Ben Calhoun's 'Patriot Games' wins at Third Coast

Oct 25, 2011

Congratulations to This American Life producer Ben Calhoun, whose story Patriot Games won the Bronze Award at the 2011 Third Coast Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. Produced for our midterm election episode This Party Sucks, Ben's story focused on Rich Carlson and Tom Swenor, two best friends in Michigan whose decision to form a Tea Party chapter would end up dramatically changing their lives.

Ben was in good company in the awards. Our buddies at RadioLab took home the Silver with a story called Finding Emilie. And the trio of Nick Van Der Kolk, Brenden Baker and Nick Williams snagged the Gold with The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt, a documentary/music hybrid about a guy who runs a strip club out of his Detroit home. That story ran on Van Der Kolk's podcast Love + Radio. Congrats all around.

"The Talent Show" - October 26 in Brooklyn

Oct 20, 2011

This American Life contributors Dave Hill, Eugene Mirman and Elna Baker are performing in The Talent Show on Wednesday, October 26th, at Littlefield in Brooklyn. The event, which is Halloween-themed, also features performers Reggie Watts, Joseph Keckler, T. Berry and more.

Tickets are $7. Doors open at 7, show starts at 8.

Planet Money: LIVE!

Oct 19, 2011
Hey Californians, producers Alex Blumberg and David Kestenbaum from the Planet Money team have taken the show on the road for the first time, and there are still tickets left to see Planet Money performed live in your state!

Wednesday, October 26th at 8pm in Santa Barbara: tickets here.

Friday, October 28th 7:30pm at in Chico: tickets here.

Post-It Note Diaries

Oct 6, 2011
A book just came out that includes stories by several This American Life contributors. It's called Post-It Note Diaries, and was edited and illustrated by Arthur Jones, whose drawings you may remember from the 2009 live show that we beamed into movie theaters. Post-It Note Diaries began as a live show that Arthur produced with Starlee Kine, where people would tell stories on stage while Arthur projected illustrations that he'd drawn on Post-It notes. And now it's a book, including stories by Arthur, Starlee and a bunch of our other buddies, including David Rakoff (who just won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, in case you hadn't heard), John Hodgman, Chuck Klosterman, Jonathan Goldstein, David Wilcox and Jeff Simmermon. Plus a bunch of other talented folks who haven't been on the show.

Ira's Blackout Drunk

Sep 28, 2011
Ira writes:

Hi all! A week ago I appeared onstage with Rachel Maddow, John Hodgman, Eugene Mirman and others, and the next morning, woke up in my own clothes, in my own bed, smelling faintly of vomit, unable to remember anything that happened onstage after the first 15 minutes, not even sure how I got home. I'm not proud of this. I bring it up only to say that I told the entire story onstage to Marc Maron for the WTF podcast and if you want to hear it, the link is here. Overall, it's a pretty great episode of Marc's podcast, with Morgan Spurlock and a bunch of comedians including—astonishingly—Artie Lange. I got to meet and sit onstage with Artie Lange! And if you don't know who he is, all I can say is, you have not listened to enough Howard Stern. Like any Stern fan, I love Artie. He's my favorite on that show by far. I've seen him perform at a comedy club and at Carnegie Hall. He has no idea who the hell I am. Terry Gross did the definitive interviews with Artie, in 2006 and 2008, but I guess his knowledge of public radio doesn't go far beyond Fresh Air. Improbably, against an amazing lineup of comedians, the person who hits it out of the park in this WTF episode, for my money, is Elna Baker, who's been on our show a couple times. I'm not sure this episode of WTF is as great as the very funny Episode 164, where the guests were Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Eric Drysdale, Chuck Klosterman and Sarah Vowell, or the amazing Episode 200, where comedian Mike Birbiglia interviewed Marc (Mike's nice-guy demeanor helps him get away with some super tough questions like "what happened in your divorces, anyway?" and "you were great when I first saw you perform and then am I mistaken or didn't you go through a stretch of mediocrity?"), but it's a really funny episode nonetheless.

Kudos to Radiolab

Sep 20, 2011

Ira writes:

Fantastic news today as one of our colleagues and friends at Radiolab, Jad Abumrad, was named a MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner. I couldn't agree more with whoever chooses people for those awards: Jad does amazing, beautiful, innovative work.

A Correction

Sep 14, 2011
In our show Ten Years In we accidentally misreported a statistic. In our story about a Muslim American girl named Chloe, we stated that according to FBI statistics, about 10 percent of hate crimes in 2009 were against Muslims. In fact, about 10 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes were against Muslims. It was 128 of the 1,376 religiously-motivated hate crimes that year (9.3 percent). In all, there were 7,789 hate crime offenses in 2009, so incidents against Muslims were 1.6% of the total, which is tiny. That same year, there were 2,724 hate crimes against blacks, 798 hate crimes against gay men and 964 hate crimes against Jews, according to the FBI. A table of the data is here on the FBI's website. Our reporter misread this summary. We're grateful to the listener who emailed and pointed this out, Robert Ben Garant.

