Bat Men

Intro from Jay Allison: Radio students from all over the country, plus Canada and Australia, came to live on Cape Cod for a couple of months to attend the Fall 2012 Transom Story Workshop. Rob Rosenthal and Sarah Reynolds ran the class with dedication, and made sure the students came away with skills enough to craft lovely pieces… which they did. The students found remarkable stories sitting under the noses of us who’ve been living here for decades. Come listen. It’s impressive to hear such work from a group of people just starting out, and it’s encouraging too, because there’s bound to be more of it.

Listen to “Bat Men”

About “Bat Men”

When I began searching around for stories, I stumbled across an article on a local bat researcher and a disease called white-nose syndrome, which was wiping out millions of bats across the northeast. I gave him a call, and he told me that while he wasn’t studying bats, he knew someone who was: a man named Greg Auger. On the surface, the whole premise sounded like a great story. I’d go spelunking in caves searching for bats! I’d try out bat detectors and night vision cameras! I’d talk with these bat guys about why they loved bats so much! And I could tie it all in to white nose syndrome! It sounded perfect.

But in journalism, and radio especially, things change. And they change fast. Probably ten minutes into my first interview with Greg, it became obvious that he didn’t want to discuss science and bats. He seemed to only want to talk about his mentor, a bat researching legend named Don Griffin who had passed away in 2003. He talked about their adventures together at a local lake, Don’s beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and so much more. The two had basically become like father and son, unexpectedly brought together through these bats that were now vanishing. After hearing all that, I knew my piece wasn’t about science. It became personal. It became the story of Greg and Don.

But once I had all that figured out, I had a lot of stuff to cram into an eight-minute piece. My story needed to paint a picture of who Greg was and his history with bats. It needed to tell the story of Greg and Don – how they met, their adventures at the pond, and how Don’s work changed Greg’s life. And I STILL needed to squeeze in the science stuff about white nose syndrome, how it’s affecting bats, and how Greg is affected by the disappearance of the creatures. Those are a lot of different parts. But after many long hours working on the structure of my piece with Rob, Sarah, and my classmates, I put together a story that’s one part personal narrative and one part science. It’s an unlikely combination, and it’s definitely unlike anything I’d ever done before, but I think it’s all the better for it.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class



Robbie grew up all around New England, from the suburbs of Massachusetts to the rural landscapes of New Hampshire. Now, Robbie's a student at the University of Maryland, where he's studying journalism (and a little astronomy), among other things. Once he graduates, Robbie hopes to keep telling other people's stories wherever he ends up. You can hear more of Robbie's work at PRX and on Robbie's website. Robbie is a member of AIR.

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