This page provided a quality radio program each week in 2010. A summary follows.
"Marketing the Unpleasant" on The Age of Persuasion from CBC Radio One
Terry O'Reilly is back with another season of the excellent radio show on marketing, The Age of Persuasion. The 27-minute program made quite an impression in its first show of the season, taking on the task of how to promote unmentionables. Especially interesting was a process I watched in my own life, how HIV changed what content was acceptable on the air. This was a well-done retrospective, a great example of how to make history interesting to start the year.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Age of Persuasion "Marketing the Unpleasant"
"Animal Minds" on Radio Lab from WNYC
I'm slightly reluctant about this week's pick because it raised far more questions than it gave answers, which is not my preference for a science show. Yet, it's hard to deny that this 59-minute episode of Radio Lab told some very compelling animal stories in an engaging way, even if the explanation for the behavior is unclear. Stay tuned to the end--the final story about a seal trying to feed a human may have been the highlight of the whole show.
Listen to streaming MP3 of Radio Lab "Animal Minds"
"Google vs. China" on Search Engine from TVO
TVO's Search Engine with Jesse Brown has previously been cited on this blog as an exceptional example of niche media. This week, the podcast was a nice demonstration of the influence of the Internet on media more broadly, as it interviewed Watson Meng, editor of Boxun, a Chinese citizen-journalism news site. His take on the Google-China dispute from the past week is interesting, but like anything else on the Internet, can it be trusted in this 10-minute podcast?
Listen to streaming MP3 of Search Engine "Google vs. China"
"The Wonders of Physics" on To The Best of Our Knowledge from Wisconsin Public Radio
Technically, I am breaking the rules this week, as this program first aired in 2009, but for some reason I passed it over at the time, and it was the best program I heard in the past week on its re-run. In exploring physics, Wisconsin Public Radio's premier interview show To The Best of Our Knowledge brought out insights from Richard Muller's reasoning on why a president should understand physics to the idea that all chemists are gangsters. There is just enough scientific "inside baseball" to hold my attention in the 53-minute program while being presented in an accessible way for a general audience--a feat not easy to attain.
Listen to streaming RealMedia of To The Best of Our Knowledge "The Wonders of Physics"
"Persuasion Fail" on The Age of Persuasion from CBC Radio One
One of the things that radio does all too infrequently is take one back to nostalgic moments. In this week's 27-minute episode of the Age of Persuasion, Terry O'Riley brings up almost too many past marketing failures to count in such a short program--worth listening to just to see how much can be packed into a half-hour show, never mind the memories.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Age of Persuasion "Persuasion Fail"
"Hive Mind" on To The Best of Our Knowledge from Wisconsin Public Radio
On what program in the course of an hour can such diverse items as E.O. Wilson talking about ant pheromones, the Borg from Star Trek, and Jason Lanier talking about Web 2.0 be woven together cohesively? To The Best of Our Knowledge, of course. The Wisconsin Public Radio program came up with another winner this week, a 53-minute show on Hive Minds.
Listen to streaming RealMedia of To The Best of Our Knowledge "Hive Mind"
"Jennifer Heil Profile" on The Current from CBC Radio One
There has been a lot of Olympics coverage in the past week, but I thought the best moments came early in the week when the CBC's Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed Canada's first medalist, Jennifer Heil. Tremonti did a great job of interviewing in front of a live audience, finding ways to bring up issues like not getting a gold medal in tactful ways, and Heil handled herself and told stories in a truly inspirational way in the 22-minute segment.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Current "Jennifer Heil Profile"
"How Should Medicare Pay Doctors?" on All Things Considered from NPR
Radio is all about good story-telling, and this story has it all, at least in terms of health care policy--medicine, politics, economics, and lobbyists. "How Should Medicare Pay Doctors?" did the best job I have heard of describing the history behind a current, comparative minor issue in medical pay in just a six-minute segment by Planet Money's David Kestenbaum and Chana Joffe-Walt which aired on All Things Considered.
