Talking Radio with Rose Anderson

This week, New York Festivals asked  Rose Anderson, New York Festivals’ VP & Executive Director of the International Radio Awards to share her perspective on NYF’s Radio Awards and the ROI for entering the World’s Best Radio Programs competition.

 

On a daily basis, Rose has her finger on the pulse of the international radio industry, from one-on-one think tank sessions with her advisory board to conferring  with Grand Jury members from the international media communities, to guest speaking at global forums, Rose is immersed in all things radio. Her respect for today’s radio content and her interest in world-wide creative trends ensure that NYF’s Radio Award categories offer the opportunity for terrific work to be showcased  and recognized around the globe. With New York Festivals Grand Jury, Rose has put into place a world-class panel who are award-winners themselves and determined to honor excellence and recognize creative entries that are  innovative in all areas of production, storytelling and performance.

In the interview below, Rose discusses the importance of earning NYF’s Grand Trophy, the ROI for entering the Radio Awards, how technology has changed the radio entries,  and more.

New York Festivals: What is the ROI for entering the Radio Awards and why should someone consider entering?

Max and Lulu Muggenburg Radio Educacion Mexico

Rose Anderson: It’s not for the glittering prizes – although our trophy is stunning. It’s not even for the international press coverage we give our winners or the cachet of being around for over thirty years. But when you stand at the podium at the awards gala, surrounded by your peers who know that radio is the universal language – well, if that isn’t return on investment, I don’t know what is.

New York Festivals: Talk about the importance of the Grand Trophy Award and the qualities those programs earning this award possess.

Rose Anderson: Grands are the Best in Show, it’s a simple as that – the highest scoring entries in a very competitive field.

Those programs have stood out in two rounds of judging – preliminary and medal rounds. They are often compelling in subject matter, ambitious in scope, and off the charts in degree of difficulty. In short, they flat out amaze.

Sophie Black, The Wheeler Centre Australia; Michael Green, Behind the Wire Australia; and Jon Tjhia, The Wheeler Centre Australia

New York Festivals: How has technology changed radio entries and what is its impact on content?

Rose Anderson: The tools available today – in sound design, in layering, in transmission – have meant that today’s entries are made on a level of complexity that wasn’t possible in years past. What we have done in our judging platform, which is password protected by the way, is to upgrade the player so jury members all over the world hear programs at that quality – and they can enter that aural landscape easily.

Rose Anderson in Mexico City at the 10th Bienal Internacional de Radio

New York Festivals: What three characteristics would you say make for a successful Radio Award entry?

Rose Anderson: Storytelling. Passion. Innovation. After all, it is the theater of the mind.

Stay Tuned New York Festivals International Radio Award Opens for Entries on January 10th! For more information on NYF’s Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

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Inside New York Festivals Radio with Rose Anderson

This week, New York Festivals spent a few minutes with Rose Anderson, New York Festivals’ VP & Executive Director of the International Radio Awards to find out more about her success strategy for the Radio Awards competition. Inside NYF Radio shines the spotlight on the Rose’s record-breaking years at the helm.

Rose manages all facets of NYF’s  Radio  Awards, overseeing the strategy to expand its footprint, assembling the world-class advisory boards and award-winning grand jury from the international media communities, and initiating marketing and media partnerships.

Rose Anderson, VP & Executive Director, New York Festivals Radio Awards

Since joining NYF in 2009, Rose has transformed the competition to fit today’s global programming by being responsive to current world-wide creative trends and by recognizing innovation and excellence in all areas of production, storytelling and performance.

Rose, an Emmy Award winning producer and member of the DGA, is the former Director of the Sports Emmy Awards and Director of Production for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She contributes the experience and understanding that only an accomplished network producer can deliver.

In the interview below, Rose shares the evolution the Radio Awards has gone through, her strategy for keeping the competition relevant, her greatest challenges and the innovations added to the competition that she’s most proud of.

New York Festivals: How have the New York Festivals International Radio Awards transformed since you’ve been at the helm?