Ira Glass to tour Australia in January

Sep 7, 2011

Attention Australia:

Ira Glass will perform five shows in your fine country/continent this coming January. Our podcast has developed a nice following in Australia, and since early 2011 ABC Radio National has broadcast This American Life on Sunday nights, but these will be Ira's first live performances there.

A blurb about the show:

In Reinventing Radio, Glass talks about his program and how it's put together: what makes a compelling story, where they find the amazing stories for their show, how he and his staff are trying to push broadcast journalism to do things it doesn't usually do. As part of this, Glass mixes stories from the show, live onstage, combining his narration with pre-taped quotes and music, recreating the sound of the show as the audience watches. And he plays funny and memorable moments from the show, and talks about what was behind their creation.

Tickets links are below. All but Sydney are on sale now.

Not in Australia? Ira is doing a bunch of upcoming shows stateside too.

Android App Update

Aug 26, 2011

We've just released an update to our Android app, which increases performance and stability for Android OS versions 2.2 and above. Our developers at PRX have dug through error logs and compared code with other audio apps, to get ours working smoothly.

An early user review:

"Great update. Just did a brief run through of the 8/23 update and the big issues seemed to be fixed. Stream resumes from a pause, scanning through the stream works."

Improvements include:
* Fixes for tablet devices including the XOOM
* Compatibility with Android 3.0 series
* Visual improvements
* Fix multiple force closes
* Miscellaneous bug fixes

If you run 2.2 or above, you will receive an in-app update notification. And if you've been waiting to download the app, now is a good time to give it a try. It's $3 over at the Android Marketplace. If you're not yet running 2.2 or higher, check with your carrier and phone manufacturer to see if an update is available (unfortunately it's difficult to improve stability for older versions of the operating system).

A Response To Some of The Comments From "Game Changer"

Aug 12, 2011
Sarah Koenig here. I’ve been away for the past month, so am just now responding to some of the comments about the gas drilling stories I reported for the "Game Changer" show that ran back in July.

First, I’d like to correct an embarrassing error in the first half of the show, when Dan Volz from the University of Pittsburgh said one of the pollutants being dumped into water from fracking operations was "bromium." We got a bunch of emails, several from chemists, pointing out that there’s no such thing as bromium. Here’s one: "I can see the professor misspeaking, but when the producer goes on to say how bromium causes cancer, there should be a little more scrutiny."

I agree. I emailed Dan Volz about it, and he was chagrinned. He answered: "It was a slip-up—it is bromide—can’t believe I did it. Bromide in water becomes brominated compounds in finished drinking water after treatment." And those compounds can be bad for you. As for why I repeated the fake element of "bromium" in the script, I’m not exactly sure. I definitely looked up bromide to see what it did to you if you ate enough of it, but then must have just trusted that if Dan Volz called it "bromium," I should too. In any case, I apologize for the mistake, and I’m grateful listeners pointed it out.

The second thing I want to respond to is a press release that Penn State University issued after the show ran. (You can read the whole thing here.)

"The recent edition of This American Life relied solely on the views of one person, Dr. Terry Engelder. While Dr. Engelder is a distinguished researcher, a more thorough investigation into the variety of views held by a number of faculty members would have given a more accurate picture of the scholarly debate and constructive disagreement that serves as the foundation for Penn State’s research productivity in all fields of inquiry."
This is not true. Of course I didn’t only rely on Terry Engelder at Penn State. I talked both on the record and informally to at least a dozen faculty members about their Marcellus work—including geologists, a mining engineer, a chemist, several sociologists, a water expert—even an English professor who’s planning to start a humanities-based Marcellus project. I also made sure to say in the story that Penn State was not monolithic, and that there were lots of people doing all kinds of Marcellus research there. But my point was that at the beginning of the gas boom in Pennsylvania, PSU certainly looked like a booster of drilling. And that’s the reputation it quickly got. Broadcasting more interviews with other researchers wouldn’t have changed that fact. In any case, my story wasn’t a survey of Penn State's Marcellus work, it was a look at how research universities are tied to gas drilling in the state.

The PSU press release went on to say this: "What is most troubling is the suggestion by This American Life that the integrity of our research is a commodity that can be bought and sold. …The notion that we would accept a monetary donation in return for favorable research findings is insulting—baseless speculation rooted in a conspiratorial imagination."

This is perhaps a willful misinterpretation of what I say in the story. I never say research is bought and sold at Penn State. I did talk about the pro-industry economics report that the College of Earth and Mineral sciences put out, that was funded by the Marcellus Shale Coalition—initially without the authors acknowledging that. A report, by the way, that was criticized even by the college’s own dean, who said the researchers "may well have crossed the line between policy analysis and policy advocacy."

As for the other research I mention, I never implied that it was skewed toward a certain result. Rather, I point out that funding from industry can tamp down dissent in an academic setting—which is most certainly true. For Penn State to pretend that the source of its funding has absolutely no bearing on how researchers do their work, on what they choose to investigate, or on how certain topics get publicly debated, is disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst.