Monday, September 28, 2009

VPR Newsroom Visitors

Although VPR's news team has grown exponentially since 2001, the VPR newsroom remains one of the least-traveled parts of our main studios here in Colchester. Located upstairs from the rest of VPR's offices, it's not part of the main tour and even out of the way for most other staffers, although though we're always told we're welcome upstairs anytime. The Vermont Edition crew has even thrown parties (complete with invitations and snacks!) in order to lure colleagues to check out the space.

Today, however, we were thrilled to welcome a journalism class from Mount Mansfield Union High School for a tour of VPR, including the seldom-seen but always-heard newsroom. News Editor Ross Sneyd answered questions about news and radio from these future journalists, and they got a glimpse of the kind of place they might work someday.




Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Moth Radio Hour - More to Come!

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.
— Robert McKee, author of Story

Stories are the essence of public radio, whether it’s a news story that connects us with an American soldier on patrol, a funny story about automobiles and relationships on Car Talk, or a compelling narrative on This American Life.
For the past five Saturdays, VPR has broadcast The Moth Radio Hour – people telling their stories with no script and no props. The power of storytelling has brought laughter, tears, and driveway moments to VPR listeners throughout the region. Here is a sampling of the emails we’ve received:
I am crazy about your new show The Moth… I am always amazed at how brave and clever each storyteller seems... I have found myself really deeply connecting with these brave souls through radio – just my ear and their voice. - Allie Clark Leicester
I was on my way to the grocery store, listening to VPR, and heard a story about a father who was Instant Messaging with his son, and didn't realize that "lol" meant "laughing out loud," not "lots of love." I got to the store and sat in my car in the parking lot for a few minutes to hear the end of the segment. Turns out I was listening to New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik on the Moth Radio Hour. What a great story! Please keep this program on the air. - Cathy Resmer, Winooski
I am so pleased that you are broadcasting The Moth Radio Show. I am a long term contributor and this kind of radio show is exactly the reason why I continue to contribute. I know of no other radio station that puts on this kind of entertainment. - Mary Judy Hurd, Newport Center
I have enjoyed, laughed and cried listening to the series, and am sorry to see that it apparently is only a five episode set, so this Saturday will be the last? I hope you will consider making it a part of your regular schedule. - Barbara Lawson, Champlain New York
So what is the future of The Moth Radio Hour? VPR will rebroadcast The Moth Radio Hour pilot series this winter (dates and times TBA). I can also tell you that there are plans to produce at least 10 more episodes in 2010. We hope The Moth becomes a weekly radio program. (In the meantime, you can subscribe to The Moth podcast of individual stories)

The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Jay Allison, award winning producer of the public radio series This I Believe. Listener support makes programs like this possible. Thanks for listening and letting us know what you think about The Moth.

Franny Bastian
Senior Producer

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inside Vermont Reads

VPR Commentary Producer Betty Smith offered these reflections about producing Vermont Reads on VPR:

Producing a broadcast project based on When The Emperor Was Divine has been a fascinating experience. To begin with, the book is beautifully written and brings alive a significant but little known episode in our history. And it's quite easy to see how the human rights issues it raises relate to current, post-9/11 events.

What was less clear at the outset was any direct connection to our particular region. After all, the internment of ethnic Japanese occurred almost exclusively on the West Coast. But once we began to research the topic within our own community, it didn't take us long to discover people and events that very effectively bring the story home. The amount of work involved in conducting that kind of research and follow-up has been considerable but the results have been extremely satisfying.

You can listen to VPR's 2009 Vermont Reads series online.

PrEview: Apple Picking, Ira Glass at the Flynn, The End of Food

PrEview is VPR's bi-weekly e-newsletter. Here's the September 23 edition. Sign up to receive prEview here.

Regarding the bushel of apples I accidentally picked on Sunday, I can only plead weather-induced insanity. I couldn’t help myself. Clusters of perfect apples clung to almost every branch of every tree, more than I’ve ever seen in my life...and I’ve lived on an orchard! They came loose with just the slightest twist, so easily that I quickly filled one bag, then another. If I had more than two arms I would have kept going, wandering the orchard for hours. Maybe next time I’ll bring a backpack.

There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to apples – or public radio! That’s why prEview is here to help you plan your listening. In this edition, Governor Jim Douglas speaks to the National Press Club, and we celebrate the 100th birthday of Vermont classical music legend Blanche Moyse. Plus, in VPR Cooks, a myriad ways to use up a bounty of apples....not that I know anything about that.

Michelle Jeffery

PS: Tickets are still available to see This American Life Host Ira Glass at Burlington’s Flynn Center this Saturday, September 26. Ticket information is available here!

Governor Douglas Addresses the National Press Club
Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, Chair of the National Governors Association, addressed the National Press Club last week about the role of states in national health club reform. Listen to the address online here.

Paul Roberts: The End of Food
Paul Roberts, author of "The End of Oil" and "The End of Food," says our food production system has become more efficient in the past century, but that efficiency has its costs. Roberts recently spoke at the University of Vermont about the food system's shortcomings and what you can do to make it more sustainable. Listen to the lecture online.

