Today, meet radio producer and media educator Sam Greenspan, whose work has most notably been featured on NPR. This multi-talented radio guru believes that the medium offers a tremendous amount of opportunities for avid producers of media. Listen to his exclusive audio interview with Jess Schreibstein and/or read the transcript below. This is a direct transcript of the audio interview. Audio length is 4:40.
[[Listen Here: Sam Greenspan Audio]]
This is Jess Schreibstein, and I’m talking with Sam Greenspan in Washington, DC. Sam is a radio producer and media educator who has reported and produced radio stories for NPR, DC’s public radio station WAMU, and other public radio programs and podcasts. He has taught documentary radio production to teenagers, and is involved with experimental sound and radio communities in the DC area. Hi Sam.
I want to start by asking you if you remember the first radio piece you heard that made an impact on you.
I was talking with someone the other day about how This American Life and Miles Davis’ A Kind of Blue have this very similar plane of being the place, your entry point into this whole universe. Many people find jazz through A Kind of Blue and I found radio and radio documentary and all that is sound through This American Life.
So I think one of the first things I ever heard from them was a piece they did about the second largest cross in the world and it was built somewhere in the Midwest. And they just described it being so big that you couldn’t tell how far away you were until you got there. I remember it really transporting me to some other totally different place.
Do you think it was something like This American Life or NPR that got you interested in exploring a job in radio in the first place?
It never occurred to me that I wanted to go into radio until many years later. I wanted to be a fiction writer. But I hated every fiction class I ever took. The fiction that I did like, I generally found through public radio in some guise or another, so I figured it might be wise to learn how to do radio, so then I could sort of find a back door into this writing world. And then I just started doing radio, and I kind of became totally disinterested in fiction.
So why don’t you tell us about some of your favorite work that you’ve produced so far.
I did a self-funded reporting trip in which I paid for my own plane ticket to go to Rio di Janeiro, Brazil and just worked on getting stories there. I was only really able to do one, which was a short news report on the Homeless World Cup, which happened to have been taking place while I was there. So, I’m really hoping to go back and do more international reporting.
Apart from NPR, public radio, working with the DC Listening Lounge, a collective, collaborative of radio producers and audio-minded people and musicians and other people who are generally interested in sound in the DC area. Every year we put on something called the Sound Scene, which is like an audio installation. We take over a space, and it’s like an art opening, but all the art is sound-based.
In addition to producing and freelancing for NPR and local public radio stations, programs, and podcasts, you’ve taught documentary radio production in schools. What was that like?
I really love teaching. I don’t even really care if they never pick up a microphone again. But what is interesting, is that I think that just knowing how to make media or seeing media get made or having an active part in it – it changes the entire way that you consume it. Because you’re no longer a passive audience. Media is generally a one-way communication, and I think the best way to become part of a dialogue is to actually become a maker yourself. And now that the technology is just so cheap and it’s so available, you can do an entire story just from your computer!
So with all this new accessibility, how do you see the future of radio changing?
That’s what everyone always wants to know, because it’s the oldest time-based medium that exists in the home, and people have been talking about its eventual demise more or less since it was invented. I think that radio will always be relevant. But I think it’s an interesting time, because the way that people make and consume media is totally different, more different in the last twenty years than it’s been in the last hundred. There are these prescribed career paths in public radio, but there’s also a lot of excitement and things happening between the margins, or outside the margins, or people inventing their own projects and creating pathways for themselves to be in public media and make really interesting stuff that has never been done before.
What are some projects that you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working with people here in DC in creating a podcast. The only way that I can think to describe them is that if you’re walking down a street past somewhere you’ve always walked by a million times, it would be like someone tapping you on the street and being like, “Hey, that thing right there. You’ve walked by it all your life. But there’s actually a really interesting story about it. And here it is.” We’re shooting to have the first run of stories up by the end of January.
Last question. How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your current projects?
Daily BR!NK readers can really participate with this new podcast that we’re going to roll out. Any stories that you find really interesting, tell us about, or even do some recording yourself. If you’re interested in audio, if you’re interested in sound and documentary and storytelling, there are all these communities popping up across the country that would love to hear it.
Thank you so much for talking with us, Sam.
Sure. Thanks Jess.