Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Neal Charnoff complements All Things Consdered with his love of music.

All Things Considered host Neal Charnoff was VPR's jazz host and always has a stack of CDs on his desk. His music 'buttons' in between the stories on All Things Considered often have a humorous angle....

"I love being able to connect the music to the story, either thematically, or literally. Sometimes the connection is subtle, sometimes more obvious. I trust public radio listeners to pick up on the connection, without me having to spell it out.

For example, during the election, I would occasionally use an instrumental version of Tears For Fears "Everybody Wants To Rule the World". Of course not everyone knows that song, but I felt enough people would recognize it to get the joke.

Another example is a story Steve Zind did on turkey calling. Jazzman Clark Terry is fond off scat-singing gibberish, and it sounds a bit like turkey calling, so it was a funny way to come out of the story.

Of course it's important to gauge the tone of the stories or commentaries you'll be coming out of. I try to keep a library of music that would fit any occasion, sad or happy. Commentator Mike Martin often writes about French issues, so I have some accordian music to go with his essays. For Willem Lange, I tend to go with folksy guitar music.

Sometimes it's a communal effort. If we have a story about trains, we'll run around the building asking people what their favorite train songs are.

We're always on a deadline, and I don't always find the right piece of music in time. But when the process works, it really adds a dimension to our news stories. I think the connection between music and story-telling is part of what makes the public radio experience so satisfying. "

Neal Charnoff

Morning Edition Host Mitch Wertlieb reveals his inspiration for musical moments

Every day, VPR receives at least one email that reads something like this, "Right before 8 o'clock this morning, I heard this great piece of music. Can you tell me what that was?" Morning Edition Host Mitch Wertlieb explains...

"I have no shame admitting that my origins in radio stem from a stint as a late-night DJ for my college radio station, and to this day I have a real passion for all kinds of music. As a journalist and Morning Edition host, I don’t think my passions for news and music must always be mutually exclusive. When I look at the stories, interviews, and commentaries we have coming up on Morning Edition each day, a little trigger will sometimes go off, and that DJ voice inside my head says “Hey, wouldn’t this or that song be a nice complement coming out of this story?”

I remember one of our commentators once voicing a thoughtful essay about how important it is for hikers to remember that sedge grass on some of Vermont’s mountaintops is very sensitive and vulnerable to being trampled on by less-than-aware visitors, so following that piece I played a snippet of the Elvis Costello song “You Better Watch Your Step.”

Many other times I try to weave some appropriate acoustic guitar music or a contemplative jazz piece after a story to enhance and reflect on the meaning of what we’ve just heard. But most of the time, for the local breaks in the show I just like to play bits of some of my favorite music. It’s the same as the music I listen to at home or on long road trips in the car.

This has led to a very pleasant outpouring of correspondence from listeners who share my love for the music of the late great Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, as well as music by Vermont’s own Phish, Guagua, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. You’re also likely to hear a healthy dose of jazz by McCoy Tyner, and funk by bands like Soulive and The Meters.

The news can often be difficult to take, and sometimes music—even in brief excerpts—can provide a kind of respite to remind us of one of the great joys of life that’s universally shared. I’m grateful that VPR allows me the opportunity to express my musical tastes, and that so many VPR listeners have responded and shared their own as well."

Mitch Wertlieb

NPR's new CEO and new building initiative

I've just concluded my final set of meetings after 7 years as a member of the NPR Board of Directors, and wanted to share my impressions on two major initiatives underway. The first is the recent announcement of the selection of a new President and CEO - a top priority for any board. Vivian Schiller (right), currently Senior Vice President and General Manager at the NY Times.com, was hired by the Board on Nov. 11. (Story and photo from NPR here and an article from the Washington Post here; picture courtesy of NPR).

