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Sound Portrait: the dog walker

Sound Portrait: the dog walker

Many elderly pet owners can’t muster the energy to care for their animals. In New York City, an organization called the Jewish Association Serving the Aged (JASA) finds volunteers to help out. Murray Strelitz has been a JASA volunteer for about seven years. A senior himself at 75, he moves slowly but is quick-witted. “I forgot my SAG card,” he quipped when we met outside his client’s Greenwich Village apartment. As we walked Bingo, a chipperke dog, Murray talked about his experience as a volunteer. [audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/447/files/2012/03/Murray-Dogs.mp3|titles=Murray...
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Process: Breaking down a chicken

Process: Breaking down a chicken

In New York, hipster butchers get all the glory, but neighborhood grocery stores still employ hardworking, highly skilled butchers. They can tell you which cut of beef is the leanest, explain how easy it is to prepare a pork chop and detail the differences between sustainable and conventional farming. I asked my local butcher how to break down a chicken and he happily obliged. He even offered to do the interview in a British accent. Maybe your butcher is a secret thespian, too. Here’s the — at times bone-crackingly gruesome — interview. [audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/447/files/2012/03/How-To-MP3.mp3|titles=Chicken breakdown. ]  ...
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Vox-Pop: True intentions of US presidential candidates

Vox-Pop: True intentions of US presidential candidates...

Politicians say stupid, careless things. Sometimes they even do stupid, careless things. With the 2012 elections approaching, I wondered if other New Yorkers were feeling skeptical or hopeful about the intentions of US presidential candidates. Here’s the story from Bryant Park. [audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/447/files/2012/03/vox-mp31.mp3|titles=Vox Pop]...
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Aggressive vs. Aimless Interviews

On NPR’s Science Friday, host Ira Flatow interviewed Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at UC San Francisco. The topic was sugar, and whether it should be regulated like alcohol. Although there were interesting takeaways from the interview — for example, the reward area in the brain for sugar is the same as for heroin or tobacco, making sugar an addictive product — it felt as if the host wasn’t asking enough questions. The guest was allowed to drone on and on, often veering off course. For example, he went off on a tangent about different types of sugar, and finished by saying the different types confuse the public — but he didn’t clearly convey them, either. I think the interview could’ve been improved if Flatow had started off by saying, “what don’t people know about sugar?” perhaps setting a tone that was more accessible for listeners. The show felt too much like a lecture, when I would’ve preferred it to be more of a conversation. On a recent episode of BBC’s Hardtalk, Stephen Sackur spoke candidly with Eugenia Tymoshenko about the imprisonment of her mother, Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister of Ukraine. Although Sackur’s style is not aggressive or invasive, his tone is subtly urgent and assertive, which allows him to ask tough questions and get answers to somewhat private questions. For example, he asks Sackur whether trying to get her mother out of jail, despite her conviction “in a court of law,” is “flying in the face of the constitution.” He also challenges Sackur regarding accusations of embezzlement and fraud against her mother, saying, “do you realize that in Ukraine, there are some questions about your mother’s economic activities?” Taken out of context, these questions don’t sound aggressive, but the show has a certain tension, indicating the intensity of his line of questioning. I think it’s an example of good...
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News Radio Comparison for Feb. 14

The BBC News Hour had just one host, a somewhat aggressive, spunky voice that lorded over the three main stories of the hour. For example, when questioning Jon Hunstman on the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the host pushed Huntsman to give his opinion on the U.S. presidential race, despite it not having much to do with the story at hand. The stories felt long, broken up by BBC ads that had music in them – the only sounds used in the program. Smaller filler stories, such as one on modeling, were also used to break up bigger stories, but I didn’t find the guests particularly engaging. The sound quality on an interview with a man who visited an Apple factory in China was a little jarring. Overall, I found the show to be jarring, mostly because of the host’s style. NPR Morning Edition consists of shorter stories and moves along more crisply and cleanly than BBC for me. There’s also more use of interviews with everyday people whose jobs and lives are affected by issues discussed in stories. For example, a story on health care in Massachusetts included tape with a self-employed man who sells playground equipment – he talks about how the policy has made his life more difficult. And a story on the new Chinese leader included on-the-ground interviews with his friends and family in China. I like the use of ambient sound in NPR stories; a piece on Senegal, for instance, had crowd noise and music, which really set the scene and was laced underneath the reporter’s voice and the voices of people he interviewed. Overall, NPR felt more listener-oriented, more personal somehow. Listening to the BBC, I felt disconnected from the host, as if he were performing for me, rather than having a conversation with me. 1010 Wins is faster, flashier and more entertainment-driven than the other two shows. It feels dictated by people’s workday: traffic, weather and local New York news are the focus. The language is much less formal – for example, “Police are looking for three guys tonight” – voices nearly talk over each other because of the pace, and the sound bites are grittier, which all feels very New York. There is a lot of ambient sound behind every reporter and interview, which again feels like New York. It’s never quiet. This is not a format or style I can listen to for more than a few minutes. It’s effective but too hectic. To The Point is on KCRW out of Santa Monica. The show claims to be a “daily look at the issues that Americans care about most.”  It includes a mix of national and international stories throughout the week, but focuses on just one story per day. The show covered a mortgage settlement that may help banks more than homeowners, and included insight from advocates, bankers and homeowners; there was also a brief “reporter’s notebook” segment on the new leader in China. The show starts with a quick update of yesterday’s news, which included a live interview with a HuffPo journalist about the payroll tax. I found the host a little hard to follow – his voice wasn’t as crisp as I’d like – and while I appreciate that he conducted live interviews throughout the show, sometimes guests rambled on. The NPR segment on Senegal caught my attention. The ambient sound was engrossing but didn’t distract from the story. The reporter’s voice also had a certain whispery quality...