Vermont Reads: When the Emperor Was Divine
Listen to Morning Edition throughout the week as we explore the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II through the book When the Emperor was Divine, by Julie Otsuka. The series is part of the Vermont Humanities Council’s annual Vermont Reads project.

Blanche Moyse Centennial Celebration
Join us all day today in celebrating the 100th birthday of Blanche Honegger Moyse. She founded the Brattleboro Music Center, which she directed for many years, the New England Bach Festival, and was among the founders of the Marlboro Music Festival. We’ll feature special programming throughout the day, including performances from the New England Bach Festival.

Celebrating Erich Kunzel
When longtime Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel died on September 1, he left behind a simple wish: he wanted to be remembered by having his recordings played around the country. Listen tomorrow, September 24 at 8 p.m. for a special In Concert tribute to Erich Kunzel, featuring remembrances from many of Kunzel's friends and colleagues.

VPR Cooks: Apple Picking
Let’s face it: apple picking isn’t really about picking apples. They’re simply a byproduct of the experience: climbing trees, taste-testing, reaching for one apple and getting bonked on the head by two more, trying to keep from stepping in the mushy remains of the drops. And that’s not even to mention the cider donuts. A proper outing like this yields far more apples than you can reasonably use, which is why I’ve collected several of VPR staff’s favorite apple recipes here. And please, send along your favorite apple recipe and we’ll post it online.

Travel to Costa Rica with VPR
You’re invited on magnificent adventure to Costa Rica with VPR. We’ll ride a zip line above the cloud forests and look down on troops of monkeys and rainbow-colored birds. We’ll see scarlet macaws and walk through jungles haunted by jaguars and ocelots and along the most productive sea turtle nesting beach in the world. Learn more and download an itinerary here.

VPR Community Forum Meeting
Vermont Public Radio's Community Forum will meet next Friday, October 2 at the Conference Center at the NewsBank Corporation in Chester. Community Forum members regularly consider VPR's mission and programs. Meetings of the forum are open to the public - if you would like to attend please let us know by calling 1-800-639-2192.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Moving our 107.9 Transmitter

We'll be moving our WVPS 107.9 transmitter on Mount Mansfield in the coming weeks. Below, VPR's Director of Engineering Rich Parker explains what has gone into this project - and what you can expect during and after the project is completed:

"We are reaching the final stages of our long term project to move our WVPS 107.9 transmitter and equipment from its previous location in the Vermont Public Television building to a newly constructed facility where the WCAX-TV building used to be. This new facility, a major project of the Mount Mansfield Colocation Association (MMCA, a collaboration of TV and Radio broadcasters on Mt. Mansfield), will be the new permanent home for WVPS.

The preparation and execution of the final move of the transmission equipment will be taking place over the next several weeks. WVPS will go to low power for up to two days this week while engineers start work on the shared transmission lines at the new site. This is the portion near the base of the tower on top of Mount Mansfield.

After that is completed, we will go back up to full power until the end of September, when WVPS goes to low power again for two more days to allow for completion of transmission line work inside the building where the transmitter will be located.

At that point, we will switch to a new, higher-power backup transmitter which will be approximately three times as powerful as the previous low-power backup. WVPS will stay on that new backup transmitter, located at the new transmitter site, for up to ten more days while crews disassemble and move VPR's high powered transmitter down to its new location in the MMCA building.

During the periods of low power operation, some listeners located far from Mt. Mansfield may experience a loss or degradation of signal - more so during the initial low power phases, and somewhat less during the final low power stage (on the new, more powerful backup).

If everything goes as planned, and there are no unexpected delays due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, we expect WVPS to be returned to full power at it's brand new location on Friday, October 9.

This is the culmination of over ten years of work and planning in coordination with the other broadcasters on Mt. Mansfield. With the need for the TV stations to transition to Digital (DTV), there was a need for an entirely new configuration of towers, buildings, and other facilities
atop Mt. Mansfield. Once this work is completed, WVPS will be in a new building, with excellent heating, cooling, and clean air for the transmitters, and two large powerful generators which supply emergency backup power to the entire facility.

Thank you for your patience as we complete this final stage of a very extensive and complex project - but the results will be a much better home for WVPS for years to come."

For more information about the history and scope the colocation project on Mount Mansfield, click here.

North/South, East/West

There's classical music, and then there's classical music.

For every Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach lighting the way and establishing the traditions and standards of Western classical music, there are centuries of composers and artists whose contributions have shaped the equally rich traditions of Eastern classical music.

<--(Bhattacharya playing the 22-string chaturangui, a hybrid instrument of his own creation)

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the modern masters (the honorary Indian title of "Pandit" means "master") of Indian classical music, not only upholding the traditions of the style but blazing a new path as well through his creation of new instruments on which to play the music.

I had the special opportunity to hear him perform yesterday afternoon at the UVM recital hall with his equally talented brother, tabla master Subhasis Bhattcharya. Their appearance was sponsored by UVM's Friends of Indian Music and Dance, and it marked the opening concert on the brothers’ tour in support of their new (third) recording, O Shakuntala!.