Listen to streaming MP3 of All Things Considered "How Should Medicare Pay Doctors?"
"Passing the Baton" on Metro Morning from CBC Radio One
Last shows often have substantial value with retrospective segments or other rare audio. Andy Barrie's last show and Matt Galloway's first show as permanent host of CBC Radio One Toronto's Metro Morning was special even in this genre, as discussions included big issues like the evolution of the CBC and the medium of radio in general, in addition to personal moments. About an hour of the best clips have been posted to show web site from the three-hour program.
Listen to streaming Windows Media of Metro Morning "Passing the Baton"
"AfroReggae and Rio's Favelas" on On Point from WBUR
Ideally, a call-in talk show is driven by the callers, in which they add as much to a conversation as the guests. This is all too rare in today's radio landscape, but there was a wonderful example this week from On Point in a show about Brazilian Favelas. The music discussed may not be widely appreciated, but the variety of insightful calls made the show, so much so that even featured guest Damian Platt chose to comment on it near the end of the 46-minute program.
Listen to streaming Windows Media of On Point "AfroReggae and Rio's Favelas"
"The Glory Hole and The Helmet" on Imagination Theater from Jim French Productions
This week, Imagination Theater ran a tribute to recently-deceased radio actor and writer Paul Herlinger. The two episodes are truly radio drama classics. The first stands as one of my all time favorites, "The Glory Hole," and the second is one of the best-written episodes, "The Helmet." Both live up to the title of the program, Imagination Theater.
Listen to streaming MP3 of Imagination Theater "The Glory Hole and The Helmet"
"NUMMI" on This American Life from Chicago Public Radio
Story-telling, documentary, economic analysis, news value--this week's episode of This American Life had just about everything. The 59-minute program on a soon-to-close auto manufacturing plant in Fremont, California was really about General Motors, sociology, culture and many other issues.
Listen to streaming media of This American Life "NUMMI"
"Saving July 4th" on The Dave Ross Show from KIRO-FM
One of the lost axioms of radio is that it is at its best when it is truly local. Dave Ross demonstrated the power of local radio this week in Seattle. After doing a secondary monologue on the apparent lack of an Independence Day fireworks display in Seattle on his talk show, restaurateur Tom Douglas called in to suggest raising money from small businesses and made an opening pledge. After a call to the traditional organizers confirmed that the display could still occur, the fund-raising drive was on, and in about a day the needed $500,000 was raised. That was not only local action--it was good radio.
Listen to the Dave Ross Show "Saving July 4th"
"Limits" on Radio Lab from WNYC
Science is one of the hardest topics to communicate to a general audience--particularly on the radio. Radio Lab found a way to talk about the scientific perspective on limitations by using very human examples, making it much more accessible in this 59-minute program.
Listen to MP3 of Radio Lab "Limits"
"Privacy" on the Age of Persuasion from CBC Radio One
Privacy is a hot topic in the Internet age, and Terry O'Reilly and company provide a marketing perspective on the Age of Persuasion this week. As usual, the 27-minute show was full of amusing examples--but this time there were some downright scary stories as well.
Listen to MP3 of The Age of Persuasion "Privacy"
"Bishop's Man" on The Current from CBC Radio One
One of the things that CBC Radio One's "The Current" has traditionally been quite good at is providing an overview of a subject. A great example came this week as Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed Patrick Wall, a former Catholic Priest. The 20-minute interview covered just about everything one needs to know about the ongoing priest sexual abuse scandal.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Current "Bishop's Man"
"Barbara Budd Tribute" on As It Happens from CBC Radio One
The importance of acting skills to making quality radio, in particular for news shows, is often overlooked. In their 30-minute tribute to outgoing co-host Barbara Budd, the CBC show "As It Happens" managed to present a variety of examples of how Budd used her skills to create exceptional radio.
Listen to streaming MP3 of As It Happens "Barbara Budd Tribute"
"50 Great Voices: Roy Orbison" on All Things Considered from NPR News
Summarizing one person's influence on music and culture in eight minutes is a challenge, but Eric Westervelt managed to so a great job of capturing the essence of Roy Orbison and including stories about him that I had never heard before in this segment of the newsmagazine All Things Considered from NPR.
