Perspectives

Radio Pioneer Ira Glass Talks with WOUB about Broadcasting and “This American Life”


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Ira Glass, the award-winning creator and host of This American Life, will be in Athens at 7:30 p.m. March 12 at Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium to present “An Evening with Ira Glass: Reinventing Radio.”

Recently, he chatted with WOUB’s Tom Hodson about creating radio content, audio storytelling and the mechanics of putting together a weekly national radio program.

He talked about the early days of This American Life, being highly selective about stories they choose to air, and the explosive popularity of podcasting.

This American Life is celebrating its 20th year on public radio. It is a mixture of entertainment and news, according to Glass. It is designed to present riveting stories based upon weekly themes.

Selecting great stories to broadcast is a key factor to success, Glass says. He notes that they kill up to 50 percent of the stories they begin and instead concentrate on those that have the most potential to highly engage the audience.

Glass says that he is thrilled about the popularity of podcasting and added that Serial, a podcast series created and produced by This American Life staffers, has the record of being the most listened to podcast in history.

Currently, This American Life is heard by 2.2 million radio listeners per week on more than 500 radio stations. When podcasts are added to the total, more than 5 million people listen to each show. Glass points out that these are higher numbers than most television programs or cable networks.

This American Life, distributed through PRX (Public Radio Exchange) has won the highest awards in broadcasting – including five Peabody Awards.
In 2009, Glass received the coveted Edward R. Murrow Award for Outstanding Contributions. He earned a George Polk Award in Radio Reporting in 2011 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in November 2014.

Glass began his radio career in 1978 at age 19 as an intern at National Public Radio. He then got a full-time job at NPR where he worked as a reporter, producer, and guest host for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation and Weekend All Things Considered.
Glass was reared in Baltimore Co. Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree from Brown University where he studied semiotics – what causes stories to create certain emotions in readers and listeners.