Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why you should unplug your IPod and turn on your radio

When I arrived at UMass in 19seventywhatever, the sum total of my electronics was an electric typewriter my dad got me for Christmas and an alarm clock radio that cost me twenty bucks. (It looked a little like the one on the left.) Most kids had stereos, but I couldn't afford one. One guy on the hall had a television.

Now nobody has a radio. If you're a journalism student, this is a big mistake. Radio news shows now feature some of the best storytelling out there. Professor Nancy Cohen is one of those storytellers, by the way. (And there are some good public radio internships if this strikes your fancy.) Go to the Salvation Army and buy a radio for a couple of bucks. Put it on your nightstand. Tune the radio to 88.5, the UMass public radio station WFCR. Set the alarm for, say 6:30 a.m. (I know, I know. Just do it.)

As you are trying to wake up and get ready for class, the news stories of National Public Radio's Morning Edition begin to seep into your brain. You'll arrive at your 9:05 , already knowing that the entire economy of Greece is about to go down the toilet, while your fellow students are still trying to get caught up on yesterday's news. Color your professor impressed!

Here are some other ways radio can make you smarter.

Listen to Marketplace. This business show helps you understand the economy, and does so with some interesting stories, like this piece on how small business entrepreneurs are thriving in the ruins of Haiti.

Listen to Fresh Air with Terry Gross. In Amherst, it's on WFCR at 7 p.m. Terry interviews actors, musicians, journalists, authors, comedians, politicians--everyone! It's always interesting to hear how a pro does an interview. Recent guests include former WaPo journalist Tom Ricks, and Jane Mayer, who writes for the New Yorker. Good stuff.

Check out On Point with Tom Ashbrook. This talk show features newsmaker panels on topics ranging from climate change to politics to movies to music to whatever.

I could go on and on: This American Life, Only A Game, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons.

But give this a try. Listen on the radio, or listen on the web and let me know how it works for you.


Deehan said...

Unless you have a car, over-the-air radio is kind of useless. Most of the shows B.J. mentioned have whole episodes or individual stories available as podcasts. Here are some links to the live streams of some local public radio stations:

and let's not forget about Mr. Cuffe:

BJ Roche said...

Aw come on Michael! Useless??? You can listen while you're cleaning your apartment!

Okay, I'm a commuter and spend two hours a day in my car. But Michael's right. Get this stuff anyway you can, including on the IPod.

Deehan said...

Well, maybe useless was an overstatement. I feel the same way about radio as I do about newspapers, really. The traditional method is still a great way to convey your story, but it lacks that 3rd dimension that electronic media provides. I want links and a "share" button, and to be able to pause it, and all the bells and whistles that let me better interact with the medium and the community. Cars will have mobile net connections soon enough, though, so listening in your car or on your laptop, phone or desktop will all be a uniform experience.

P.S. these captcha, are they real words? I want to know what "miliones" means.

Anonymous said...

What kind of an idiot thinks that there's a "third dimension" to/with/by /for "electronic media". There is nothing better than a newspaper, there was nothing better than a newspaper, and there will be nothing better than a newspaper--they taught immigrants to read in the 19th century, and educated the general pubkic in all centuries since their existence. Radio, can be a close second, and I welcome antone who's smart enough to know so; and brave enough to say it. You know that fast onrushing ignorance that is so painfully obvious in Generation X and below? They don't know anything because they don't read--not books, and certainly not newspapers, the place where you begin to find and see the world around you.