Best of Contemporary Radio in 2007

Return to the radio listening page, or current picks

This page provided a quality radio program each week in 2007. A summary follows.

Week of 31 December 2006-6 January 2007:

"State of Comedy" from The Current on CBC Radio One

The Current has a tradition of having a different host on Fridays, and Matt Galloway, normally the host of Toronto's afternoon show "Here and Now," made quite a debut this week. Half hours on the environment and Bosnia were compelling, but the middle segment on comedy was simply exquisite, including an interview about the new CBC television comedy "Little Mosque on the Prairie," and a roundtable on stereotypes and comedy. The amount of profound one-liners over the course of this 24-minute section was simply amazing.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Current "State of Comedy"

Week of 7-13 January 2007:

"The Limits of Tolerance" from The Sunday Edition on CBC Radio One

It was another tough choice this week, but once more I have to give the nod to the CBC. The Sunday Edition has been one of my favorite shows since the days when it was called Sunday Morning, and host Michael Enright (that's the opposite of Enron, don't forget) consistently leads very interesting group discussions. This week, one topic was the state of multi-culturalism and its viability in the 21st century. The 25-minute segment featured insights from Paul Scheffer of the University of Amsterdam, Tina Beattie of Roehampton University in London, and John Bowen of Washington University in St. Louis.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Sunday Edition "The Limits of Tolerance"

Week of 14-20 January 2007:

"The Week in the News" on On Point from WBUR

This feature was created to highlight compelling moments in radio. Each week, "On Point," a talk show produced by WBUR in Boston that has earned a place here before, spends an hour reviewing the week's news with a variety of journalists--and taking calls from listeners. This week, which included Martin Luther King Junior's birthday and senate hearings in which Pat Leahy went off about the Maher Arar case, the discussion was going on rather unremarkably until more than three-quarters through the 48-minute program, a Muslim man called in to express his anger about what life in the United States had become for people of his religion. Both his call, in the context of the week, and the reaction to it for the rest of the show were thought-provoking, in the way that good radio should be.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of On Point "The Week in the News"

Week of 21-27 January 2007:

"A Century of Spin" on Spin Cycles, a special series on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One

The CBC started an excellent series of Sunday Morning programs looking at the concept of "spin" in politics and the media. In the first 51-minute episode, producer Ira Basen looked at the origins of spin, and found it in the history of public relations, focusing on Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee, known as the founders of public relations.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Spin Cycles "A Century of Spin"

Week of 28 January-3 February 2007:

"Private Property" on And Sometimes Y from CBC Radio One

CBC Radio One has brought back its excellent summer show on language and put it on the regular schedule, leading to a delightful half-hour each week. One might say that addressing the attempt by corporations to own language is an easy topic to take on, but Russell Smith and his crew raise interesting points. Furthermore, this 28-minute program describes how Tom Howell went from being the "Word Nerd" to the "Wordjolist," and the concluding remarks may be symbolic of the whole series.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of And Sometimes Y "Private Property" Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Week of 4-10 February 2007:

"American Jews and Israel" on On Point from WBUR

Civil debate can be hard to find in the United States, but WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook managed to bring together a range of different viewpoints on the ongoing topic of what constitutes anti-Semitism and what is acceptable debate with respect to Israel and kept it very constructive for the full 48 minutes. Amongst the guests were Alvin Rosenfeld, Shulamit Reinharz, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and Alan Wolfe.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of On Point "American Jews and Israel"

Week of 11-17 February 2007:

"Bugs and the Bulge" on Quirks and Quarks from CBC Radio One

Presenting science in a form that is useful to the public at large is a challenge not often well-done in the media, but a standout in that category is CBC Radio One's Quirks and Quarks, a weekly hour-long presentation of scientific material hosted by Bob McDonald. This week, in their opening 22 minute segment, McDonald interviewed researchers working on alternate mechansims that might be causing obesity, and then tried to bring it all into a context relevant to a general audience. It made for a nice bit of interview journalism.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Quirks and Quarks "Bugs and the Bulge"

Week of 18-24 February 2007:

