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Radiotopia Visits Kickstarter HQ

The Radiotopia Kickstarter campaign is barreling along, with just 3 days left. We are so excited about our final stretch goal: $600,000 to start a pilot fund for new voices. Our (nearly 20,000!) backers are helping us truly revolutionize public radio.

The folks at Kickstarter recently invited us to their beautiful Brooklyn digs for a conversation with the Radiotopia producers*, led by PRX’s Jake Shapiro. They talked of the joys and challenges of making radio in a new way, building relationships with a new kind of listener, and funding their passion.


Kickstarter HQ
Some excerpted highlights:

Stephanie Pereira gave us a tour of Kickstarter’s remarkable offices, a 99% Invisible fan’s dream. Oh look, there’s Roman, snapping a pic. >>>

Special thanks to Stephanie, Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler, and Owen Katz for a great day.

* except Benjamen Walker who was busy teaching podcasting.


A Radiotopia Surprise…

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe I am going to stand on a stage and read aloud our secrets. Am I nuts? Will you, or technically me, embarrass me? Will I be mortified?

You, our wonderful fans, are giving Radiotopia such an incredible Kickstarter campaign (still going strong!). We have a surprise for you. And it’s a good one — not something like your prom date deciding to take your best friend at the last minute instead. Although we’d like to hear about that, too…

Please join us in welcoming the brand-new Mortified podcast — launching in early 2015 — to our Radiotopia network!
Mortified

Mortified is a popular stage show with ongoing events in nine cities. They have a documentary film, a TV series on the Sundance channel, two books and now… a Radiotopia podcast.

Imagine adults channeling their younger selves by sharing embarrassing moments immortalized in their diaries, letters, poems, lyrics and art. You will remember your own fights with parents, teenage drama, fantastical fantasies and complete preoccupation with sex — both good and bad.

Hailed a “cultural phenomenon” by Newsweek and celebrated by This American Life, The Today Show, The Onion AV Club, Entertainment Weekly, and beyond, Mortified is a comic excavation of the strange and extraordinary things we created as kids.

We are thrilled to welcome Mortified to the Radiotopia family. Stay tuned and prepare to be Mortified!

Stretch Goal #1 Reached!


We are very excited to say that today we hit our first Radiotopia stretch goal of $400,000! This means that we will be able to bring on three new podcasts, all hosted by women. Woo!

Helen Zaltzman of "Answer Me This" with PRX COO Kerri Hoffman at Radiotopia Live.
Helen Zaltzman
of “Answer Me This.”

The shows:

  • Soon-to-be-titled Helen Zaltzman words and language program(me)– Created by Helen Zaltzman, host of the popular UK show “Answer Me This,” this brand new program peels back the surface of language to find out why we say the things we say.

  • The Heart, produced by Kaitlin Prest
    The Heart,
    produced by
    Kaitlin Prest
  • The Heart – A show about the triumphs and the terrors of human intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love and the wild diversity of the human heart. Hosted by Kaitlin Prest.


  • Criminal – Riveting true crime stories about being wronged, doing wrong, and being caught in the middle. Hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Eric Mennel and Lauren Spohrer.
  • Criminal, hosted by Phoebe Judge
    Criminal, hosted
    by Phoebe Judge

The Hover 20,000 Backer Challenge.

We are still working toward another huge challenge from Hover to reach 20,000 backers. Please consider backing the project and getting a friend, a significant other or a family member to back our project, too. Every $1 pledge gets us closer to $25K.



That Crime of the Month

This is part of the PRX STEM Story Project series.

PMS_2-01
Image credit: Criminal podcast

What does it mean when a woman commits a crime and attributes her actions to PMS? We revisit the first use of the “PMS defense,” in this country, back in 1981. What have we learned about the science of PMS since then? Last year, the American Psychiatric Association classified a form of PMS (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD) as a mental disorder in the DSM-V. How can the scientific community study severe premenstrual symptoms without perpetuating the utterly unscientific idea that menstruating women aren’t mentally competent or liable for crimes they commit?

In this PRX STEM Story Project piece, the Criminal podcast tells us about the psychiatry, law, and gender politics surrounding PMDD.

About 30 years ago, lawyers started attributing behavior to PMS as a cause for women feeling so severe they were afraid of hurting themselves or others. As one would imagine, this topic can veer on the controversial, necessitating a more open conversation about the issues surrounding it.
Criminal_Podcast_Logo_medium
When asked how she chose this story idea, producer Lauren Spohrer comments, “Obviously there are a lot of crime stories out there, and a lot of media dedicated to telling those stories in various way…and this was the one that made us say, ‘Wait, what?'”

Possibly more surprising than the story content might be the way that people react to the idea. Spohrer describes her friends’ reactions upon hearing about it pre-production: “There was an awful lot of eye rolling at the suggestion of a PMS defense…it struck me that gut reactions haven’t changed much in 30 years.”

Spohrer maintains that the piece doesn’t claim to promote any singular view but rather intends to stimulate even more discussion. She says, “We hope we’ve distilled the relevant issues such that the listener feels as conflicted as we do.”

You can find this piece and more on the Criminal Podcast.

Hey, this is exciting: The world needs more successful female-hosted shows. We hope to add Criminal to Radiotopia, our network of amazing story-driven podcasts. We need to meet $400,000 for our Radiotopia Kickstarter Project to support Criminal and more. Any amount helps!