Rose Anderson: Eight years ago, even the name was behind-the-times, and the categories were left over from the analog age. So, we canvassed industry leaders to join an Advisory Board and went to work. We had a new trophy designed: one that captures the magic of radio’s past while looking into its future. And the net result has been more entries from more countries – and an ever-increasing year by year superior level of quality in our submissions.

New York Festivals: How do you keep NYF’s Radio Awards relevant and on trend with the evolving radio landscape?

Rose Anderson: First, we listen. We listen to our entrants. We ask them what keeps them up at night. For the 2018 awards which open in January, we are adding more podcast categories including Documentary and Journalism.

New York Festivals: What is your future vision for NYF’s International Radio Awards?

Rose Anderson: So, more and better as we connect with everyone who is passionate about all aspects of audio.

Mark Travis, Associate Director of Media, Production for New York Philharmonic, Rose Anderson, and Alec Baldwin, Host of the New York Philharmonic

New York Festivals: What have been the greatest challenges while running the competition and what was your response that led you to success?

Rose Anderson: The greatest challenge is fairness. Who decides what program is better than another one? It all comes down to who is on the jury, and their depth of experience. What we do is invite the winners to join the next year’s jury…and the 2017 grand jury was made up of 35% women – all award-winning radio achievers – and every single one with hands-on experience in creating what people are listening to today.

New York Festivals: In your opinion, what are the most exciting categories that you have added to the competition in the past few years and why?

Rose Anderson: Let me list just a few – and you’ll see why these categories made everyone sit up and take notice. Heroes, Music documentary, Music podcast, PSAs, audiobooks, Best Live Sound, Sound Art, Best Innovation, Social Issues, Best Music Program host, Best Interview, Travel & Tourism, Social Issues, Biographies, Climate Change & Sustainability, and Best Live News Special.

Left to Right: William J. Small, Rose Anderson, Mike Freedman, Marvin Kalb, Richard C. Hottelet

 

Stay tuned, the 2018 New York Festivals Radio Award opens January 10th. For more information, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

Check back next week for Part Two of Inside New York Festivals with Rose Anderson.

 

 

 

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Open Mic Spotlight Interview: Liz Aiello

New York Festivals Open Mic Interview features prominent award-winners from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF Radio Awards shines the spotlight on Liz Aiello, Executive Producer of SiriusXM’s award-winning radio series “The Last Mile.”

Liz Aiello, Vice President of Talk Programming, SiriusXM and Executive Producer of The Last Mile

Liz Aiello is a Vice President of Talk Programming at SiriusXM. She is a content creator and executive who understands both traditional and digital media and has more than 20 years experience leading creative teams and driving editorial vision.

In her current role, she oversees political programming on the POTUS and Patriot channels for SiriusXM…as well as The Catholic Channel and the Triumph channel with Dave Ramsey and Glenn Beck. Previously, Liz was a Senior Vice President with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, working in both radio and television. Liz also worked for Howard Stern, creating a “news department” for Mr. Stern when he premiered on Sirius Radio. That job came after more than a decade working in television news, as Managing Editor/Executive Producer at WABC-TV.

SiriusXM’s  Liz Aiello, Executive Producer  and Jim Bilodeau, Producer earned the UNDPI Silver, in addition to a Gold Radio trophy for the “The Last Mile.” This 6-week documentary series  explores the awe-inspiring stories of transformation and redemption of nine men told by the inmates themselves.

In the interview below, Liz  shares the background and logistical challenges of this ground-breaking prison program inside San Quentin.  The Last Mile program is changing lives through technology  and returning inmates to society, not only with highly-marketable coding and business skills…but real hope for a second chance at life. So far, the program boasts a ZERO recidivism rate.

Jim Bilodeau, Producer for SiriusXM with UNDPI Presenter

NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this program?

Liz Aiello: It was an idea brought to us by the son of our President, Scott Greenstein. He met Chris Redlitz, the founder of The Last Mile, at an event and started learning about the innovative program. He thought it would be an interesting radio show. Once we met the founders and some of the program’s returned citizens, we knew this was much more than just a radio show.