Listen to streaming media of All Things Considered "50 Great Voices: Roy Orbison"
"Fatima Bhutto" on The Current from CBC Radio One
I normally avoid book tour interviews as they tend to be over-publicized, but one came up this week of a different nature. Fatima Bhutto of the famous Pakistani political family offered an interesting perspective on that family and on the country in this 24-minute interview with guest host Gillian Findlay.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Current "Fatima Bhutto"
"Mexican Drug War" on Dispatches from CBC Radio One
It's been a long time since I cited Dispatches, and this week they really earned it with a joint investigation with NPR News into the Mexican drug war. Good production values combine with in-depth reporting to provide a solid example of investigative journalism in the first segment of the 54-minute show.
Listen to streaming MP3 of Dispatches "Mexican Drug War"
"Negative Advertising" on The Age of Persuasion from CBC Radio One
There's a lot of stereotyping of negative advertising in the mainstream media, so an inside take on its art from a practitioner in the industry turned out to be quite informative, not blowing away the stereotypes but adding a lot of nuance. The clips from past famous examples of negative ads alone would make this 27-minute show from Terry O'Reilley and company worth listening to without any other reason.
Listen to Flash audio of The Age of Persuasion "Negative Advertising"
"The Upside of Irrationality" on Quirks and Quarks from CBC Radio One
Most of us realize that human beings are irrational, but few of us have thought about how this might actually be beneficial from an evolutionary perspective. Author Dan Ariely of Duke University talked about our "stupid brains" in this 18-minute interview, with insights for laypeople and scientists alike.
Listen to MP3 of Quirks and Quarks "The Upside of Irrationality"
"Big College Football News" on Art Thiel Conversation from KPLU News
Saturday morning has become the morning for sports on public radio in the United States, in the case of some programs the only day of signifiant sports coverage. The Saturday coverage runs from local segments to hour-long programs, and in the former category Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Art Thiel's conversations with KPLU's Kirsten Kendrick show the best of the genre, often offering insights beyond sports as was the case this week in a five-minute segment.
Listen to MP3 of Art Thiel Conversation "Big College Football News"
"Social Contract" on This American Life from Chicago Public Radio
Living within listening distance of Buffalo radio stations, I hear a fair amount about New York state politics--and am sometimes shocked that only the largest scandals make the national media. The best story-telling I've heard about New York politics in the recent Spitzer-Paterson era came this week on that show of story-telling, This American Life. In addition, the 59-minute show featured another informative Planet Money segment.
Listen to streaming media of This American Life "Social Contract"
"Is E-Mail Going the Way of the Dinosaur?" on Future Tense from American Public Media
I've long admired John Moe since his days on the staff of Seattle's public radio station KUOW. In the era of this feature, he has been working on American Public Media shows that I didn't find particularly enticing. However, he's now doing the five-minute daily "Future Tense" broadcast on technology, a very good outlet for his Generation X humor exemplified by a look at the future of e-mail that aired this week.
Listen to MP3 of Future Tense "Is E-Mail Going the Way of the Dinosaur?"
"Battles Over the Brand" on ReVision Quest from CBC Radio One
Prepared for another Indian Summer? (That's their line, not mine.) For the third straight year, CBC has solicited new episodes of ReVision Quest, the comedic look at contemporary native issues. The season started with a heady topic, the use of aboriginal names for sports teams, and managed to make it amusing, including a fake conversation between a tribal leader and a team manager.
Listen to MP3 of ReVision Quest "Battles Over the Brand"
"The House Goes to Quebec" on The House from CBC Radio One
Sometimes, the shows from the normal CBC schedule atrophy during the summer. Not so with the political program The House this week. Guest host Tim Duboyce offered the best primer on Quebec politics that I've ever heard, featuring a rare interview with Premier Jean Charest as well as shorter perspectives from the other three major parties and independent analysis in a 48-minute program. This show should be in the Canadian citizenship package.
Listen to MP3 of The House "...Goes to Quebec"
"What If Americans Ran America" on The Osgood File from the CBS Radio Network
Dave Ross is one of the masters of short-form radio. Filling in for Charles Osgood this week, listen to how he works in a variety of actualities to create an amusing set of juxtapositions that develop a politically untenable position that, viewed in pieces, would seem to be popular in this two-minute commentary.
Listen to MP3 of The Osgood File "What If Americans Ran America"
"Marketplace Minute" on the Marketplace Morning Report from American Public Media
Bill Radke is best-known for the wit he brings to broadcasting, honed as a stand-up comedian, host of the canceled satire show "Rewind," and even as local host of Morning Edition at KUOW-Seattle. Some say his talents are wasted on a hard news show like the Marketplace Morning Report, but he manages to make one minute a week count--the Friday "Marketplace Minute" commentary. This week's, available as a video podcast, is one of the best he's done yet.
Watch MP4 of Marketplace Morning Report "Marketplace Minute"
"Carren Strock" on Newshour from the BBC World Service
It's not often that a hard news program presents a concept that one hasn't heard before. The weekend version of the BBC Newshour sometimes does just that, this week presenting Carren Strock's views on female sexuality. What makes this interview especially interesting is listening to how host Julian Marshall handles the fact that the other guest doesn't provide a sharp counterpoint to Strock in the second half of this 48-minute podcast.
Listen to MP3 of the BBC Newshour "Carren Strock"
"Escape from the USA" on Promised Land from CBC Radio One
One of the interesting concepts for summer shows from the CBC this year has been "Promised Land," which tells stories of escapes from other countries ending in immigration to Canada. Some of the stories have been amazing. This week, it seemed like the show might become cliche in its 27-minute broadcast as it followed a Vietnam War deserter from the United States. Instead, it proved just as gripping as the rest of the series, and ended with considerable insight into the two cultures.
Listen to MP3 of Promised Land "Escape from the USA"
"Divorce Evolution" on Asunder from CBC Radio One
A CBC summer series that I thought had substantial potential value was Asunder, a show about divorce. I haven't learned much from the majority of the episodes, but this week's show, which focuses on cohabitation and the consequences to break-ups presents a perspective that I hadn't heard before in the 27-minute program.
Click on Episode 7 - "Listen" at this link to listen to streaming media of Asunder "Divorce Evolution"
"Mario Andretti" on the Ronn Owens Show from KGO Newstalk 810
In the realm of general talk, there are relatively few masters of the trade, and one of them is Ronn Owens of KGO in San Francisco. Granted, Mario Andretti is an easy guest on the radio because of his laid-back style and good humor, but Owens does a great job of handling callers in this 54-minute segment of his show. Furthermore, for those familiar with Owens' show and his attempts to bring his guests into the Sleep Train ad, Andretti offered a challenge that might have been the most amusing I've heard yet.
Listen to the Ronn Owens Show "Mario Andretti"
"Sleuthing Out 'Charlie Chan'" on On Point from WBUR
Very rarely does a talk show bring up a cultural topic on which I am somewhat ignorant, discuss it at length, bring up another cultural topic on which I am totally ignorant, and have callers offering great insights into the interplay between the two. On Point from WBUR and NPR this week managed to do that in a 46-minute show on the character of Charlie Chan which at the insistence of a rather obnoxious guest branched out to Guan Gong. This was public radio talk at its best.
Listen to MP3 of On Point "Sleuthing Out 'Charlie Chan'"
"Sue Klabunde" on The Late Show from CBC Radio One
New examples of quality story-telling on the radio are always welcome, and the second season of "The Late Show" provided several. This final 27-minute episode for the summer on the life of artist Sue Klabunde may have been the most inspirational of series.
