2007 was my first full year as a freelance journalist. I left my full time position as a reporter at WHYY in the fall of 2006, and continued to do a little freelance work for the station when I still lived in the region. But since moving to New York, I’ve been focusing primarily on producing stories for national outlets. And of course, I’ve spent a lot of my time blogging.
This year I probably produced fewer radio news stories than in previous years, but my ratio of in-depth feature length reports to quick spot news stories has gone way up. Here’s an almost complete list of radio stories I’ve filed over the past 12 months:
Philadelphia Housing Authority announces severe job cuts – NPR’s All Things Considered 1/9/07
Responding to federal funding cuts, the PHA announces it will have to layoff 20 percent of its staff and cut back on services. Other housing agencies around the country are making similar cuts.
Companies create their own health clinics – NPR’s Day to Day 1/23/07
More and more U.S. companies are providing in-house health clinics for their employees as a way to contain medical costs. The on-site clinics can offer flu shots, fill prescriptions and other services — it’s a convenience for employees and a money-saver for the company.
Why low-income housing matters – NPR’s Justice Talking 2/05/07
This edition of Justice Talking examined issues related to low-income housing. For this story I visited with a formerly homeless woman who was looking forward to moving into her first real house with her three children.
Gambling in Pennsylvania – NPR’s Justice Talking 3/05/07
This edition of Justice Talking looked at issue related to gambling. Pennsylvania had recently passed legislation expanding legalized gambling in the state. I visited one of the first horse racetracks in Pennsylvania to add a slot machine parlor, and talked to community leaders about the potential impact on the region.
The Death Penalty in New Jersey – NPR’s Justice Talking 3/26/07
In December of 2007, New Jersey officials approved a ban on the death penalty after years of debate. Earlier this year I visited with a lawmaker who had proposed abolishing the death penalty, an official in the public defender’s office who opposed the death penalty, and two strong supporters of the death penalty: A lawyer advocating its punitive and preventative impact and Sharon Hazard-Johnson, whose parents were murdered by one of the men currently on death row. This may be the most powerful piece I produced this year. I spent a lot of time on this story and I hope it shows.
PennDhamaka goes to Best of the Best – Weekend America 4/7/2007
This is probably my favorite piece of the year in terms of how I used sound to tell a story. Of course, the folks at Weekend America did a great job of mixing the sound, by my editor and I spent a lot of time finding the best bits of tape to make this story work.
For this piece I spent a weekend watching Penn students in PennDhamaka, a South Asian dance group prepared for the Best of the Best competition in Chicago. I also talked to two of the members of the group at length and found out a bit about what drives these young Americans to participate in this activity which combines eastern and western traditions.
Philadelphia mayor’s race – NPR’s Morning Edition 5/8/2007
This story felt like a nice bookend to my time covering Philadelphia politics. I’d been covering Philadelphia City Hall since the 2003 mayor’s race, and I won a national SPJ award for coverage of a corruption scandal that rocked that election (but not the way you would have thought). Just days before we moved to New York City, I filed this preview of the 2007 race to replace outgoing mayor John Street. In Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 4 to 1, the Democratic primary is usually the equivalent of a general election, and the winner of the primary went on to defeat his underfunded Republican challenger by a landslide in November.
Oil companies serve up biodiesel – The Environment Report 7/9/2007
There’s no better way to get your new neighborhood than by reporting on local stories. One of the first that I found in Brooklyn was the story of a local oil distributor that was planning to build one of the largest biodiesel distribution facilities in the country.
New Jersey church considers selling treasured windows – Weekend America 8/04/2007
Elizabeth, NJ was once one of the wealthiest cities in the state. Now it’s one of the poorest. And St John’s Episcopal Church is spending more money providing services for the needy than it is collecting from donations. So the church is considering selling it’s valuable Tiffany Windows to raise money for an endowment — but many congregation members are reluctant to let them go.
New York trans fat ban takes effect – NPR’s Justice Talking 9/03/07
New York became the first city in the country to ban trans fat from restaurants. I spoke with health officials and chefs about the impact, and whether the government has the right to start playing the food police.
Casual co-working at Jelly – NPR’s Morning Edition 9/12/07
Most days I work from home. While I generally find I’m a lot more productive without a ton of other people around, it’s also nice to have some people to interact with and tried ideas with occasionally. It’s also nice to pretend your not a hermit. So one day I read about this group called Jelly, which invites pretty much anyone to come work together. Co-Founders Amit Gupta and Luke Crawford started with regular meetings at their Manhattan apartment, and now the group occasionally meets in Brooklyn or other Manhattan apartments.
At first I figured I’d just go to get some work done, and then it occurred to me that there was a story here. Although I wasn’t the first person to report on Jelly, since NPR aired my piece the group has gotten a lot more attention and groups have started up in other cities including Boston, Houston, and Sydney, Australia.
Nintendo Wii shortage – NPR’s Day to Day 11/23/07
An NPR producer called me in November and asked me to get to the bottom of a question: Was the Nintendo Wii shortage real or manufactured to make the game system look hotter than it was? I’ll let you listen to discover the answer. Again, the audio producers did a great job with the tape I fed them. I giggle every time I hear the last few seconds of this story.
Global Warming Garden – The Environment Report 12/03/07
Yes, I know it’s kind of funny to do a gardening piece on December, but I reported most of this story in November when the gardeners I spoke with were still busy planting, transplanting, and doing whatever else it is gardeners do to prepare their plants for the winter.
Anyway, this story shows the impact of global warming on plants. Gardeners in the northern US are noticing that they can grow plants that normally thrive much further south. In fact, gardeners at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx have designed an entire plot that shows off exotic plants. But is global warming good news or bad for gardeners.
So there you have it. 13 stories. On average, I produced just a bit over one feature-length news report per month. But I’ve also assisted other reporters with stories, filed a bunch of spot news reports for NPR, done some commercial audio production, and of course, written thousands of blog posts, and done a couple of other things to help keep the lights on.
When it comes to radio, I think this year I’ve focused on quality over quantity, and looking back at those 13 stories, I’m pretty happy with the body of work I’ve produced.
Brad…..Great stories. I don’t know if this would be an appropriate posting for your blog (you could just email me as well), but I was wondering if you could talk a little about your workflow? and some interviewing techniques/tips? (how much audio do you record per story? do you log all the audio? do you have a target time you shoot for? how do you get your subjects talking?, etc.,)
I’m a photographer who is getting into sound so I’m starting from scratch. The most formal bit of instruction I have is the Radio:An Illustrated Guide from TAL 🙂
I’m good at blending in and letting the action happen, which I find doesn’t work so well with sound as you have to be an active agent in the news gathering. Any advice would be great!
Here’s some samples:
email me if you think that’s more appropriate:
russroca (at) gmail (dot) com