"Katrina and the Insurance Tsunami" on Open Source from PRI

Open Source, which now bills itself as the "blog with its own radio show" has done a better job than most of the media in following up on the issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, in part because blogs have been a main source of information both in the immediate aftermath and in confronting the root causes and the future. Here's another classic example of Christopher Lydon and team looking at the issues in a way rarely heard elsewhere.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Open Source "Katrina and the Insurance Tsunami"

Week of 25 February-3 March 2007:

"Iranian-Canadian Detention" on As It Happens from CBC Radio One

Arguably the most significant story of the week was what became known about the family held in Puerto Rico by US authorities after their Toronto-bound flight made an emergency landing. The son is a Canadian citizen, born in Toronto, but his parents are Iranian. The conditions they have been held in are hard to describe as anything other than a prison, even though it officially is not. They managed to get a phone call through to the CBC, resulting in a compelling nine-minute segment of the first thirty-minute part of the flagship As It Happens program--a format that indeed is driven by phone interviews. This was undoubtedly the interview of the week.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of As It Happens "Iranian-Canadian Detention"

Follow-up: The Yourdkhani family was released and arrived in Canada on 21 March 2007. Listen to post-release interviews about the case from The Current on CBC Radio One

Follow-up: Listen to Texan Ralph Isenberg discuss conditions in such facilities on As It Happens with Carol Off

Week of 4-10 March 2007:

"Daylight Saving" on The Current from CBC Radio One

The topic of the week across North America was the early start of Daylight Saving Time. The best treatment I heard of the topic came from The Current on the CBC, led by guest host Elizabeth Gray, in a 22-minute segment covering both the advantages and disadvantages of the change. Amongst those interviewed were Ryan Kellogg of the University of California Energy Institute, Michael Downing of Tufts University, and Kevin Weedmark of The World-Spectator, a community newspaper in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, and starting--of course--with a classic piece of satire.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Current "Daylight Saving"

Week of 11-17 March 2007:

"Blackwater U.S.A." on The Current from CBC Radio One

The involvement of the private firm Blackwater U.S.A. as a source of merceneries, security, and other support to official U.S. government operations in theaters of warfare and disaster has been a story that has received surprisingly little attention from media. Author Jeremy Scahill is on a book tour for his attempt to shed more light on Blackwater, and in this 28-minute segment, host Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC's The Current gets Scahill to go in some different directions on the topic, including what Blackwater may mean in terms of the future form of government.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Current "Blackwater U.S.A."

Week of 18-24 March 2007:

"Free Will" on the The Current from CBC Radio One

Radio is capable of providing the audio equivalent of a scientific review article for a field of study. Producer Aaron Brindle essentially provided such a review on the topic of free will to host Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current. After listening, one can decide whether there was really any choice involved in taking my advice to sample the 24-minute segment.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Current "Free Will"

Week of 25-31 March 2007:

"Shakespeare and Power" on Open Source from PRI

Very few radio programs provide a level of discourse that leaves listeners wondering if they captured all the profundities expressed. I had this feelling after listening to the discussion of Shakespeare and power in a 53-minute episode of Open Source, with host Christopher Lydon and guests Stephen Greenblatt, Oliver Arnold, and Jim Fitzmorris delving into many different plays by the Bard and many potential applications.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Open Source "Shakespeare and Power"

Week of 1-7 April 2007:

"Human Rights" on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One

Perhaps Canadians spend too much time contemplating the issue, but I rarely tire of a good discussion of the state of human rights, especially when they seem to be getting less respect even in the supposedly-enlightened western nations. This 31-minute discussion on The Sunday Edition was led by guest host Christopher Thomas and featured Errol Mendes of the University of Ottawa Law School and Audrey Macklin of the University of Toronto Law School.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Sunday Edition "Human Rights"

Week of 8-14 April 2007:

"Dish and Diss in Public Discourse" on The Current from CBC Radio One

This was the week of Don Imus, whatever one thought of his comments or firing. Leave it to CBC's The Current to draw a parallel with the retirement of Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach and raise questions about the state of public discourse in this 21-minute segment guest hosted by Avi Lewis. As Lewis pointed out in the end, a good panel ends with the topic for the next one, as occured in this discussion.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Current "Dish and Diss in Public Discourse"

