map's blog reinventing the wheel, one corner at a time.

Ira Glass’ golden rules of radio story-telling

This week-end I listened to a panel about ethics in radio-story-telling from the third coast festival. It’s really interesting stuff, I recommend to anyone interested in making audio. In it people talk about their golden rules for producing stories. And of course there is a real gem by Ira Glass in there, I needed to transcribe for further reference. Here it goes:

  • Make stuff you yourself would be willing to listen to.
  • Don’t say anything shitty about anyone on the radio without giving them a chance to respond.
  • Objectivity is impossible, but you can always achieve fairness.
  • Start the music underneath your story in the middle of the rising action. Whatever is said immediately after you lose the music sounds extra important. Like you actually talk, no the way you kid yourself you talk, you fake sounding s.o.b.
  • If you’re performing badly on the mic, it’s because you are not relaxed enough. To fix it, lower the pitch of your voice.
  • If a piece isn’t working, do another interview.
  • To write a good ending, go back to the beginning. Or tell the one anecdote, or kill the last piece of tape or paraphrase it in script.
  • Killing a mediocre story is victory. Killing a mediocre story is making room for an excellent story.
  • Most stories want to be dull and it’s only through an act of will they become anything but.