She's leaving the Times in December, and will start at NPR on January 5th, taking over for Dennis Haarsager, who has been interim CEO since last March. Vivian has some Vermont connections - she completed her Masters degree at Middlebury from 1983-85 in Russian language - so we're eager to have her come back to the state and visit VPR as an NPR member station.

The Board's committee made a thorough and very rigorous search with a wonderful team from SpencerStuart, and we had a large number of highly qualified candidates for the job, which speaks to the leadership role that NPR now has in US journalism and broadcasting, and the future that we have in new media and online.

My early personal impressions of Vivian Schiller are extremely positive - a great communicator, solid journalistic and media credentials, and keen understanding of the role that we have in our communities. She's going to be a champion for stations, I believe, and for the mission of NPR in this country. In my short visits with her I was taken with her solid, humble approach to the work, and good interpersonal skills. Is she perfect? Of course not... there is no major gift fundraising experience on a national scale, and this is her first CEO position in a public service organization. But my prediction - she'll shine in this role!

The other NPR initiative is the new building project. NPR staff and board have been working hard for two years (and more) on planning for moving out of 635 Mass. Ave, and into something new. The cost of keeping our current headquarters for the future is not really feasible with over 800 employees, and with that rational, have been investigating properties in the DC region. In the last year, we purchased a piece of land north of the Capitol and Union Station, and that property will be developed into the new home of NPR by 2013. The Board has a very strong architectural and development team, and some exciting preliminary designs.

Also from the national desk, the difficult economic situation is affecting NPR for this fiscal year, with a decline in national underwriting, and fewer dollars from investments. As a result, the Board has been advised that NPR will significantly reduce revenue projections for '09, and work to manage the finances appropriately while protecting and focusing on essential news gathering and the core mission of NPR for the future. I think there will be some difficult decisions ahead for NPR.

Here at Vermont Public Radio, we have some of the same concerns about the weakening economy, and the decline in underwriting. In future posts, I'll have more on the revenue and expense portions of VPR's budget, but for now, it's worthwhile to remind you that during this Thanksgiving time, we have much to be thankful for, including a completed endowment campaign, a solid base of support in our membership, and the important work that all the good folks at VPR are doing to advance the work of public radio in our communities!

Mark Vogelzang
President and GM
Vermont Public Radio

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Telling the Farm Family Story

Coaxing a long line of slow-moving cows down their path, pitching hay near the roof beams of an old barn on a blistering summer day until your nostrils fill with dust, smelling the distant sweet odor of corn silage on a September afternoon, feeling the breeze off a long field of grass... those are just a few memories that generations of farm families share almost instinctively.

From those few images spring many others for those who haven't grown up on farms... pasture views, long expanses of land that people imagine being perfect for a house site, cows in a meadow, turkeys amid the stubble of a corn field, and crooked picturesque barns that keep standing despite a lack of attention.

The people behind the sounds and sights that make up the agricultural landscape in the Northeast Kingdom are the topic of this week’s Farm Families documentary series here at VPR. You might have thought that the story of agriculture in Vermont has been told. Not so, though, especially in this part of Caledonia County.

Charlotte Albright spent months visiting and getting to know the people who live on six multi-generational farms to explore just how the future of agriculture hangs in the balance. In this series, she touched the past, the present and, in some ways, the future.

There are many ways into this series. The stories air during Morning Edition at 7:50am and during All Things Considered at 4:50pm. Or you can listen online or read the text. The stories are sound-rich portraits that characterize the farm family dilemma from various points of view.

But don't miss the online audio slideshow. You can hear the behind-the-scenes narrative of how the project came together and see Herb Swanson's photos of the farm families who were interviewed.

Or maybe this entry brings to mind a story of your own. Tell us online; we’ll post your own farm family story or essay.

By telling these stories, VPR hopes to help you to find your own connection to the family farm and to examine how its preservation or disappearance affects you.