Stretch Goal #1 and Hover 20k Backer Challenge

Helen Zaltzman of "Answer Me This" with PRX COO Kerri Hoffman
Helen Zaltzman of “Answer Me This” with PRX COO Kerri Hoffman at Radiotopia Live.

Three days ago Radiotopia hit our Kickstarter funding goal. We are thrilled! Thank you for your support and for getting the project to this point.

We are very excited to announce 2 major updates:

1. Our first stretch goal! This is huge and we’re really thrilled to share this.

As of February 2013, only 20% of the top 100 podcasts are hosted by women. We want to change that. If we reach $400,000 we will be able to green-light three new shows, all hosted by women.

The shows:

  • Soon-to-be-titled Helen Zaltzman words and language program(me)– Created by Helen Zaltzman, host of the popular UK show “Answer Me This,” this brand new program peels back the surface of language to find out why we say the things we say.
  • “The Heart” – A show about the triumphs and the terrors of human intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love and the wild diversity of the human heart. Hosted by Kaitlin Prest.
  • “Criminal” – Riveting true crime stories about being wronged, doing wrong, and being caught in the middle. Hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Eric Mennel and Lauren Spohrer.

2. The Hover 20,000 Backer Challenge.

Hover is offering $25,000 if Radiotopia is able to reach 20,000 backers. Every pledge gets us that much closer to $25K and this is going to be a tough one, so please consider backing the project and sharing with your friends.



Radiotopia Goal Reached! Thank You!

We did it! YOU did it!

A huge group hug for the more than 6000 of you who got Radiotopia to our Kickstarter goal in just six days! Amazing, just amazing. We are feeling the love and the very real financial support, and we are energized by it. Thank you for helping us take storytelling and podcasting to new levels of craft and audience. PRX is so proud to be charting the future of radio with these talented producers and you.

We’re not stopping there. Keep an eye on this space for some exciting stretch goals. But first, we have a (completely full) Radiotopia Live! party to throw in NYC tonight…

Second Ear Producer Wins Third Coast Award

The annual Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Competition Awards were announced recently, and we were excited to see that one of the winners is Annie McEwen, for her beautiful piece Here I Am and Here Be Danger.

We had the pleasure of workshopping Here Be Danger with Annie for our Second Ear program, which is a chance for producers to meet with PRX staff to edit stories, brainstorm promotion, and get ideas. Annie sent us her perspective on the process. Here’s how to submit your own radio story to Second Ear.

Congrats to Annie and to all of the winners, whose specific awards will be announced on Nov. 9 in Chicago at the Third Coast Conference. And hey, stations: many of the winners are available now to license on PRX — and you can look forward to the annual Best of the Best broadcast coming in November.

Art, Math, Mystery: Stylometry

Image credit: Jenny Chen
Image credit: Jenny Chen

Can style be measured? Is it possible to express with numbers?

Visual stylometry is a new branch of mathematics that uses math to determine the style of a particular artist’s body of work. In this #PRXSTEM piece, co-producers Jenny Chen and Molly Jean Bennett take a look at how this works, how well it works, and what the implications are.

You can think of visual stylometry as the measurement of style with higher math. The method has been used to determine the authenticity of art by identifying, analyzing, and mapping unique stylistic elements.

Chen and Bennett talked to several mathematician friends about different types of stories before landing on this one. After meeting Dr. Yang, who previously used literary stylometry to authenticate an ancient Chinese work called Dreams From the Red Chamber, the co-producers discovered that there was a visual branch of stylometry too.

“We all have this stereotype that mathematicians do work that isn’t relevant to the humanities,” says Chen. “It was delightful to discover how wrong that stereotype is – and to find a branch of math that depends on the collaboration between art connoisseurs and mathematicians.”

The co-producers hope that this piece shows listeners that neither the hard sciences nor humanities have full answers to life’s questions: “Only by embracing as many different disciplines as possible can we get more complete answers.”

“Art and mathematics are so far apart that they actually become neighbors again…both are interested in patterns and life.”

The Case of the Nutty Dish: A Science Radio Detective Story

This post is part of the STEM Story Project series.

image-17-solveoutbreak-badge10-diseasedetective-512_original
Image credit: Center for Disease Control

It all comes down to one question: chicken or peanut butter?

They’re called disease detectives – the nation’s medical eyes and ears on the lookout for disease outbreaks and bioterror attacks. The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go all over the world to handle outbreaks of measles, malaria, and even Ebola. Each July, 70 new trainees become EIS Officers.

In producer Philip Graitcer’s PRX STEM Story Project piece, you’re invited to step into the role of an EIS officer and join two rookies as they help solve a science mystery. This is the case of the nutty dish.

Don’t think this is purely a work of fiction, for truth may be far stranger. Philip Graitcer himself was an EIS officer from 1976 to 1978. He remained at the CDC for another 18 years after that: “The first day at CDC, I was sent, from work, to Philadelphia to find the cause of Legionnaires’ Disease. When I became an independent radio producer, one of the things I wanted to do was prepare a radio drama based on an outbreak investigation.”

Almost 40 years after his first introduction to epidemiology, he still says that he’s in awe of the process of solving an epidemic. The piece not only gives us insight on how an agency works to investigate an outbreak, but it also highlights deductive thinking, a core part of the scientific process.

Graitcer reminds us that field epidemiology and solving disease outbreaks is not an exact science in spite of the technology available to us today. Still: “There is still a lot of hypothesis testing and plain old detective work needed to solve an outbreak.”