Week of 15-21 April 2007:

"Loud Donkey" on As It Happens from CBC Radio One

There was a lot of programming I could have cited this week, but one interview that may became a classic. Texas lawyer Gregory Shamoun was taken to court over the behavior of his donkey, prompting Shamoun, as CBC host Barbara Budd put it, to haul "his ass into the courtroom, and let Buddy speak for himself." This six-minute interview with host Carol Off at the end of this 24-minute segment was one of the most humorous in recent memory.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of As It Happens "Loud Donkey"

Follow up: Some of the letters in response to the interview were funny as well. Listen to the Talkback segment of As It Happens from 20-April-2007 at about the nine minute mark of this segment

Week of 22-28 April 2007:

"How's the Ride?" on The Conversation from KUOW

Remote broadcasts can lead to compelling live radio. Ross Reynolds of KUOW in Seattle is a master of keeping live call-in radio moving along from the studio during a daily hour-long show "The Conversation" with the assistance of producer Jeanne Yandel. On Friday, the show was taken aboard a Metro bus while talking about riding public transit. Callers made some interesting and unique points as well as the more common comments, making the show interesting for a broader audience than its intended one in Seattle.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Conversation "How's The Ride?"

Week of 29 April-5 May 2007:

"Week #579" on Imagination Theater from Jim French Productions

Radio drama in the United States has almost become a lost art. Amazingly, one of the remaining stands of classic radio exists on commercial radio. Long time Seattle radio personality Jim French continues to produce an hour of radio drama each week. Recent week #579 was especially entertaining, with an episode of their signature series The Adventures of Harry Nile and a historically-based drama based on World War II, Home is the Hunter.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Imagination Theater "Week #579"

Week of 6-12 May 2007:

"Are Broadcast TV and Newspapers Dying?" on The Conversation from KUOW

It's a topic that is hardly new and has a potential to be self-serving to the radio medium or just plain boring, but KUOW's Ross Reynolds used the idea that broadcast TV and newspapers are dying to showcase just how good a call-in show can be. In his normal conversational style, Reynolds incorporated a strong local tie-in (Bill Gates), producer Jeanne Yandel garnered both command and unusual comments (in particular about newspapers) from callers, and the combined effect was an extremely listenable hour.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Conversation "Are Broadcast TV and Newspapers Dying?"

Week of 13-19 May 2007:

"Richard Dawkins" on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One

The Sunday Edition last week was a reminder why this show has gotten accolades over the years. Starting with a strong commentary by veteran host Michael Enright, it featured a long-form interview with atheist Richard Dawkins, a long-form interview with Canadian novelist Jane Urquhart, an informative panel discussion on the use of soft power in international politics, and even a discussion of digital versus analog photography. Really that whole mix stood out in my radio week, but it was headlined by the Dawkins interview, which was one of the better ones I've heard on his present book tour.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Sunday Edition "Richard Dawkins"

Week of 20-26 May 2007:

"Riddled with Life" on Quirks and Quarks from CBC Radio One

Quirks and Quarks has had a run of interesting scientific stories of late, including a great lead on neuroscience and the law last week. This week, the lead was a different perspective on parasites, featuring an interview with Dr. Marlene Zuk, who believes that parasites have been essential to the evolution of the human species and even national personalities. As always, host Bob McDonald finds a way to make it understandable to a layperson.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Quirks and Quarks "Riddled with Life"

Week of 27 May-2 June 2007:

"Hurricane Hunters" on the The Story from North Carolina Public Radio

I've been a fan of Dick Gordon since his days as a correspondent for CBC Radio and was pleased to be able to listen to him during his run as host of The Connection out of Boston. He is probably best suited to his current role, the host of "The Story" on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio, a show focused on helping people tell compelling stories on the radio. A particularly interesting recent 51-minute segment featured Jeff Masters describing his experience of flying into the eye of a hurricane.

Listen to streaming MP3 of The Story "Hurricane Hunters"

Week of 3-9 June 2007:

"The Ethics of Technology in the 'Flat World'" on Midday from Minnesota Public Radio

I happened to be passing through Minneapolis to hear Minnesota Public Radio's broadcast of a forum from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on the Midday show. The panel, featuring "60 Minutes" founder Don Hewitt, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offered a variety of insights in this 54-minute show, some of which are still being processed in my mind nearly a week later.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of Midday "The Ethics of Technology in the 'Flat World'"

Week of 10-16 June 2007:

"The Humor of Philosophy" on On Point from WBUR

With its mostly oral nature, comedy would seem to have a greater home on the radio than it does. Combining humor with education--that's a real rarity, but one that was managed by On Point when interviewing Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, the authors of a book called "Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar." They managed to educate and entertain for a 48-minute program.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of On Point "The Humor of Philosophy"

Week of 17-23 June 2007:

"Ralph Nader" on Open Source from PRI

I realize that ultimately it was a book tour interview, but Christopher Lydon and the Open Source team went out of their way to try to bring out Ralph Nader's personality in a show this week, and it worked. One comes away from the interview with a greater understanding of how Nader was raised and how it may have resulted in many of the public acts seen by the nation in the past few decades. I found the 52-minute program to be a great example of how an interview show can add humanity to a topic--and this one might even provide some parenting ideas!

Listen to streaming MP3 of Open Source "Ralph Nader"

Week of 24-30 June 2007:

"On Endings" on Open Source from PRI

We've lost it. Open Source, a frequent source of entries on this list including just last week, has ceased production because of financial woes. The 52-minute last show was not only a good example of how to do a last show with class (an opportunity not given Lydon on The Connection), but also was classic Christopher Lydon and Mary McGrath--interesting guests, thorough coverage of the topic at hand, and references to high culture (and just plain culture) throughout. In a week that also saw the discovery of the body of Seattle talk show host Mike Webb, we can only hope that the Open Source ending can at least lead to a new beginning someday.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Open Source "On Endings"

Week of 1-7 July 2007:

"Politics Takes a Holiday, July 4th 2007 Edition" from the Capitol Steps

The Independence Day Holiday was this week in the United States, and amongst other things, that means another edition of the satire group The Capitols Steps' quarterly "Politics Takes a Holiday" radio special. This 29-minute special inevitably makes fun of everyone in Washington and the rest of the world; nobody is safe, making for a very amusing experience. Amongst the highlights were "T.B. on a Jet Plane", an Alberto Gonzales solo parody, and my personal favorite, Lirty Dies on Haris Pilton (you figure it out).

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Capitol Steps "Politics Takes A Holiday"

Week of 8-14 July 2007:

"Minorities Among the Multitudes" on Dispatches from CBC Radio One

The summer season on the CBC is always interesting, with special summer programs and guests hosts on year-round programs. On Dispatches, Asian correspondent Anthony Germain took the reins this week to present excellent documentaries on the plight of the Uighurs in China, Confucianism, and the state of Socialism in Hong Kong, all packed into the first 28-minute segment of the program.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of Dispatches "Minorities Among the Multitudes"

Week of 15-21 July 2007:

"Travel and Global Warming" on Feeling the Heat from CBC Radio One

One of the surprisingly unpromoted and underexposed (airing only once, Fridays at 09:30) summer shows on the CBC seems to be one of its best. "Feeling the Heat" with Ian Hanomansing each week tries to demystify some aspect of environmental awareness that is felt to be more important as a result of global warming. This week's episode, talking about the environmental aspects of travel, gave realistic explanations of things like carbon credits and the potential for different modes to improve in the future. Especially educated individuals might find it somewhat condescending, but I'm finding at least one feature each week to be quite enlightening.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Feeling the Heat "Travel and Global Warming"

Week of 22-28 July 2007:

"Evening News Shows" on On Point from WBUR

I probably stopped watching US evening commericial network newscasts for good when Bob Schieffer was taken off the CBS Evening News, but what's going on at the ABC, CBS, and NBC broadcasts is likely important to the future of television news in general. A discussion led by Jane Clayson with Ted Koppel and Judy Muller on the panel was likely to be substantive, and indeed this 48-minute program from On Point offered insights into the trends surrounding the evening news.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of On Point "Evening News Shows"

Week of 29 July - 4 August 2007:

"City Animals" on The Hidden City from CBC Radio One

While "White Coat, Black Art" has received the most critical acclaim, in my opinion the best of the CBC Radio summer shows this season is "The Hidden City" with Nick Purdon. The show explores obscure aspects of city living, from the amount of noise to whether people make eye contact. While my favorite so far was the second episode on the history of public washrooms, only this week's 28-minute show, on urban animals in the city (providing, amongst other things, a view of how pigeons have declined in public appreciation) has so far been made available for download. Enjoy, urbanistas!

