I just got back from Chicago, where a really interesting 3 days turned me into even more of a public media zealot. The reason? The Third Coast International Audio Festival.
Third Coast is sort of like is like a combination of Sundance and Woodstock, but for radio people. There were independent producers and documentarians and news reporters and people who teach radio, some of whom had submitted documentaries for the annual contest.
We spent the weekend on Northwestern’s campus, attending workshops led by notables from across the public media spectrum. Some of my favorites included a lesson in place-based storytelling from the folks at State of the Re:Union and an ethics workshop by experts from NPR and the Poynter Institute. Robert Smith from Planet Money gave a really useful talk on how to deploy good storytelling when you’re on a tight deadline. And Kelly McEvers, NPR’s foregin correspondent who lives in Beirut and covers Syria, regaled rapt audiences with tales of how she produces meaningful radio with little to no equipment. Radio superstars Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad graced us with speeches at the conference’s beginning and end, and I have to say it felt a little like a tent revival. I left feeling reinvigorated.
I met so many interesting and nice people this weekend, including NCPR veteran Gregory Warner and a woman went to my same high school and is now producing the Freakonomics podcast at WNYC. I was delighted to see friends from Transom, meet the crew at the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR for short), and even bump into the guy who invented my editing software!
A shout-out to Jane Lindholm and Ric Cengari from neighboring station Vermont Public Radio, who somehow managed to wrangle a (turquoise, ancient, magnificent) car and let me hitch a ride all weekend.
And, of course, no conference is complete unless you throw down with your colleagues. PRX hosted an excellent shindig at Evan bar Prairie Moon: public radio’s biggest dance party.
I guess, now that I’m home, it’s back to reality. But what I’m really excited about is getting back to work.