Pandit Bhattacharya is best known for the blistering slide guitar technique he's been developing since childhood, and his ability to make the instrument "sing" like the human voices prominent in the Carnatic style of Southern Indian classical music. But the best part is, he infuses this 'vocal' sound into the purely instrumental raga form that characterizes the Northern (Hindustani) classical tradition. The resulting new North/South stylistic combination is incredibly compelling, in the same way his instruments seamlessly hybridize the very best qualities of two separate instruments.

For an extra treat Bhattacharya concluded the recital with a single offering from another of his personally-designed instruments, the 4-stringed anandi. It's a "slide-ukulele", which he described aptly as the instrument that brings Hawaiian and Indian music together.

After the ferocity and virtuosity of the recital's earlier offerings the evening ended rather introspectively, with the last warm glow of the sunset fading away through the recital hall windows and the soulful, lyrical voice of the anandi sending the audience off quietly into the night.

<--(tabla artist Subhasis Bhattacharya)

If there's a better way to spend an early autumn evening, I can't begin to imagine it.

Another Indian classical concert of note coming to the area: Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka Shankar, at the Hopkins Center on Tue. October 20th at 7pm. I already have my tickets - hope to see you there!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Signs of Fall

We set out for this morning's excursion to the park bundled in hooded sweatshirts and clutching steaming mugs of coffee. Parker (at left) didn't seem to mind the drizzle, and neither did I. Back at the ranch, only oatmeal for breakfast would do! Fall is definitely on its way - dreary and chilly or crisp and sunny, it doesn't matter - I am in love with this time of year.

The transition from summer to fall is one of the most transcendent parts of life in Vermont. VPR listeners have been sharing their signs of fall around our region. Whether it’s chilly mornings, changing leaves, or that first time you pull out your cozy wool socks, let us know your own observations online, and read the latest from your neighbors. You might even hear your signs of fall during an Eye on the Sky forecast!

VPR's Music Director Cheryl Willoughby is an avid photographer. Check out some of her fall photos here!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Moth is Flying

We have been getting great feedback from listeners about The Moth Radio Hour, which has been airing Saturday afternoons at 4 p.m. A sampling of emails we've received:

"The readers are so touching, so real. I've laughed and I've cried listening to their stories."

"Please keep the Moth going! It's simply amazing and it touches me so deeply. Thanks for getting it out there."

"I can tell already that this will be right up there with This American Life - one of my VPR top favorites!"

We're right there with you. In fact, I've taken to listening to the show while running, and I've had to stop multiple times - sometimes because I was laughing hysterically, and others because I was sobbing.

Along with this high praise we've been getting requests to continue airing The Moth Radio Hour on a weekly basis. And we’re right there with you. What you're hearing on Saturdays this month is a five-part 'pilot' series produced by Jay Allison, who also produces StoryCorps. A number of public radio stations around the country are experiencing similar enthusiastic response. With only five hour-long episodes available right now, this series will conclude on September 26. However, right now Jay says he plans to produce 10 new episodes in 2010, with a long-term goal of making The Moth Radio Hour a weekly program.

If you need a fix in the meantime, we hope you’ll subscribe to the weekly podcast of The Moth. Several of us here at VPR have been listening to it for years. And thanks as always for your feedback!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Vermont High School Football on NPR

The Mount Saint Joseph football team was featured on NPR's All Things Considered Friday afternoon. A small school with a strong team that has won 15 State Championships since 1960. The story is about MSJ's determination to remain in Division I. In case you missed it - listen here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Word(s) of the Day

One of the occupational hazards of public radio career is that you gain an overdeveloped appreciation for the way words sound. At least once a day I hear a word that I say over and over again, rolling it around in my mouth, sliding it into conversation whenever possible.

Yesterday before Vermont Edition, Ric Cengeri and I got into a discussion about the word "reconnoiter" (v., to make a reconnaissance), a word he loves so much he tried to take the "re" off and use "connoiter" as well, even though it's not a word.

I countered with my very favorite word, "kerfuffle" (n., disorder, commotion), and spent the next hour struggling to remember my other favorite, "misanthropic" (adj., of or pertaining to a misanthrope, one who hates or mistrusts humankind).

When news editor Ross Sneyd came in the studio with the script for the noon newscast, we asked him his favorite word. He couldn't pick just one right away, but we all agreed that "Ahmadinejad" (as in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) was probably the most audiably interesting name in the news today.

That launched a whole other conversation about words that are fun to say yet a bear to spell, such as "gubernatorial" and "inaugural."

Later in the afternoon, Ross sends me an email: "'Fulminate' (v., to explode with a loud noise; detonate). I just realized I've been fulminating all day on my favorite words. I kinda like that one!"

Later, I sent back: "I LOVE the word 'amok' (n., a psychic disturbance characterized by depression followed by a manic urge to murder). Amok, amok, amok...."

And this morning, from Ross: "'Stochastic' (adj., of or pertaining to a process involving a randomly determined sequence of observations each of which is considered as a sample of one element from a probability distribution). Just learned it during an interview with a scientist. Stochastic. It's just fun to say. Stochastic."