Listen to streaming MP3 of The Hidden City "City Animals"

Week of 5-11 August 2007:

"Kerides the Thinker: Too Much Wine" on Imagination Theater from Jim French Productions

It's been awhile since I've cited a commercial program, and Jim French has given me a good reason to do so. The premier radio drama producer in the English-speaking world has come up with an excellent new series, Kerides the Thinker. Working contemporary humor into the historical Egyptian context, the series also features excellent character development, with the interplay between Kerides and Adria very compelling. The 50-minute program from the previous week featured the second episode of Kerides the Thinker, an interesting murder mystery, and also a quality show from French's archives with quite an unexpected ending, "Latent Image".

Listen to streaming MP3 of Imagination Theater "Kerides the Thinker: Too Much Wine"

Week of 12-18 August 2007:

"40th Anniversary" on the Gene Burns Program from KGO Newstalk 810

It's a near travesty that in nearly a year of making weekly picks that I have never cited a program on commerical station KGO in San Francisco. The station touts itself as "The World's Greatest Talk Radio Station" and I would say only the BBC's Five Live also has a claim on the title. This week, one of the station's many exceptional hosts, Gene Burns, reached his 40th anniversary in _talk_ radio. He's lasted this long, on stations as prestigious as KGO, for a reason, and that's because he does excellent radio. The anniversary show was not his typical show, but the audio mashups of past Burns shows and the coverage of a radio legend's career make this 66-minute podcast a worthwhile listen. May you continue to enjoy your job, Master Burns!

Listen to streaming MP3 of the Gene Burns Program "40th Anniversary"

Week of 19-25 August 2007:

"A Close Shave" on All the Rage from CBC Radio One

A highlight of CBC summer programming has been "All the Rage" with Barenaked Ladies band member Steven Page. The charter of the show was to look at fads and trends of the past and discover what caused them. This week's 28-minute show on hairstyles was typical, with Page using his connections and talking to Jason Priestly about sideburns in the 90's. It's an appropriately light show for the summer that still gives the intellectual something to learn--and who could resist a show with "It's All Been Done" as its theme music?

Listen to streaming MP3 of All the Rage "A Close Shave"

Week of 26 August-1 September 2007:

"Wired Medicine" on White Coat, Black Art from CBC Radio One

As the summer season on the CBC comes to an end, I would be remiss if I neglected to include "White Coat, Black Art" on this list. Well-promoted as "medicine from the other side of the guerney", this show hosted by Dr. Brian Goldman lived up to its promise, providing an interesting and often entertaining look at the state of medicine in Canada. In the final 28-minute episode, he looked at how popular technology was influencing medicine, including analogies between surgery and video games and what surgeons listen to on their iPods. Previous shows had covered such topics as waiting for appointments, difficult patients, and medical errors. This was a classic example of a summer series that worked, and I will miss it (and The Hidden City, and Feeling the Heat).

Listen to White Coat, Black Art "Surgery and Video Games" (5-minute excerpt), listen to White Coat, Black Art "Auditioning the Patient"(full show)

Week of 2-8 September 2007:

"International Censorship" on Search Engine from CBC Radio One

The CBC summer shows may be over, but the regular schedule for the fall includes some promising entries. The debut show of "Search Engine," on the influence of the Internet on the world, was especially interesting. In this 28-minute show, host Jesse Brown covered censorship of the Internet in China, cracking of a content blocker in Australia, and even included archive audio of Fred Rogers testifying before Congress. This was a good debut of a specialty show!

Listen to streaming MP3 of Search Engine "International Censorship"

Week of 9-15 September 2007:

"Mixed Blessings" on The Current from CBC Radio One

The CBC has taken a look at the status of multi-racial individuals in Canada, including a four-part series on The Current this week called "Mixed Blessings." In the first 23-minute segment, host Anna-Maria Tremonti explored the changes in the perception of people without a singular identity in society in the past generation, and explored the concept of fluid identity. This was a good example of well-produced topical radio on a non-breaking story.

Listen to streaming MP3 of The Current "Mixed Blessings"

Week of 16-22 September 2007:

"What Matters in Iraq" on Face the Nation from CBS News

Face the Nation is a television program, you say? True, but from day one (in 1954), the public affairs program has been simulcast on the radio, and when one grows up in a market in which the TV station ran the program in the middle of the night (half past midnight on KIRO-TV 7 in Seattle) but at a reasonable hour on the radio (9:30 at night on KIRO-AM once upon a time, and still on KCBS-AM in San Francisco), one starts to regard it first as a radio program. Since 1991, one of its primary attractions has been host Bob Schieffer, whose commentaries at the end of the program are often amazingly spot-on. (I will forever contend that CBS should never have taken him off the CBS Evening News when he had stabilized the broadcast after Dan Rather's departure.) While the program's faster pace than its hour-long brethen often makes it compelling enough, Schieffer guarantees that it will be a worthwhile listen. My all-time favorite was when he talked about grilled cheese sandwiches a Sunday after he had been sick, but this week's 22-minute show on Iraq ended with a topical gem.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Face the Nation "What Matters in Iraq"

Week of 23-29 September 2007:

"Gay Talk" on And Sometimes Y from CBC Radio One

This week, rather than focusing on the production values or topic of a show, I would like to point out an event on a radio show. In the course of a 28-minute show on whether and how language might be used differently by homosexuals, the CBC's And Sometimes Y host Jane Farrow mentioned that she is lesbian. This was obviously topical in light of the subject of the show, but I still would find it hard to believe that this could happen in the US. In Canada, it was almost unremarkable--if the mail printed on the show's web page is accurate, positive responses outnumbered negative ones about 10:1.

Listen to streaming MP3 of And Sometimes Y "Gay Talk"

Week of 30 September-6 October 2007:

"God and Country" on The Current from CBC Radio One

During public radio pledge drives in the US, the phenomenon of "driveway moments," or radio so good that one sits in the driveway still listening to a program, is often cited. I had the equivalent of a driveway moment when listening to a 28-minute third half-hour of The Current on Monday. Freelance producer Tina Pittaway interviewed Joshua Casteel, a devout Christian who was an interrogator at Abu Ghraib prision in Iraq, telling a story of how he engaged a detainee on the topic of religion in this very compelling documentary.

Listen to streaming RealAudio of The Current "God and Country"

Week of 7-13 October 2007:

"Early Christmas Shopping" on The Osgood File from CBS Radio

Most often, a piece of long-form radio is featured on this page, so it's time for a good example of short-form radio. I literally grew up listening to Charles Osgood, going out of my way to be at the side of my radio at :25 after the hour to hear his two and a half minute commentaries. At least two of four commentaries a day were done in verse. Over the years, Osgood has included fewer and fewer poems and more rehashes of the previous evening's network newscast pieces, but this week he produced a commentary straight out of his old playbook, questioning whether it could already be the Christmas shopping season in October. Enjoy these two minutes of entertainment!

Listen to streaming MP3 of the Osgood File "Early Christmas Shopping"

Week of 14-20 October 2007:

"Cult of Bhutto" on The Current from CBC Radio One

In a week when large cuts were announced in the BBC news staff, it was ironic that the advantage of having foreign correspondents with experience on the ground was revealed by a BBC correspondent--but in a CBC interview. BBC reporter Lyce Doucet (one of my favorite presenters) was stationed in Pakistan for many years, and did the best job I heard all week of describing why Benazir Bhutto ended up being ambushed upon her return to that nation this week. Her interview with Friday Current host Kevin Sylvester highlighted the 24-minute segment of the program. Is it too late to learn this lesson?