Listen to MP3 of The Late Show "Sue Klabunde"
"Homegrown Terrorism" on Cross Country Checkup from CBC Radio One
It's been difficult to find insightful programming on the New York Muslim community center story, especially from the Islamic perspective. A stand-out example finally emerged thanks to guest Sayyid Amiruddin on Cross Country Checkup. Amiruddin not only clearly articulated the difference between radicalized groups and the generic religion of Islam, but offered concrete strategies to prevent additional people from becoming radicalized. His call, 71 minutes into the 113-minute program, should be widely distributed as background to any serious discussion of this red-hot topic.
Click on the "Play" button at this link to listen to streaming audio of Cross Country Checkup "Homegrown Terrorism"
"Kelly McBride" on Spark from CBC Radio One
One of the more pernicious aspects of the "Ground Zero Mosque" is how that term will never be removed from the story because of Search Engine Optimization. Kelly McBride did the best job I've heard yet of describing how those with an agenda can define the language of the debate through search engines in the opening interview with Nora Young on the 54-minute season premiere of Spark from the CBC.
Listen to MP3 of Spark "Kelly McBride"
"Is A University Education Worth the Cost?" on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One
Public forums bringing together people from across a nation can be quite informative, as was the case of CBC Radio One's forum on university education held in Halifax and broadcast this week. While host Michael Enright brought out the baseline positions of the various guests in the first hour, the really interesting side issues came out in the second hour of the broadcast, making for some interesting radio. I will not soon forget Laura Penny's outburst "All of western civilization is a bubble" for example.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Sunday Edition "Is A University Education Worth the Cost?"
"Hossein Derakhshan" on The Current from CBC Radio One
Sometimes getting the right guests can bring an obscure story to life. I happen to think the case of Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan has been under-covered, but CBC Radio One's The Current found people that knew him to include in their coverage, creating a compelling twenty-six minutes of radio.
Listen to streaming MP3 of The Current "Hossein Derakhshan"
"The Soundtrack to War and Peace" on To The Best of Our Knowledge from Wisconsin Public Radio
While it has certainly taken on political connotations in the last century, I had no idea about the contemporary politics that shaped Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Harvey Sachs provided insightful background on that toward the end of a 53-minute show that once again showed that the team at Wisconsin Public Radio may be the best interviewers in the world.
Listen to MP3 of To The Best of Our Knowledge "The Soundtrack to War and Peace"
"Jill Lepore: Tea Party Time" on Open Source from the Watson Institute
Sometimes it is worth listening through a long interview just to get one key idea out of it. I suspect this masterful interview of Harvard historian Jill Lepore by Christopher Lydon might cause this same feeling at different moments for different listeners--for me, it was when she tied the rise of the TEA party to the death of newspapers. There's plenty more deep material in this 51-minute podcast.
Listen to MP3 of Open Source "Jill Lepore: Tea Party Time"
"Naheed Nenshi" on The Current from CBC Radio One
In a time when the German chancellor speaks about giving up on multi-culturalism, Toronto may vote for a anti-diversity mayor, and Juan Williams gets fired from NPR for saying he is afraid of Muslims, there's something to celebrate in the election of Naheed Nenshi as the first Muslim mayor of Calgary. Furthermore, his election had everything to do with issues, not his background, as he told Anna Maria Tremonti in this 27-minute segment of The Current.
Listen to MP3 of The Current "Naheed Nenshi"
"This Party Sucks" on This American Life from Chicago Public Media
On the weekend before a Federal election in the United States, leave it to the documentary team from This American Life to look at both political parties and raise questions about how either is organized enough to mount a successful campaign in a 59-minute broadcast.
Listen to streaming media of This American Life "This Party Sucks"
"Pre-Election Show" on LeShow from KCRW
There was entirely too much political coverage in both the United States and Canada this week, and while some of it was excellent, I was more interested in making fun of it. Harry Shearer came through as usual, with an amusing episode of "Clintonsomething" and the inclusion of "Yes We Can But" by Will.i.never amongst the highlights of his weekly 59-minute LeShow.