John Van Hoesen
VPR Vice President for News

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Timelessness of Great Music

Yesterday morning the buzz started early. As our music guests arrived and began warming up in the performance studio, word made its way around quickly and very soon a cluster of staff began gathering outside the studio to make some visual connection with the glorious sound leaking out. It was obvious we were in for a very special experience. The performers were "Asteria"; soprano Sylvia Rhyne and her partner, tenor/lutenist Eric Redlinger. They went on the air at 11 with Walter Parker, and for the next hour they shared timeless songs of human expression, about love, and yearning, and life destiny. And for just that hour, the clock melted away completely, the walls around the performance studio disappeared, and the music transported us to a place far away from our 21st century world. That's the power of music.

Again I find myself so grateful to our generous listeners for making these unforgettable experiences possible! Thank you! [You can revisit yesterday's performance here:
Asteria Live on VPR]

- Cheryl Willoughby

Friday, November 14, 2008

Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey - Remembering Carruth

I came to Hayden Carruth in the same way many people probably have: a friend shared with me Carruth's cantankerously hilarious Regarding Chainsaws” , and that was it. (Who knew a poem could be written about something like that? "The first chainsaw I owned was years ago, an old yellow McCulloch that wouldn't start....") So it began. The poem itself, and, my love of Carruth's powerful ability to speak to the spirit of the people and everyday experiences of the rural life he lived. That was many years before I found out I would be living here. Carruth came to Burlington for a reading in the autumn of 2004, very soon after I had moved to Vermont. Attending his reading was my first social outing as a ‘new’ Vermonter. (Though of course the first rule of BEING a Vermonter is knowing there really isn’t such a thing as being a new one). Everything seemed to align as he took the stage on that cold afternoon. The auditorium filled with wool scarves and thick boots and plaid jackets and just the kind of fortified ‘North Winter’ atmosphere that permeates his poems. And, yes, he finished the reading with “Regarding Chainsaws” – he said it himself, how could he not?

Hayden Carruth died in September. This Sunday evening at 7:30 VPR offers a remembrance of the poet in a special project I’ve been very pleased to work on with a fellow Carruth fan, Betty Smith. I hope you’ll join the remembrance as we share a piece of supermarket pie, rev up the McCulloch, and raise a glass of whiskey in “A Tribute to Hayden Carruth”! [You can also listen at VPR.NET: Carruth Tribute ]

Cheryl Willoughby
VPR's Interim Director of Programming

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sunsets and Radio: Bringing Us Together

Who says November in Vermont is bleak and colorless? Probably no one who ever caught one of our signature stunning autumn sunsets! In a time when technology can occasionally work to isolate people it's comforting to be able to still have a shared human experience like a sunset that simply stops you in your tracks. Radio is like that too. Last evening's sunset pyrotechnics were followed by the Will Patton Gypsy Jazz Ensemble's red-hot performance at 8 on VPR. Could it get any better than this? [If you missed the show, you can listen here: Will Patton Live on VPR ]

Cheryl Willoughby
VPR Interim Director of Programming (and fan of great sunsets and swingin' gypsy jazz!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

VPR Vice President of News John Van Hoesen draws back the curtain on how Election Day plays out behind the scenes today at VPR

It’s exciting for us all to see months and months of news coverage come to a conclusion with the election. VPR's investment in public service has included many news stories, feature stories, interviews, Vermont Edition programs, special coverage with VPR debates, online news and features, slide shows, and commentaries. The candidates have been in our studios and the voters have been on our air.

So today, VPR news staffers are out with the voters and the candidates on the last day, pulling together the final pieces of information that will conclude our election coverage. Here's a sampler of what this looks like:

A nice feature story on elections past by Steve Zind started the day this morning, adding a warm touch to the importance of voting. Right now, eight reporters are gathering audio from voters all over the state that we will use in the course of the day and tonight during our special coverage. Listen for our Election Day update at (Bennington started voting at 5 a.m.) and on Vermont Edition, Jane discusses voting rules and laws (a neutral topic for this day) and we'll have a nice piece on preparations at the polling place. We'll follow-up again in the evening newscast.