Listen to streaming RealAudio of The Current "Cult of Bhutto"

Week of 21-27 October 2007:

"Shyness as Disease" on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One

The CBC took on a lot of North American sacred cows this week. The Current put sports' role in society on trial. Sunday Edition host Michael Enright used his commentary to question the Olympics. Most interestingly, the Sunday Edition took on the practice of psychiatry and its connection with the pharmaceutical industry in an interview with author Christopher Lane. This interview highlighted the 58-minute podcast of the program, which also featured an interesting panel discussion on how the cold war may be returning.

Listen to streaming MP3 of The Sunday Edition "Shyness as Disease"

Week of 28 October-3 November 2007:

"Politics Takes A Holiday" from The Capitol Steps

We've had too much serious programming on this list lately, so it's time to take another break for the Capitol Steps. Their Halloween show for 2007 featured several classics, most notably "The Brain-Mouth Connection" on President Bush, "Voting 4-to-5" on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, "McCain's Campaign is Clearly Down the Drain," "Told You So" on Al Gore's Nobel Prize, "American Pie" on China trade and much more--all in just 29 minutes.

Listen to RealMedia of The Capitol Steps "Politics Takes a Holiday"

Week of 4-10 November 2007:

"Consumed" on Marketplace from American Public Media

Leave it to a show originating in California to take a serious look at environmental issues, but Marketplace has approached the topic in its own unique way. Normally a news show with a consumer and financial focus, in Friday's 28-minute episode it took the first of what will apparently be a series of hard looks at how consumption is affecting the planet, and with features like talking to "the real Simpsons" and visits to a Port Authority and landfill, it made for informative and very listenable radio.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Marketplace "Consumed"

Week of 11-17 November 2007:

"Taser Death" on The Current from CBC Radio One

Paul Pritchard, who shot videotape of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski's last moments of life at the Vancouver airport after he was tasered by the RCMP, had been heard from before this week, bringing publicity to the fact that the police hadn't returned his tape of the disturbing incident. This week, the tape was returned and released publically, rightfully causing outcries around the world. The best interview I heard with Pritchard was done by guest host Kevin Sylvester on CBC's The Current, reviewing Pritchard's thoughts as the event occurred in the 22-minute first segment of the program. This was a great example of how a fundamentally visual story--a videotape--could be turned into first-class radio.

Listen to streaming RealMedia of The Current "Taser Death"

Week of 18-24 November 2007:

"The Grinch Returns for Thanksgiving" on the Osgood File from the CBS Radio Network

It's hard enough to write a poem if one controls the entire text, but that much harder if some of the words to be rhymed are not the author's. Charles Osgood took on this challenge with a set of sound clips from economists and reporters, and managed to weave together a two-minute, multi-voiced poem on the American economy. This was a wonderfully entertaining example of Osgood at his best.

Listen to streaming MP3 of the Osgood File "The Grinch Returns for Thanksgiving"

Week of 25 November-1 December 2007:

"Carter April Fool's" on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One

The Sunday Edition from the CBC achieved a major milestone last week, its 500th weekly show. As a listener since the very first show, I could not miss the live pre-taping of the show at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. The live music and interviews were excellent, but one of the better elements of the program was clips from previous shows. Arguably the funniest moment in the program's history--one I had heard when it first aired--occurred on April Fool's Day, 2001, when comedian Ray Landry impersonated former US President Jimmy Carter in an interview on softwood lumber with host Michael Enright. The entire interview was re-played during show, along with Enright's description of how it had become the #47 hoax in broadcasting history--and it led the podcast of the show.

Listen to streaming MP3 of The Sunday Edition "Carter April Fool's"

Week of 2-8 December 2007:

"Terrorist Hunter" on Search Engine from CBC Radio One

Collaborations between print media and radio can fall flat from lack of attention to radio basics in the resulting broadcast. This week, though, CBC's unique Search Engine program collaborated with Wired magazine (granted, not your average print publication) to present a very interesting documentary on a woman that hunts terrorists on the Internet. The opening of the show was also significant, addressing a very important topic, the potential for new copyright law in Canada. The 27-minute podcast hosted by Jesse Brown definitely brought the impact of the Internet on society into sharp focus.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Search Engine "Terrorist Hunter"

Week of 9-15 December 2007:

"Cultural Touchstones" on To The Best of Our Knowledge from Wisconsin Public Radio

With the holidays approaching, it's time to get sentimental, and To The Best of Our Knowledge from Wisconsin Public Radio did this very well in a show on Cultural Touchstones. The opening segment of the 53-minute show featured an in-depth look at the life of Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts, featuring many references to the holiday specials that indeed are running more often than ever in this year of the television writer's strike.

