What The Story Wants — Wisdom From Ira Glass

A black and white photograph of Ira Glass

Famed NPR maestro Ira Glass made a commencement speech at the Columbia Journalism School Graduation. I found it rather buoying to hear he was 36 when he started This American Life… Presumably, it took a long time to develop the gap between his taste and creative goals.

Ira Glass’ advice on editing

Here’s my favourite bit on editing, which rings true for me: The story usually does have a life of its own!

Editing is crucial because in my experience anything you try to make – what YOU want is for the story to be AMAZING. But what the story wants to be is MEDIOCRE OR WORSE. And the entire process of making the story is convincing the story to not be what it wants to be, which is BAD.

— Ira Glass

Ira Glass’ advice on audio

And for broadcasters and podcasters, Glass suggests people become present in the material, urging people to “be in the tape”.

Cajoling, hondling, joking with, arguing with, interacting with your interviewees. It’s the single easiest way to make your stories better. Be in the tape. An interview properly done is a drama with two characters and not being in there as one of the characters is giving up one of your greatest powers. Don’t leave that power unused. Be in the tape. Don’t settle for less. Don’t do less than you can. Be in the tape.

— Ira Glass

If you’re interested in audio production, check out Transom, an incredible resource for radio tools and techniques.

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