Listening notes: current podcasts

Listening notes: current podcasts

I’m a big fan of podcasts, and have been listening for a while — the oldest ones in my iTunes library date to the summer of 2005, when CBC Radio 3 launched its Canadian indie music podcast and my locked-out colleagues created CBC Unplugged. That must have been the first podcast explosion, because “podcast” was the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year in 2005, I recently learned on a podcast. Podcast. My friends, many of them radio fiends, often trade notes on what’s a good listen right now, so I thought I’d jot a few down for anyone taking suggestions. And I am always looking for new shows, so please note your faves in the comments.   Tapestries vs. talk Broadly speaking, I split podcasts in two camps: the highly-produced audio tapestry, and the smart-people-sitting-in-a-room-and-talking shows. I like both, depending on the moment. Much respect to the Radiolabs and Serials (both tapestries) but sometimes smart people in a room are just lovely company on a crowded bus or long walk. So here are my current podcast habits, with the big ones you’ll hear about everywhere at the bottom. New listens History on Fire: Crazy long episodes, no production, wonderful storytelling. Italian-born history professor Daniele Bolelli talks for two hours at a time about things you didn’t even know you wanted to know about. Great for a roadtrip. I’m not equally interested in all the history lessons, but I highly recommend the Iceman episode, where Bolelli reconstructs the life and possible murder of a well-preserved man who lived 5000 years ago. It’s an hour and forty-four minutes. Slack Variety Pack: The debate continues on “branded”...
What TV news can learn from Jimmy Fallon

What TV news can learn from Jimmy Fallon

…or, how the internet picked the new Tonight Show host We cut cable years ago, with the idea that would make us watch less TV. Instead, I’ve become expert at finding the shows I like streaming online. It’s free and legal which is great, but the user experience ranges from meh to terrible. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was an exception. The show’s team was masterful at making it easy to watch and share their videos. The New York Times has written about Fallon’s internet success, his millions of followers on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but noted: “it is unclear whether the videos provide a net gain by building awareness of shows, or a new loss, because viewers know they can see what they like online.” But I don’t think he’d be moving up to The Tonight Show without it. For example, I was a fan and never stayed up until 12:35 a.m. to watch. Fallon himself poked fun at his time slot in a recent sketch with the guys from Full House; Bob Saget as Danny Tanner told him no one was still awake at 12:37. Remarkably, even the show’s main landing page didn’t mention when it aired. Online, it didn’t matter. Lessons for news? We know that audiences are increasingly going online for news, and while TV is still the dominant news source (according to U.S. data from the the Pew Research Center) audiences have been shrinking. “TV” news—which I increasingly think of video storytelling, delivered however—is/will be looking to capture the eyeballs of cable-cutters like me. I’m not suggesting newsrooms set their sights on the kind of...
Going on camera? My first piece of advice

Going on camera? My first piece of advice

People get nervous about being interviewed on camera — even those who perform all the time in lecture halls or meeting rooms. I get this, because it’s different and, I’d argue, harder. Because you’re trying to reach an audience that exists, but isn’t there. I had to learn this when I started doing television after several years at CBC Radio. It was more of an adjustment than I expected. I was already a performer and comfortable in front of crowds: teaching, public speaking, the lead in my high-school musical. But what I could do naturally in person wasn’t coming across on camera, at first. Then, things clicked—and I changed from being a reporter they were nervous about putting on for a live segment, to one they wanted “live” early and often. This wasn’t just experience; I figured something out. Focus in, focus out My top piece of advice for communicating on camera is to keep your focus out, not in. I’ll walk you through what that means, but it’s all in the eyes. I learned this by watching my own work, and noticing there were moments when I saw a person telling me what she knows, and others where I felt nervous for or bored by the person on screen. It’s subtle—too subtle to see in these grainy screengrabs, though these are from “before” and “after” live hits. In my early hits, I was looking at the camera, but my focus wasn’t there, because I was thinking about what to say next. To connect through the camera, you have to shift your focus from inside your mind, to somewhere...
Time to share a good book

Time to share a good book

[Update: the book drive is now finished — and they collected 962 books. Yay!] What an easy idea to say yes to. I live in East Vancouver, and pretty much my favourite present to give the kids in my life is a good book. So, when I heard that the clever folks behind Rain City Chronicles were holding a book drive to benefit the Writers’ Exchange which helps East Van kids? Yes. (And you can say yes too; they’re collecting new kids books until November 30 in these spots.) It’s been really fun to see which books Vancouverites are donating, and why. Musicians, reporters, support workers, funnymen, a baker, a librarian, and many more are sharing the stories that shaped their imaginations growing up. It’s hard to single out one — thumbs up to Tammy for her shout-out to Lowly Worm — but here’s my pick. Yet another Dr. Seuss, but one of his lesser-knowns: On Beyond Zebra. A letter he never had dreamed of before! At the start of the story, the narrator introduces us to a young boy, named Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell (his “very young friend who is learning to spell.”) Conrad is quite proud of himself for learning the entire alphabet, which, as everyone knows, ends with Z. But no, says the narrator: “In the places I go there are things that I see that I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.” You can see where this is going. The rest of the book describes all the other letters, and the fabulous, creepy or odd animals whose names we can now spell with...
Making audio and video more interactive online (?)

Making audio and video more interactive online (?)

I spent an interesting day at a Digital Storytelling Unconference last weekend, out at the Network Hub in New Westminster’s impressive River Market. [Thanks to Raul and Denim and Steel for the ticket.] One of the most surprising things for me was how many different professions it brought together — game designers, educators, urban planners, etc. — all with their own cultures and skills around storytelling. So, concepts like detail and tension in narrative that are well-trod in journalism were being explored with new eyes and vocabulary. Meanwhile, I got my mind a little blown by things I know very little about but find fascinating — like storytelling and interactive dialogue in videogames (in talks by Todd and Deirdra, respectively). In all, it felt like the beginning of many more conversations to come. Interactive audio + video? I was lucky enough to facilitate a discussion about interactive video and audio online; what works and where it might go. This is something I’m currently thinking about at work, on two fronts. First, we create a lot of audio and video every day (for radio and TV, of course) and only a fraction of it ends up on our site in a way that it can be found, shared and discussed, because of the effort it takes to translate the radio and TV into text-based stories. For me, when I report a story and it doesn’t end up online, it feels as though it never happened. So how could we post more, well? Second, I wonder whether the audio and video we do post could be more interactive, or evolve somehow...