Brain Pickings

How To Make Great Radio: An Illustrated Guide Starring Ira Glass

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“When correctly harnessed, radio can be as emotional, as funny and as satisfying as the best motion pictures or television shows.”

“The laws of narrative are the laws of narrative,” NPR’s Ira Glass once famously proclaimed. “What engages us is what engages us.” But, surely, there must more to radio — to great radio — than a passive surrender to some inscrutable law. And, if there is, then surely no one knows what that might be better than Glass himself — for, as Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad readily acknowledged, it was Glass who ushered in a new era of storytelling on the radio.

In 1999, the staff of This American Life invited cartoonist Jessica Abel to spend several weeks with them. The result was Radio: An Illustrated Guide (public library), in which Abel peeks inside the hood of the beloved radio show to reveal what makes it hum and teach us how “to lift Radio to its true potential” — a fine addition to other echelons of comics as nonfiction, most similar in ethos and sensibility to fellow public radio maven Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine.

When correctly harnessed, radio can be as emotional, as funny and as satisfying as the best motion pictures or television shows. But sadly, few radio programmers even shoot for that. … [N]o mass medium is cheaper to do, or easier to learn. In these few pages we show you all the tricks you need.

From the ins and outs of editing to the intricate art of the interview to how you can get yourself on the radio, the slim but potent 32-page zine-like book offers a surprisingly dimensional lens on what it takes to make great narrative radio.

Complement Radio: An Illustrated Guide, which is also available as an ebook for jus $2, with Ira Glass’s timeless wisdom on the secret of creative success.

Lest we forget: Public radio, like Brain Pickings, is made possible by, well, the public — contribute your possibility to This American Life here.

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