Frank Langfitt has a creative answer to the age-old question How do you find stories?: Drive a taxi. A fake taxi.
Frank is NPR’s correspondent in Shanghai. In addition to a lot of news and feature reporting from there, Frank has a wonderful, on-going series of stories where he becomes a taxi driver in order to find new stories. There are twenty-four million people in Shangai and hardly any taxis at all, Frank says. So he rents a car, throws some signs on it, and drives around.
Frank says his job as a reporter is to spot a trend and then find people who illustrate the trend. Driving a taxi as research reverse engineers the reporting process. You just go out and talk to people.
Now as fascinating as Frank’s use of a taxi is, it’s not what I really wanted to talk to him about for this episode of HowSound. It’s his tracking, his voice work that fascinates me. Frank and I chatted about a story he produced in March 2015. Instead of just driving around Shanghai, Frank drove a handful of people 500 miles to their villages in the countryside. His passengers were headed home to celebrate the Chinese New Year and to get married. His narration is incredibly conversational. And, I learned about a voicing technique I never knew existed.
After you listen to HowSound, check out some of Frank’s taxi stories: