AudreyPRX Staff Favorites 2013

Audrey posted on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 | PRX | No Comments

Each year, PRX staffers come together to make a list of our favorite pieces of the year. It’s a great way to reflect and celebrate the producers who have worked so hard to create phenomenal work.

Check out the list here.

We listen to a lot of radio. And even then, we know we still haven’t heard everything. Here are some of our favorites from PRX, but chime in with your own favorite radio from 2013 in the comments. We want to know what you loved.


Audrey posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Blog, PRX, PRX at Ten | No Comments

This year is PRX’s 10th anniversary and we’ve been doing a lot of reflection on PRX’s accomplishments as well as those of our producers, stations, and public media partners.

PRX is participating in Giving Tuesday (think the opposite of Black Friday, Cyber Monday or… Brown Thursday?!). In contrast to the buying frenzies, we want to show our support for a different kind of gift-giving, a day for giving back.

We invite you to donate to PRX, and to give to other Giving Tuesday nonprofits, too.

Why PRX? We believe that public media plays a critical role in our civic society and our democracy by creating an informed and educated citizenry. That belief is what drives all the serious fun we have getting public radio stories out into the world. It’s why we nurture new and established talent, forge new distribution opportunities, and use technology to get public radio onto new platforms.

Some major PRX accomplishments from 2013:

- Pop Up Archive.
- STEM Story Project and the Global Story Project open calls.
- Built The Moth app for iOS and Android.
- Saw many programs reach Kickstarter success.
- Matter One and Matter Two.
- PRX Remix app for iOS and Android.
- PRX/CIR collaboration on Reveal pilot.
- Public Radio Player redesign.

PRX is a small entrepreneurial nonprofit with big ambitions. We’re leaders and innovators who want to continue to develop content, technologies, and ways of doing things that provide broader access to public media. We want to support our storytellers and truthtellers to do what they do best: add value to our lives and our communities.

Here’s a testimonial from one of our PRX Remix listeners:

When the world looks like it’s starting to suck even worse and it’s going down hill, I turn off my phone and I turn on the radio to you, and you always give me a little glimmer into the things that are here that are good. Just little people with little stories. It makes the whole crappy world look a whole lot better.”

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to PRX today so we can continue our mission of making public radio more public.

Take a moment on Giving Tuesday to reflect on public media as a whole and consider donating to your local radio station, a favorite public radio program, or other public media organization that you find valuable. You can find a full list of Giving Tuesday participants here. And help spread the word.

JakeWelcoming Janet Balis to the PRX Board of Directors

Jake posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 | Blog, PRX | No Comments


Please join me in welcoming Janet Balis as our newest member of the PRX board of directors!

Janet is an accomplished digital media executive who has just started a new position as Chief Revenue Officer at Betaworks in New York City.  Prior to Betaworks Janet most recently served as Publisher of the Huffington Post and held senior roles at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Time, Inc. and Aol.

Janet is on the board of Advertising Women of New York (AWNY), a founding member of Women in Media Mentoring Initiative (WIMMI) and a board member at the International Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“I’ve been an avid public radio listener my whole life,” says Janet. “I’m excited to join PRX as an innovative organization defining new models for public media content, distribution and engagement.”

Janet joins PRX board members Henry Becton, Torey Malatia, Susan McKeever, Ashton Peery, Jake Shapiro, and Bruce Warren.

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Audrey99% Invisible Update #7: Radiotopia

Audrey posted on Monday, November 18th, 2013 | PRX | No Comments

The 99% Invisible team reached their 10,000 backer stretch goal and received an additional $20,000 grant from MailChimp. Amazing!

In a project update posted yesterday, Roman announced the next stretch goal and it’s one we here at PRX are particularly happy about.

For a couple years, I’ve been scheming with PRX to create a collective of exceptional radio shows that will push the boundaries of public radio. Modeled after 99% Invisible, we want to provide support for a select group of creator-driven, high-quality, entrepreneurial programs that will establish a path to success for the most talented audio producers.

Any pledges collected over the $350K mark in the 99% Invisible Season 4 Kickstarter will go toward starting a seed fund for the collective.

We’re getting really excited to share more about what we’re up to, but for now, read the rest of Roman’s note and consider making a pledge.

Lily BuiTracking the Secret Life of Soot: Sediment Surveillance

Lily Bui posted on Friday, November 8th, 2013 | Blog, PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments

This post is part of PRX’s STEM Story Project series.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 11.07.27 AM

For a long time, scientists have known that breathing in soot from vehicles and power plants is bad for us. But the soot itself might not be the problem—at least not entirely. Scientists have found that particles live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchhikers before making their way into our lungs.

