Podcast Roundup!

In this week's Friday roundup we welcome a new podcast, WBUR's great local show Radio Boston. Now, I know that Radio Boston isn't new to anyone who regularly listens to our local public radio airwaves, but it's certainly new to our roundup! And since they're going daily pretty soon anyways, you might want to get caught up!

So, head on over to Radio Boston's Web site, and plug into their RSS feed to keep up on all their missives. On this week's show, Host Meghna Chakrabarti takes a look at the state of home ownership in MA. This wraps up the recent reporting done by WBUR's Curt Nickisch, who has been producing a series called "The Depreciating American Dream." In the second half of the show, Meghna talks about what has happened in the 8 years since the Clergy sex abuse scandal erupted here in Massachusetts.

And from PRI, the BBC World Service, and WGBH's The World, this week's World in Words podcast has Patrick Cox telling us about what goes into naming a street around the world, a company that plans to at least have started a translation of the Bible into all of the world's languages by 2025 (not to worry, they're the world's largest Bible translators!) and "locavore language."

In The World's Technology Podcast, Clark Boyd lets us know what is going on with the (now up and running) large Hadron Collider, as well as Google's Chinese servers moving to Hong Kong, internet censorship in Afghanistan, and a piece on the world's largest Halal search engine.

The latest Talking Travel podcast is all about that greatest of travel cuisine, food on a stick. Clark Boyd joins Lonely Planet's Robert Reed and Tom Hall to talk about en-stick-ed duck embryos, guinea pigs and more!

In this week's dose of Radio Lab, Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich woke up early to tell Morning Edition's Renee Montagne about a disorder that makes you think your loved ones have been replaced by impostors. You can listen to the Morning Edition version of the story here, or check out the slightly longer "Radio Lab Shorts" version here.

And if this week's Radio Lab bummed you out a little, not to worry! Here comes the BBC's Friday Night Comedy Podcast from Radio 4 to lighten your spirits! This week Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis and the rest of The Now Show crew poke fun at old age, as well as the latest news stories!

So load up that .mp3 player of yours with quality public radio podcasts and get out there and enjoy the sun! And Happy Good Friday and Easter, if you're into that sort of thing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NPR Listens Sends Out the Results!

This morning I was surprised to see a message from NPR Listens in my inbox. It was a newsletter of sorts, called the Exchange.

The Exchange is a quarterly newsletter sent out to everyone who signed up for the NPR Listener Advisory Panel, set up last year. The Exchange seems to give a brief overview of what the eager folks over at NPR learned from all those surveys they had us fill out.

The topics of this quarter's Exchange? How social media has changed Weekend Edition and what was the general opinion of NPR's national newscasts. The Exchange doesn't give too much in way of details, but it does offer an insight into what lessons NPR is taking from our responses. (check it out here, in .PDF form.)

And of particular note for any fellow Radio Lab fans out there, at the end of the Exchange there is a hint at a future survey to come, all about our favorite brain-teasers! There is also a link to sign up for the survey in advance, so if you'd like the chance to directly tell NPR about how you feel, head on over to and sign up!