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american listen

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Right off the bat, I felt like Ira Glass’s four-part series (starting here) was more informational and useful than the Radio comic.  Ira talked about how to tell a story (and reflect upon that story), how to find a story, having good taste (and applying it), and common errors broadcasters make, and I took these (along with the Radio comic) into consideration while listening to the “This American Life” broadcast that I chose.

As per the assignment, I had to choose one of 4 different broadcasts to listen to from This American Life (TAL). I chose to listen to “Switch at Birth”. I could definitely see Ira’s vision of storytelling played out during this broadcast.  Right at the beginning, you’re introduced to the scenario — many years ago, two babies were switched, and one mother knew from the beginning. The mothers of the children sound as expected, sad and regretful, and it seems as though they are reading from a script (at the beginning at least).  After the introduction to the story, Ira then poses a series of questions that frame the rest of the broadcast– a technique mentioned in both the four-part series and the illustrated guide to radio.  I will say that the facts of this story were hard to comprehend, although I believe that is simply the fault of the story. Two daughters, and two families, but after a short while it became easier to follow the story.  Music, as mentioned in the comic, is widely used throughout the broadcast, and I feel that it helped move the story along and give a deeper meaning to parts of the interviews. Suspense was used in the framing of the story, and while it seemed like the story would remain about the daughters and mothers, the story moved on to one of the daughters estrangement from her brother (that she had been raised by).  The daughters differences from their paternal families are highlighted and described in detail, and then their similarities with their biological families are stressed.

The story is framed in an interesting manner, first the audience hears the details of the switch, and that one mother knew.  Then, you hear about how the daughters handled it after everyone knew about the switch.  Then the audience is led through the story of the switch coming to light.  The intricacies of the story are then introduced– how some people strongly suspected the switch, and how some tried to tell the daughters (either blatantly or via not so subtle hints).  Mystery, confusion, pain, and hurt all come to light.

I definitely could see the information and techniques that I had learned watching Ira’s instructional series, and from reading the illustrated guide, being put to use while listening to the broadcast.  Besides the awkward beginning (maybe this was just the editing? or staging?), the broadcast made use of pauses, music, introspective questions, well edited interviews, and framing from the hosts of TAL.  Overall, I felt that it was an interesting broadcast that used the techniques discussed effectively.

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