Radio Diaries Turns 20

This month, Radio Diaries is celebrating an incredible milestone: their 20th anniversary. There aren’t many radio shows or podcasts out there who can say the same, and we are proud the show has been with Radiotopia since the very beginning.

Teen Diaries Amanda and Josh re-shoot + Joe
Creator Joe Richman

The Peabody award-winning series was created by Joe
Richman. It launched in 1996 with the ground-breaking series Teenage Diaries, turning a group of young people from around the country into reporters covering their own lives. Since that time, Radio Diaries has helped pioneer an innovative style of first-person audio documentary that has influenced and inspired many of the story-driven podcasts popular today. Joe and his team have collaborated with teenagers and octogenarians, prisoners and prison guards, bra saleswomen and lighthouse keepers….and along the way helped establish a new form of citizen journalism. Over the years, the show has won every major award in broadcast journalism and produced some of the most memorable documentaries ever heard on public radio.

The show is celebrating its anniversary in a few exciting ways. First, today’s episode is a revisit of their very first diary, Amanda’s Diary, about a 17-year-old living in Queens. Amanda explains that she is gay and Catholic, and having a hard time convincing her parents that this is not “just a phase.” Check out a clip of Amanda’s original diary here.

At this 20th year pinnacle, the show will also release a special episode in a few weeks, which will air first on NPR’s All Things Considered. It is the diary of a young woman in Saudi Arabia named Majd. For tworadio diaries years, Majd has been chronicling her life and yearns to pursue a career in science, while struggling with the pressure to accept an arranged marriage. Her story takes listeners inside a world where the voices and stories have largely been off-limits, revealing how life for millennial Saudi women is remarkably different than their mothers’ generation.

Finally, Radio Diaries is inviting fans to help choose another past diarist to revisit for an early May episode. To submit your “fan favorite”, first listen and choose your favorite episode, then connect with the show on Twitter or Facebook and use the hashtag #RadioDiariesTurns20.

You can listen to other episodes on the Radio Diaries website or in iTunes. Happy 20th to Joe, and producers Sarah Kramer and Nellie Gilles!


Steer Clear of These Five Science Reporting Pitfalls

Andrea Mustain

PRX has taken on big initiatives in the last few years to create original science programming, including our STEM Story Project open call for science audio ideas, our Transistor podcast which features many of those, the space podcast Orbital Path, and the Outside Magazine podcast on the science of survival.

We asked our science editor Andrea Mustain, who edited all of 2015’s STEM stories and is now also an editor for Orbital Path, to share her wisdom on science reporting.

Steer Clear of These Five Science Reporting Pitfalls
A (very short) guide for audio producers

by PRX Science Editor Andrea Mustain

Science reporting gives you entrée to a nearby yet rather mysterious country—a place with an arcane language all its own, that outsiders rarely get to visit. (This, to me, is what makes science reporting challenging and fun.)

It’s also a privilege that brings with it some pretty big responsibilities. You must bring back something of substance: a compelling narrative that is also informative, accurate, and clear. To that end, a few perils to note—and avoid.

1. The gee-whiz trap. Also known as the, “I just read the press release” trap.

This is a pretty obvious one. Always read the full journal article before you head into an interview. Press releases sometimes drift into dangerously hyperbolic territory. PR departments are tasked with drumming up coverage, and that can lead to scary words like “breakthrough” and “game changer.” This is not to say that communications departments are full of deceptive, conniving people. Many are staffed with deeply thoughtful and responsible science writers, steeped in the research that is coming out of their institutions. However, that is not always the case. Beware the too-good-to-be-true press release.

When you actually talk to the scientists behind a paper, their takeaways are sometimes very different from what you see in the press release. And if you haven’t read the research, you a) won’t be able to ask intelligent questions, and b) may come off as naive. PR departments are just trying to do their jobs. Make sure you do yours.

2. The scaredy-cat trap.

Scientists are people, too. Some are wonderful communicators, and others aren’t. Some are wonderfully gracious, and happy to explain something to you over and over; others may helpfully suggest you go take a physics class. So when you run into trouble understanding something, don’t get scared and give up after the third try. It never works to just drop some gorpy, technical tape into your story, and have the scientists “tell it in their own words.” If you don’t understand something, your audience won’t either. (If I’m running into trouble, I ask my interviewees to start over, and explain the concept as if they are addressing a 12-year-old.)

Keep asking for clarification or different explanations, even if you’re worried you’re being annoying or sound like a dummy—you must always be able to accurately explain every scientific concept in your story in your own words.

3. The trap that’s like a fried egg riding a watermelon airplane. Or, the terrible/wrong metaphor trap.

Metaphors are a powerful tool for science writing. A good one can instantly repackage a befuddling concept, and make the science both appetizing and digestible. A bad one can ruin your day.

A poorly constructed metaphor is dangerous. If it’s trite, or doesn’t conjure a helpful image, you’ve possibly bored your audience—or worse, confused them. If a metaphor is inaccurate, you have lied to your audience. It’s helpful to run through your ideas with researchers during your interviews, so they can help you fine-tune for accuracy.

Of course, it is your job to make sure that you also think the metaphor gets the job done. You can’t be entirely beholden to scientists. It is ultimately your decision; but you must be confident of your understanding of the science before you can craft an appropriate metaphor.

4. The “I’ll just Google it” trap.

The Internet is not a reliable fact checker. It certainly can’t take the place of verifying something with experts. If something in your notes strikes you as dubious, or if you are even the teeniest bit unsure of the meaning, check back with a researcher. To illustrate, a cautionary tale:

One of the stories created for PRX’s open call STEM Story Project in 2015 used a very impressive metaphor. Our producer got it from a scientist, and it was a great illustration of a particular phenomenon. But as we got closer to the final mix, something didn’t feel right. It was too impressive. But the dang metaphor appeared in several news stories; two different reporters couldn’t have gotten it wrong..right? And in fact, the producer insisted that, based on interview notes, the metaphor was accurate. I decided we had to triple check.

When I went back to the researchers, they said no, this comparison was actually not accurate at all. Reporters had (quite innocently) misinterpreted a simile the scientists had come up with themselves. As one researcher put it, “I think the science writer went a bit too far in the analogy.” Thankfully, they weren’t able to say that about the PRX story—we changed the script. The lesson here is, double-check your work during the reporting process. Find mistakes early.

5. The jazz hands trap.

In some hands, fancy production leads to incomparably beautiful radio. So it’s tempting to think that because some amazing shows (backed by a raft of talented staff) do this flawlessly, you should, too. A science audio story is just the place to bring your composer friend on board, and get crazy with the soundbeds. But be honest about the skills and tools you have at your disposal. You may be a phenomenal basketball player, but that doesn’t mean you can tap dance.

Besides, a story doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles to move a listener. At the heart of any great radio—whether it’s highly produced, or just you and some tape—is a powerful story supported by strong reporting, excellent writing, and an invested narrator. No jazz hands required.

What’s in My Buds? With Christina from Spotify

In this month’s edition of “What’s in My Buds?” we chat with Christina Choi from Spotify. Christina is a partnership manager on Spotify’s content team, and focuses on podcasts and videos. (Spotify recently added podcasts to the music mix and made them available to both free and premium mobile users on iOS & Android in the US, UK, Sweden, and Germany).

Christina is a musician at heart and always had her eye on a music-related job before joining Spotify. She’s particularly excited to share podcasts with Spotify users. Read on to learn about the ones that have her hooked.

What is your go-to podcast and why?

This is hard! I have a couple of go-to podcasts that I listen to regularly, but if I had to choose one, it has to be Political Gabfest. I can listen to Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz dissect issues for hours. I’m so glad they’re around IMG_1147during this nutty election cycle.

What show do you wake up to?

I still use an old radio alarm clock and the dial’s always set to WNYC. I love waking up to Soterios Johnson and the NPR Morning Edition crew.

What is your favorite listening environment?

My morning commute on the subway or my bike. I download the latest episodes on my Spotify (shameless plug) and I listen on the go. I have a pretty expressive face, so depending on the podcast, I’m either laughing hysterically or crying. It’s quite a show for my fellow passengers and bike commuters.

What show do you rave to your friends about?

Using Spotify to listen to podcasts

I’m a huge fan of The Moth and always recommend it to podcast newbies. Dinner Party Download is also fantastic. It’s such an amazing concoction of all aspects of culture. They have great guests and feature awesome music and movies. I also just discovered How Did This Get Made and I’ve been talking about it non-stop. It’s so funny. If you’re a Nicholas Cage fan (who isn’t??), I highly recommend the Face-Off and Con-Air episodes. 

If you were to start your own podcast what would the subject be?

I’d love to host a podcast about K-pop. I’ve been listening to Korean music since I was young, and it’s been amazing to see how it’s evolved into this global phenomenon.

I’d love to give a meaty, in-depth analysis on all things K-pop.

How do you envision the future of the podcasting landscape?

I think the podcasting industry is at an interesting phase. There are a lot of streaming services like Spotify and Google Play jumping on the podcatching bandwagon, so I’m curious to see how competition changes the landscape. I hope it helps grow the overall podcast listener-base as opposed to cannibalizing from other services.

PRX to Distribute On Being

PRX is happy to announce that as of July 1st, On Being will join our broadcast distribution and digital portfolios. On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast. The show takes on life’s big questions of ONBE_Isolated-Master-Logo_squaremeaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers. Each week, host Krista Tippett presents her audience with a new discovery about the immensity of our lives.

Find out more information in the press release below.

On Being/Krista Tippett Public Productions and PRX Announce New Broadcast and Digital Partnership

Cambridge, MA (March 29, 2016) — Beginning July 1, On Being will join the broadcast distribution and digital portfolio of PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. PRX is the distributor of The Moth Radio Hour, Reveal, and This American Life and is the home of Radiotopia, a podcast collective anchored by 99% Invisible from Roman Mars. PRX was named one of Fast Company’s Ten Most Innovative Companies in Media in 2015 and is the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award.

On Being has been an independent production of Krista Tippett Public Productions (KTPP), a non-profit company based on Loring Park in Minneapolis, since 2013. In that time, the show’s audience has grown exponentially, with a 245% increase in annual podcast downloads from six million to 21 million, and weekly broadcasts on nearly 400 public radio stations around the U.S. On Being is the only public radio program to receive the highest honors in both broadcast and digital media—the Peabody and the Webby award. KTPP also hosts The Civil Conversations Project and this month released a new podcast, Becoming Wise, drawn from content in Tippett’s new book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Penguin Press), on sale beginning April 5.

“KTPP is driven by a vision of media as social enterprise,” Tippett says. “PRX is an entrepreneurial force in independent media, building strong relationships with public radio stations, producers, and diverse audiences. We are excited to pair our public service orientation and institutional nimbleness with theirs.”

“No show has a more deeply engaged audience—and a more tangible effect on the lives of individuals and communities—than On Being,” says Kerri Hoffman, COO of PRX. “It has evolved in fascinating ways, to take on the most important subjects of our time. We’re thrilled to help bring this content and impact to an even wider web of audiences and platforms.

PRX will take over operations previously handled at American Public Media, the national distribution arm of Minnesota Public Radio. Tippett originally piloted her program there in the early 2000s, launching a weekly series in 2003 with the title Speaking of Faith. “MPR provided a vital home for this project to launch, find its voice and grow,” she says. “This idea would not have been welcomed with greater generosity anywhere else. MPR/APM will always have a foundational place in the self-understanding of On Being, and we hope to deepen our strong and ongoing broadcast partnership moving forward.” On Being airs twice each weekend on MPR stations, and MPR is hosting the launch of Tippett’s Becoming Wise at the Fitzgerald Theater in April. On Being will continue to be based and to incubate The Civil Conversations Project in the Twin Cities region.

OUTSIDE and PRX Team Up on Podcast Launch

PRX is excited to announce a new podcast partnership with OUTSIDE, the  nearly 40-year-old magazine and active lifestyle brand. The OUTSIDE podcast, launching today, will kick off with a series called “Science of Survival”, which chronicles how we survive the most harrowing life or death situations.

The first episode tells a story of being frozen to the brink of death. It brings the outsidelogolistener through series of plausible mishaps on a bitterly cold night: a car accident on a lonely stretch of road, a broken ski binding that foils a backcountry escape, a disorienting tumble in the snow, and a slow descent into hypothermia and delirium before a dramatic rescue. It is a truly gripping story, with great music and an awesome female narrator to boot. Subsequent episodes include topics like survivors of lightning strikes and extreme thirst. Check out all of the details in the press release below, and listen to the episodes via iTunes or SoundCloud.

OUTSIDE and PRX Team Up to Launch Podcast With

“Science of Survival” Episodes

Available on the OUTSIDE PODCAST and Transistor

Santa Fe, NM (March 28, 2016) — OUTSIDE, America’s preeminent active and adventure lifestyle brand, has joined forces with Public Radio Exchange (PRX), an award-winning public media company, to launch a podcast with “Science of Survival” episodes. Beginning Monday, March 28, episodes will be available for free in the OUTSIDE PODCAST on iTunes and SoundCloud, as well as the PRX science podcast Transistor. Each episode, either prompted by a story from OUTSIDE’s archives or simply inspired by a theme its editors have explored, will apply OUTSIDE’s literary storytelling methods to the audio realm.