In researching Tracking the Secret Life of Soot, producer Reid Frazier was struck by how the scientists he spoke with described the properties of soot as it ages in the atmosphere. Their words of choice were “sticky” and “gooey,” not exactly the most scientific terms in the book! “It struck me as a wonderful way to describe the process–it’s visceral,” he explains.

But how to convey that through audio? Then one day, Frazier had an idea:

“I was at home writing the script one day when I looked at my garden—really, just a patch of untended flowers and weeds. I got an idea. I dug a hole, filled it up with water, then took my shoes off and stood in the muddy pit I’d created. I turned my mic on to capture the mucky, suction-y sound of me trying to lift my feet out. This is how I made that goopy sound you here in the background of the story as one of the scientists explains what happens to a soot particle in the atmosphere. It was the most fun you can have working—getting to walk barefoot in the mud. And it made great ‘gooey’ audio.”

Since Reid’s piece came out, a new study from MIT found that 53,000 people a year die prematurely because of automobile pollution in the U.S., compared to 34,000 people a year who die in traffic accidents.

Air pollution has also been implicated in low birth weight (and subsequent health problems and premature death), 430,000 premature deaths per year in Europe, and 4,655 premature deaths in São Paulo in 2011. Emissions from cars are a major cause of Beijing’s infamous smog.

Learn more about the secret life of soot and other particles in the air around us by listening to Reid’s piece.

Want to help monitor local air quality? A new citizen science project named AirCasting allows you to use your smartphone to record and share data about the air quality around you.

Image from EarthTimes.

AudreyMore Meta Moth Moments

Audrey posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 | Blog, PRX | No Comments

A few months ago, our colleague Rebecca Nesson threw her name in the hat to tell a story at one of the Cambridge Moth storySLAMS. Her story was so exceptional that it led to her telling her story at a Moth Mainstage show at the Somerville Theater. And this week, the story is featured in the Moth podcast!

By day Becca works on PRX’s mobile apps, including of course The Moth app.

We all knew Becca was a talented developer but we didn’t know how gifted she was as a storyteller. Proof is in the puddin’. Listen and enjoy.

Here’s Becca on The Moth’s homepage this week!

AudreySpotlight on Kickstarter Radio Projects

Audrey posted on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 | PRX | No Comments

In 2011, Kickstarter launched their Curated Pages feature. PRX was one of the first creative institutions chosen to feature projects that we love and we’ve seen many of those projects funded successfully. Check out our page.

There are two new projects that we’re particularly excited about.

99% Invisible, a tiny radio show about design hosted by Roman Mars has set out to fund their 4th season, and not only have they reached that goal, they’re just about to reach their second stretch goal.

There is still a lot of money to be raised in order to hire another producer (healthcare for staff was the first stretch goal, very cool) and MailChimp is putting up a challenge grant. So now is the time to pledge if you have not already. Even $1 helps.

Tiny Spark is a radio program that investigates the Business of Doing Good. Host Amy Costello has investigated organizations like Toms Shoes and medical volunteers in crisis zones. Help this indie outlet bring us more investigative stories via more frequent podcasts, new staff, and an enhanced website.

Do you have a Kickstarter project we should know about? Let us know! And if you’re thinking about doing a project of your own, check out some helpful tips we’ve compiled.

Lily Bui52 Hz

Lily Bui posted on Monday, November 4th, 2013 | PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments

This post is part of PRX’s STEM Story Project series.

In elusive moments, we can often feel alone in the world — prone to disconnection. What if I told you that there was at least one whale out there who could understand exactly how you’re feeling?

52Hz is the name given to a mysterious whale that vocalizes at a higher frequency than other whales. Some refer to him as the world’s loneliest whale, but scientists aren’t convinced that its unique call has left the whale isolated. The producers of Everything Sounds investigate the 52Hz whale, marine mammal communication, and whether or not this whale is truly alone.

Making this piece come together was no easy task. Craig Shank and George Drake, Jr., decided to drive 15 hours from Chicago, Ill., to Woods Hole, Mass., to grab audio on-site in order to get a more complete view of the work that marine biologists do. (For those unaware, Woods Hole happens to bear significance for those with a love for both science and radio.) There, the producers spoke with Darlene Ketten:

“Maybe it was our exhaustion setting in, but we left that conversation feeling as though we had some of the most interesting audio we’ve ever collected together. We were amazed at how much we learned about marine life and we were eager to share it in our piece about the 52Hz whale. That conversation helped us to realize that the stories we tell ourselves about animals often aren’t anywhere near as fascinating as the facts and the process of making new discoveries. I expected to produce a story about one unique whale. However, I didn’t expect to come away with a changed perspective of the natural world.”

Lean in and listen to a story that will not only change your perspective on the world, but also one that sparked a change in the producers who ventured to tell it.

Image: Spectrogram of the 52 Hz signal, Wikimedia

Want to learn more about whale calls? Whale FM is a citizen science project that allows you to help scientists better understand orca and pilot whale sounds. You can listen to the sounds online and help identify matches.

AudreyReports from Radiovision

Audrey posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 | PRX | No Comments

As Rekha flew off to Chicago for Filmless, I headed by train to New York City for WFMU’s Radiovision Festival. A day-long festival “celebrating radio’s future as it takes on new forms in the digital age for the medium’s fans, tinkerers, and future thinkers.”

The morning kicked off with a panel called Radio Stations of the Future with the discussion focusing on music blogs, streaming services, and audio platforms. The panel featured folks from SoundCloud and Songza, as well as Brooklyn Shanti, an MC and Producer.

SoundCloud’s Brendan Codey focused on the listener experience of SoundCloud and proposed that commenting on the waveform has become the digital equivalent of gathering around a radio, a new way to experience audio with others.

Asking what radio stations of the future might look like brought up these questions:

- How will content creators continue to create and get paid for their work?
- What are alternative funding models for content creators?

WNYC’s Chris Bannon talked about making pledge season fun, stating, “Nobody wants to contribute to fear.” He discussed one of their not-so-successful fundraising projects, the RadioLab Lab Partners, and what was learned from its not-so-successful run.

Planet Money’s Alex Bloomberg brought up their very successful Kickstarter campaign and their Seed to Shirt project. Although they raised almost $600,000 Bloomberg was skeptical about public radio’s fundraising effectiveness. How can we do better? was the question of the day.

Radiovision was a look at the the state of radio as much as it was looking at the future of radio. Comedy podcast hosts Jake Fogelnest and Julie Klausner joked about the sad state of humor on public radio. However, both hosts confirmed they would love to make it on the dial to connect to those broadcast audience numbers.

The festival was equal parts entertaining and invigorating, with lots of tough questions being asked about the future of public radio: online and over the airwaves.

As we head into PRX NXT, we hope that the next steps for PRX will address some of those big questions asked at the conference. Maybe we’ll see you on a panel at the next Radiovision.

Postscript: sad to hear that The Best Show on WFMU will be ending in December after 13 years on the air. Thanks for creating moments like this on the radio, Tom.

The Brilliance of Filmless

Rekha posted on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 | PRX | 1 Comment

I’m fresh from the Third Coast Filmless Festival and feeling great. This tiny, vibrant gem of a festival is a weekend of calm in a storm of media distraction, and an inspiration to both producers and listeners.


Filmless is the Third Coast International Audio Festival’s answer to film festivals. There are “screenings” and “reels” – just no films. Instead, everyone sits in the dark, listening to audio pieces, from personal stories to documentaries to fictional drama. We laughed together, we laughed out of sync, and I know for at least one piece, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Roman Mars

Roman Mars talks podcasting.

You can view the entire program on the Filmless site, and look for the pieces on PRX, SoundCloud, and the producers’ own sites.

In addition to screenings, there were workshops. Our very own PRX Remix program director Roman Mars led a Podcasting session that, as a sign of our times, focused nearly as much on the fundraising needed to sustain the craft as on the craft itself. Meanwhile, volunteers at Lea Thau’s Storytelling session got a taste of The Moth’s brand of name-pulled-from-a-hat spontaneous storytelling.

Some of the questions explored over the course of the weekend:

  • In a nonfiction piece involving a horse from the 1830s, before recorded sound, is it ethical to include audio of a horse living now?
  • How much do you coach an interviewee to draw out the story you know they have inside?
  • Can you rearrange tape, sometimes phrase by phrase, even word by word, if you are keeping the meaning intact?
  • Is it cool to make a Cecil B. DeMille joke even if not everyone will get it?
  • How many podcast episodes do you have to make before you don’t cringe when someone compliments you?
Julie Shapiro

Julie Shapiro samples culinary art

Saturday night, the Short Docs Feast did something bold, risky, and awesome: Local chefs were invited to make dishes inspired by the winning audio works. Each chef served their dish to the producer, on stage, while describing their creative process. I now know how blackbird pie works. It’s a little shocking, but in a surprisingly appetizing way.

The event culminated with the Third Coast awards ceremony, emcee’d by Snap Judgment’s Glynn Washington. Winners walked away with funky trophies and a sense of recognition for their work.

Filmless showcases the state of the art, and it sounds wonderful. It inspires me and my colleagues as we work hard to get good audio out into the world and support the producers who make it.

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