Friday, September 3, 2010

I heard it on the radio

People have been predicting the death of radio for awhile now, but I'll just not hear of it!

Over the past week, National Public Radio has broadcast some stories that highlight the power of great reporting, sound and storytelling. First is a three-part series on the USS Kirk, a ship which, 35 years ago, transported thousands of Vietnamese refugees out of the country after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

This is an absolutely riveting tale, which, astonishingly, got very little coverage 35 years ago, and parts of it will bring you to tears.  Here's the description of how the reporters did it.

The USS Kirk carried out one of the most significant humanitarian missions in U.S. military history. Yet the story went untold for 35 years. Correspondent Joseph Shapiro and producer Sandra Bartlett of NPR's Investigative Unit interviewed more than 20 American and Vietnamese eyewitnesses and participants in the events of late April and early May 1975. They studied hundreds of documents, photographs and other records, many never made public before — including cassette tapes recorded at the time by the ship's chief engineer.
Shapiro first learned of the Kirk from Jan Herman, historian of the U.S. Navy Medical Department, who says the Kirk's heroics got lost because, as the Vietnam War ended, Americans were bitterly divided over the war's course and cost. There was little interest in celebrating a mission that saved the lives of 20,000 to 30,000 refugees. Herman is working on a book documenting the story and a film documentary, which was shown when the Kirk crew met for a reunion in Springfield, Va., in July.
Then there is the series I've been listening to with a cup of coffee in the morning, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton's series of reports traveling on a barge down the Congo River.

Amazing reporting. Sounds, textures, feelings. Culture, history, politics, travel. She takes you totally there. Can you do what she does?

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