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. "