“The kinds of captivating tales that have worked so well for OUTSIDE in print and online make for incredibly immersive listening experiences,” said Michael Roberts, Executive Editor of OUTSIDE. “With this PRX partnership, we’re able to bring our unique storytelling to an exciting new format and create wildly entertaining features.”

The “Science of Survival” series investigates how humans endure the most challenging live-or-die scenarios. The first episode, “Frozen but Alive,” inspired by a classic OUTSIDE feature by Contributing Editor Peter Stark, guides listeners through the harrowing experience of being frozen to the brink of death—and then brought back to life. Upcoming episodes will look at how humans go without water in extreme environments, and will report on the remarkable stories of lightening strike survivors, among other topics. Support for the “Science of Survival” comes from the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation and its commitment to storytelling around STEM issues.

OUTSIDE is the premier voice in adventure and exploration,” said John Barth, Chief Content Officer at PRX. “They saw instantly the value of working with PRX to expand science reporting and reach the broad, captive podcast audience we provide.”

Known for decades of expert adventure storytelling such as Perfect Storm and Into the WildOUTSIDE has garnered six ASME National Magazine Award nominations in the last three years, including nods for General Excellence Magazine, General Excellence Website, and Reporting for its feature on the Yarnell Hill Fire, “Nineteen.”

Listen to the episodes on iTunes here. For more information or to request an advance screener of the first OUTSIDE PODCAST episode, contact Thomas Giordonello at The Rosen Group, at 212-225-0945 or

About OUTSIDE: OUTSIDE is America’s leading active lifestyle brand. Since 1977, OUTSIDE has covered travel, sports, adventure, health, and fitness, as well as the personalities, the environment, and the style and culture of the world Outside. The OUTSIDE family includes OUTSIDE magazine, the only magazine to win three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, The Outside Buyer’s Guides, Outside Online, Outside Television, Outside Events, Outside+ for the iPad, Outside tablet edition, Outside Books, and now Outside GO, a revolutionary, 21st-century adventure-travel company. Visit us online and on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

About PRX: PRX is shaping the future of public media content, talent and technology. PRX is a leading creator and distributor, connecting audio producers with their most engaged, supportive audiences across broadcast, web and mobile. A fierce champion of new voices, new formats, and new business models, PRX advocates for the entrepreneurial producer. PRX is an award-winning media company, reaching millions of listeners worldwide. For over a dozen years, PRX has operated public radio’s largest distribution marketplace, offering thousands of shows including This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, and Reveal. Follow us on Twitter at @prx.

Announcing: Radiotopia Live!

radiotopia-live-500We are very excited to announce our first live Radiotopia show, at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in LA, on May 4th. Tickets are available now, grab yours here before they sell out!

Radiotopia Live brings extraordinary, story-driven shows out of your headphones and onto the stage. For one night only, join us for live radio, conversations, stories and music from the hosts of top podcasts 99% Invisible, Criminal, Song Exploder, The Memory Palace, Strangers, Mortified, Radio Diaries, Fugitive Waves with The Kitchen Sisters, Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything and The Allusionist.

Also! We will have a limited number of exclusive VIP tickets available. The VIP tickets are $200 and include a premium level seat and an invite to our after-show cocktail party in the mezzanine of the Ace. Don’t miss this chance to mix and mingle with your favorite Radiotopia hosts.

See you in LA!

Podquest Update: Tips from Our Judges

We’re one week into Podquest, and the entries just keep coming in. Here are some helpful tips from our internal selection committee on what makes a great Podquest entry, and what we’re looking for in a new Radiotopia show. Our committee is made up of PRX and Radiotopia audio vets, so take these notes to heart when entering. Good luck!


First, here are five tips from our executive producer, Julie Shapiro, on what makes a greatgirl-podquest-dark story-driven podcast:


1. A clear sense of a topic or theme that can be explored in different ways.
2. An engaging host who connects directly and personally with listeners.
3. An original sensibility and tone.
4. A careful and intentional sound design that helps tell stories.
5. An emotional range across different episodes—from humorous to provocative, and everything in between.


Next, what are our judges looking for in a submission?


I’m looking for a show with well thought-out ideas from folks who don’t generally have easy access to capital, and aren’t represented in traditional media outlets.


A show that forefronts curiosity and lets go of notions of authority (and, by extension, modest hosts who find other people more interesting than they find themselves)… a show that plainly loves the way people’s voices sound, and the strange ways in which we talk to each other about the world.


