Intro from Jay Allison: Nine students recently completed the Spring 2013 Transom Story Workshop and they uncovered wonderful local stories. Their work is a real lesson not only in storytelling, but also in story finding. We asked each student to pick one of the pieces they produced during their time here, tell you about how they discovered it, and chronicle their challenges in producing it. They also picked one of the “Sonic IDs” they made, which are good ones. Most of this group had never produced before, so prepare to be inspired by what they accomplished.
On April 15th, 2013 — the day when two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line — I was in my car, on my way to gather one last bit of tape for my Creative Life piece. On the radio, flustered anchors were struggling to remain calm and neutral. You could hear the unmistakable beeps and dings of their iPhones, going off right there in the on-air booth, as details about the bombing slowly percolated in. It all sounded jarring, and I put my mic right up to my car’s speakers and started recording. That’s when I knew I was going to help document this catastrophe.
Like most of the important tape you think you need, that spontaneous recording of the radio didn’t make the cut. We learned that it’s still important to get that tape, and then give the story plenty of room to shift in focus. Case in point: at first, I was more interested in emerging security policies than in survivor’s accounts — I thought that news outlets were already saturated with that stuff. But when I read online about Jerry, Dari, and other survivors, I realized there was something wrong with those stories. They were somehow distant. They didn’t make you feel anything. Still, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to tell those stories any differently, and I was terrified of accidentally producing something sensationalistic. Thankfully, my amazingly warm and encouraging class rescued me from these doubts. I moved forward.
And I’m so glad I kept an open mind. Finally sitting down with Jerry and Dari, and learning firsthand about what they are going through, moved me in a way that I wasn’t really ready for. Listening to those emotional interviews over and over really did a number on me. But also, there’s this other thing. In class, we referred several times to the unusual power of our medium. Actually experiencing what that means is fascinating, and beautiful. Jerry and Dari were so grateful just to be listened to, even if I was a total stranger. Jerry, who says he prefers to be tough and bottle things up, thanked me after our interview. As I was leaving his house, Jerry admitted it was a relief to talk to someone. That, right there — that fleeting moment of appreciation and deep connection — is what really motivates us as radio producers and human beings.
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Zach’s Sonic ID
I spotted Ben Burke while running an errand in Falmouth. He was sitting in the park, playing his guitar. As I got closer, I realized he was busking. Busking in Falmouth before tourist season? I hadn’t seen that before! I was glad I had my recording gear on me.