Then we'll be ready for our live coverage at 7 p.m. Veteran journalist Steve Delaney will be our host tonight during the hour and he'll be joined by Hamilton Davis, a former editor of the Free Press, who has also covered national politics. He is also known for an investigative series on Vermont's health care system that aired on WCAX. Steve will guide us through the night with the first hour at 7. And then VPR will join NPR's special coverage for the evening, through 3 a.m. VPR will be back through the night at 20 after and 50 after the hour with election updates. And we'll be taking listener calls.

You'll hear Steve speak to Bob Kinzel, who will be covering the Republican side of the election. Bob will be live from the Capitol Plaza hotel in Montpelier. Bob will capture speeches by Governor Douglas, Lt. Gov. Dubie and others as they occur.

John Dillon will be at the Democratic headquarters in downtown Burlington. John is hoping to get a few moments with Sen. Leahy if possible. If the Democrats are in the White House and there are more Democrats in the Senate, Leahy's future will be a big story. You’ll also hear from Gaye Symington and Peter Welch.

Steve Zind will be with the independents today, where Anthony Pollina will be a big story. Nina Keck will be reporting from VPR's new studio at PEG-TV, the public access channel in Rutland's Howe Center.

During the night, we'll be looking at the results of six bellwether towns that VPR has analyzed over past years because they mirror the statewide election results. Those towns are Bolton, Bethel, Randolph, Cambridge, Jericho and Bristol. Lynne McCrea has been working with volunteers to make sure we can get those results in as soon as possible. We are aware, though, that if clerks have to count a lot of ballots manually, it could be a longer than usual night.

You might wonder where we get our primary numbers for election night. We are using the AP Vote Count system, which is an online system that updates town-by-town numbers for all the Vermont towns and cities in the races for president, Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, auditor of accounts, state House seats, and state Senate seats.

Several computers are set up here in Election Central at VPR’s Colchester studios. It serves as a funnel of information to Steve on the air – and to VPR.net. Check out our special online election pages with results, tape, and photos. Check out our great online look!! Plus, we have the wonderful NPR election map!

VPR’s Vermont Edition producer, Patti Daniels will be in master control for the night coordinating the many aspects of the on-air results. Ross Sneyd will coordinating our behind the scenes election gathering and looking for the right moment to get one of our reporters live on the air. (Patti and Ross have been working for quite a few weeks on many of these behind the scenes details.)

Then, after this is all over, we have a whole set of election stories and audio to get ready for Wednesday morning! We usually finish up somewhere between midnight and the early hours of the morning.

MitchWertlieb and Morning Edition producer Melody Bodette will pepper the the morning with results, starting at 6 a.m. You'll hear all the news stories during the newscasts. Plus, we are trying to have an interview with the governor-elect first thing in the morning!

There are big races in New Hampshire and New York, which we will hear about in the course of the election coverage as well.

When Vermont Edition rolls around again tomorrow at noon, we will review all the results and discuss what it all means. We'll discuss the presidential results, the US Senate results, and the Vermont results. This show is still being planned and we'll be going with the flow to some degree depending on the outcomes.

Thanks to to everyone here at VPR for even more behind the scenes work to get this important news coverage on the air.

Have a great Election Day!

John Van Hoesen
Vice President of News

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Night 2008

Well, the 2008 election is finally upon us. It's a little hard to believe - after all, the 2008 campaign began more than 20 months ago.

Remember to vote tomorrow, and then stay tuned throughout the night to VPR and VPR.net for news and results you can trust, analysis that makes you think and meaningful discussion of the issues.

At 7, VPR's Steve Delaney hosts reports from around the region, with Hamilton Davis providing analysis. At 8 p.m., we'll join NPR's live coverage, with regional updates throughout the evening.

Visit Campaign '08 for Election Results and Analysis »