Submissions that present a strong core idea and examples of stories that support that idea.


A well-defined aesthetic experience, tonality, and self-awareness (but not self-consciousness). Something that inspires an emotional connection to a person, people or experiences that I would not have otherwise encountered, or leads me to a new understanding of something.


Humor! You have to bring some personality into your show and make me laugh.


Ideas I haven’t heard much elsewhere, and a host or producer who stands out from all the others. Also there are enough po-faced podcasts in the world, so I’d love to hear more irreverence.


Your own unique style of hosting and sound design, rather than a copy of your favorite host’s style. An idea of who your audience will be and how you will grow that audience.

Welcome Paloma!

Hello! I’m Paloma the new Distribution Manager and Customer Support Specialist at PRX. I blame my love of radio and storytelling on my mom and dad who still don’t understand what it is I do in the wonderful world of public radio. “Are you on air,” they ask, “No.” “Then what do you do?”

Paloma and her partner in crime

I attended Columbia College in Chicago, where I earned my degree in Radio Talent/ Production. While a student at Columbia, I started interning at 98.7 WFMT and was promptly offered a full time job as a production assistant upon graduation. I spent quite a number of years at WFMT and wore many hats: board operator, production, producer, engineer, IT, operations, etc…

This led me to working with two of the people that not only mentored me but gave me advice and supported me when I needed it most, the late Studs Terkel and Andrew Patner.

In 2014 The WFMT Radio Network started offering their content via SubAuto. This resulted in my promotion to Production and Syndication Manager at the Network and thus my relationship with PRX began. By coincidence, I actually started working at PRX two years to the date that I starting working with them for the WFMT Radio Network switchover.

I’m super excited to be part of the team and can’t wait to see what adventures await me!

More about me: I hail from Chicago. In my spare time I like traveling, concerts, reading, zombies, creating sound art pieces, listening to podcasts with my mom on Sunday mornings (although, now remotely) and special effects makeup.

Cue the Trumpets! Announcing Podquest: Radiotopia’s Open Call for New Show Ideas

PRX’s Radiotopia launched in 2014, in partnership with Roman Mars (99% Invisible) and six other podcasts, and has since grown to 13 acclaimed story-driven shows. Now, thanks to support from the Knight Foundation, we’re looking to grow and diversify the network, nurture fresh talent, and reach new audiences.

Hence, Podquest—an open call for new shows that align with Radiotopia’s mission: to support motivated, independent producers and original shows that champion creativity, rich narratives, anPodquest posterd high production value.

Podquest pitches will be accepted March 17 – April 17, 2016. Finalists will be selected by a committee of Radiotopia producers and PRX staff, with input from 99 donors who volunteered to help shape the future of Radiotopia.

Besides being a quest to find new talent, Podquest is also a study in what it takes to support ambitious, independent producers working to bring their shows to life. By the end of Podquest, we’ll invite at least one new show to join Radiotopia. Throughout the initiative we’ll offer support ($10,000 each plus editorial, business, marketing and tech help) to three finalists, and include them in a public conversation about the process. 10 semi-finalists will also earn $300, office hours with Radiotopia producers, a free 2-year membership with PRX, free Hindenburg editing software, and memberships with the media talent network

Want to submit an idea to Podquest?
First read more about Podquest and the entry process, and if you still have questions, drop a line to

In the meantime, follow along with the adventure on our Twitter and Facebook pages, or via the #podquest hashtag. And to get in the spirit, check out this little clip of audio goodness featuring some of your favorite Radiotopians.

**Update, Podquest is now closed for entries as of April 17, 2016.**



Best Youth-Made Radio of 2015

Thank you to all who nominated their favorite youth-made radio stories of 2015. Young people are making a tremendous amount of insightful and engaging radio, and we want to highlight some of that work. Keep it up!

Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

We also want to give an important shout-out to the amazing educators who are working hard to train the next generation of radio-makers. Thank you.

Take a listen to these stories which range from displacement in East Boston to falling in love with composing music to a day in the life of a popular Egyptian street food vendor.

Because we had so many fabulous submissions, some not available on PRX, we have also included a short list below of more phenomenal youth-made radio stories from 2015:

Why Do I Stay? – WNYC’s Radio Rookies
Single Parenthood – Shenika Morrison on Youth Radio
Repeat After Me Mitchell Johnson on Now Here This
Cairo Kid – Ibrahim Shkara from The Telling Room

Happy listening!