Listen to MP3 of LeShow "Pre-Election Show"
"My Oh My - A Tribute to Dave Niehaus" from 710 ESPN Seattle
A man that was more than a baseball broadcaster but an icon of the entire Pacific Northwest region of the United States died this week, Dave Niehaus. While it takes listening to entire games to appreciate his story-telling abilities, the current Seattle Mariners flagship station has released a three-and-a-half minute tribute of his calls from significant franchise moments that will bring back memories for anyone that lived in that region from the formation of the team in 1977 until Niehaus died this week at the age of 75.
Listen to MP3 of "My Oh My - A Tribute to Dave Niehaus"
"Texas Couple Gets Married via Skype" on Marketplace Tech Report from American Public Media
This was a good week for seeing unusual impacts of technology, and the Marketplace Tech Report (the new name for Future Tense) was all over it, from Google Maps prompting a Nicuraguan military action to the Lose It weight loss app. Host John Moe delivered some of the best five-minute features I've heard in a long time all week, but the clear highlight was the description of how same-sex couples are pushing the envelope in proxy weddings, with potential implications for everyone.
Listen to MP3 of Marketplace Tech Report "Texas Couple Gets Married Via Skype"
"Upcycling" on To The Best of Our Knowledge from Wisconsin Public Radio
Despite having lived in areas with radically different recycling policies, I'd never thought of recycling as something distinct from upcycling and downcycling, nor had I realized that most of what North America views as recycling is really downcycling. These concepts were explored in the depth that only public radio tends to provide in a 53-minute program from Wisconsin Public Radio.
Listen to To The Best of Our Knowledge "Upcycling"
"Female Entrepreneurs" on Spark from CBC Radio One
Radio has been trying to hard to reach a younger audience. Interestingly, the programs that seem to be surviving while succeeding in that endeavor are not those who jump frenetically from one topic to another, but ones that emphasize production values and sound and try to take on topics of interest to younger people. A classic example is CBC Radio One's Spark. This week's 53-minute show was an especially good case study, taking on relatively heady topics like the small number of females leading start-up companies and copyright law, but making extensive use of production gimmicks and a focus on practical consequences to a tech-savvy audience to create a great listening experience anyway.
Listen to MP3 of Spark "Female Entrepreneurs"
"Engineering Search" on The Sunday Edition from CBC Radio One
CBC producer Ira Basen has been written about in this feature before; pretty much everything he's been involved in has been gold from my perspective. His latest effort documents how Google became so dominant in search and the Internet in general, airing originally as a 30-minute documentary in the second hour of The Sunday Edition and appearing about 36 minutes into the podcast.
Listen to MP3 of The Sunday Edition "Engineering Search"
"War on the Internet?" on Search Engine from TVO
I have largely found the coverage of the Wikileaks story to be at best burying the lead, but Jesse Brown and TVO's Search Engine had their pulse on it. In Brown's monologue and an interview with David Weinberger, the core topics about the consequences for free speech and the Internet in general are more fully explored that I had heard elsewhere in this 18-minute podcast.
Listen to MP3 of Search Engine "War Against the Internet?"
"Mark Blyth on 2011" on Open Source from the Watson Institute
As much as I'd like to cite a holiday program this week, the clear stand-out program was Christopher Lydon's interview of political economist Mark Blyth. Blyth presents the concept of "Monetarily Assured Destruction" amongst other reasons why the coming year may not be economically inspiring, but won't be nearly as bad as it theoretically could be in this wide-ranging 27-minute interview.
Listen to MP3 of Open Source "Mark Blyth on 2011"
"Politics Takes a Holiday" from the Capitol Steps
While it gets off to a rather slow start, the quarterly satire show from the Capitol Steps this New Year's is worth sticking out, with a George W. Bush parody of "Feelings," the "Queen Berets," a speech from Joe Biden, a dating service for Al Gore, and of course some new amazing phrases in the Lirty Dies segment leading to a very entertaining 58-minute show.
Listen to MP3 of the Capitol Steps "Politics Takes a Holiday"
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(C) 2006-2011 Lance Gleich - Last Updated: 11 March 2011