Listen to streaming RealAudio of To The Best of Our Knowledge "Cultural Touchstones"

Week of 16-22 December 2007:

"Christmastime in Japan" on Dispatches from CBC Radio One

There are a variety of perspectives to take on the holiday season, and CBC's Dispatches, well known for international documentaries, covered a couple of especially interesting ones-- a feature on Christmastime traditions in Japan, and on the practice of transferring money for year-end gifts or just normal remittances using Western Union in this 47-minute program.

Listen to streaming MP3 of Dispatches "Christmastime in Japan"

Week of 23-29 December 2007:

"Benazir Bhutto Assassination" on The Conservation from KUOW

Sometimes the best coverage doesn't come where one might expect it. The assassination of onetime Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was clearly the story of the week, but the best early coverage I heard on the story didn't come from one of the national networks. It came from a local show that specializes in breaking news, The Conversation from KUOW in Seattle. Starting with an opening interview with Peter Galbraith, host Ross Reynolds did an excellent job of providing a portrait of who she was, why she was important, and what her death might mean in a 53-minute program less than half a day after the event. It took hours of listening to other sources to gain the same information.

Listen to streaming MP3 of The Conversation "Benazir Bhutto Assassination"

Week of 30 December 2007 - 6 January 2008:

"The Year in Rebuke Part II" on LeShow with Harry Shearer from KCRW

The end of year is time for review shows, and in this category, Harry Shearer's "Year in Rebuke" is the satire standard. This year, Shearer split his review into two shows, and included some weekly features like the Apologies of the Week and News from Outside the Bubble into this 59-minute program. Highlights of the review included an episode of "clintonsomething" and a call from "41 to 43," and there were non-political targets as well, including the media on an episode of "Hi Def Dan" featuring Tom Brokaw.

Listen to streaming media of LeShow "The Year in Rebuke"

Yearly Summary for 2007:

By Form:

  1. Long Form (51)
  2. Short Form (2)

By Genre:

  1. Canadian Public Radio (29)
  2. US Public Radio (18)
  3. US Commercial Radio (6)

By Producing Station/Organization:

  1. CBC Radio One (29)
  2. Open Source Media (4)
  3. WBUR Boston (4)
  4. KUOW Seattle (3)
  5. CBS News (3)
  6. Jim French Productions (2)
  7. Capitol Steps (2)
  8. American Public Media (1)
  9. Harry Shearer (1)
  10. KGO San Francisco (1)
  11. Minnesota Public Radio (1)
  12. North Carolina Public Radio (1)
  13. Wisconsin Public Radio (1)

By Distributor:

  1. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (29)
  2. Public Radio International (5)
  3. National Public Radio (4)
  4. CBS Radio Network (3)
  5. KUOW Seattle (3)
  6. American Public Media (2)
  7. Capitol Steps (2)
  8. Jim French Productions (2)
  9. KCRW Santa Monica (1)
  10. KGO San Francisco (1)
  11. Minnesota Public Radio (1)

By Program:

  1. The Current (9)
  2. The Sunday Edition (6)
  3. Open Source (4)
  4. On Point (4)
  5. The Conversation (3)
  6. As It Happens (2)
  7. And Sometimes Y (2)
  8. Dispatches (2)
  9. Imagination Theater (2)
  10. The Osgood File (2)
  11. Politics Takes A Holiday (2)
  12. Quirks and Quarks (2)
  13. Search Engine (2)
  14. All the Rage (1)
  15. Face the Nation (1)
  16. Feeling the Heat (1)
  17. The Gene Burns Program (1)
  18. Hidden City (1)
  19. Le Show (1)
  20. Marketplace (1)
  21. Midday (1)
  22. The Story (1)
  23. To The Best of Our Knowledge (1)
  24. White Coat, Black Art (1)

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(C) 2006-10 Lance Gleich - Last Updated: 17 April 2010