Chris Redlitz, Founder of The Last Mile

 

NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with the inmates at the San Quintin Last Mile program?

Liz Aiello: TLM founders Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti arranged a full day at San Quentin and selected a half dozen or so inmates for us to speak with.

NYF Radio: This 6-part documentary told the story of 9 men, how difficult was it to persuade the men to open up about such personal events in their lives?

Liz Aiello: Not difficult at all. These men have spent many years dealing with their actions and the emotions over what they did. They have tremendous self-awareness and are eager to share their story in the hopes of stopping someone else from making the same mistake.

NYF Radio: What were the logistical challenges did you encounter while producing your program?

Liz Aiello: Only that it is quite a process to get into the prison, so we really needed to plan out what we wanted to accomplish and what questions we should ask BEFORE we got there. We brought backup batteries and equipment to ensure there wasn’t a technical failure. We weren’t going to have the chance to interview everyone a second time.

NYF Radio: What risks if any did the people who shared their story have to come to terms with?

Liz Aiello: No risks.

NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by drawing attention to this story with your creative efforts?

Liz Aiello: Chris and Beverly say it best: “Ninety percent of incarcerated people WILL get out of prison one day. That’s a fact. The question is, ‘Who do you want them to be?;” We wanted to show that if given valuable job skills, these men can and want to be productive members of society. And, once returned to society, they go back to their communities and work to stop young people from making the same mistakes.

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The last Mile” such a successful award-winning program?

Liz Aiello: The men’s stories, told in their own words. Each story is so compelling. It is very hard to turn away once you start listening.

NYF Radio: Will you discuss the importance of freedom of speech?

Liz Aiello: It is the FIRST amendment of our Constitution. There is nothing else to say. It is one of the great things that separates America from the rest of the world.

NYF Radio: Now that you’ve achieved success with this project, what other radio projects are on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?

Liz Aiello: The Last Mile has launched a similar program in the women’s prison in Los Angeles. We will be going back and telling new stories…this time from a female perspective AND we will get into telling the story from the family’s point of view. What the children and spouses of these incarcerated people have to deal with….and what happens when their loved one returns to society.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: Iarla Ó Lionáird

On June 19, 2017, New York Festivals held the International Radio Awards Gala and award-winners from around the globe attended the festive event in New York City. That night, the presenter for RTÉ lyric fm/The Lyric Feature – “Vocal Chords” stepped up to the podium to accept the Gold Trophy for Biography/Profiles for the outstanding program: “Paul Brady and Iarla Ó Lionáird in Conversation.” NYF had the pleasure of meeting Iarla and asked if he’d spend a few minutes sharing his insights about his award-winning program with NYF.

Iarla Ó Lionáird Presenter for RTÉ lyric fm/The Lyric Feature – “Vocal Chords”

This week Open Mic Spotlight interviews  the international talent, Iarla Ó Lionáird. Iarla is presenter of RTÉ lyric fm’s award-winning program “Vocal Chords” and lead singer for The Gloaming, the contemporary Irish music supergroup formed in Ireland in 2011. As one of the leading figures in traditional Irish music, he sings in the traditional sean-nos style, he’s lent his voice to movie soundtracks including “Gangs of New York” and “Calvary.” He has had success with such groups as The Crash and Afro Celt Ensemble and has toured with some of the music industry’s biggest names including Peter Gabriel, Nick Cave, Robert Plant and Sinead O’Connor. Iarla has a strong interest in all music culture with a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology, he is also a frequent lecturer at Princeton University.

The Gloaming

 

In this interview, larla shares the inside story on his award-winning program, how he recruits exceptional musicians to share their story, the creative and logistical challenges involved in producing Vocal Chords, his dream project and much more.

NYF Radio: RTÉ lyric fm/The Lyric Feature – Vocal Chords earned the Gold Trophy for their outstanding programs: Paul Brady and Iarla Ó Lionáird in Conversation, to what do you attribute the success of this program?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: I think Paul Brady is a fascinating subject for a documentary about the nature of song, the art of songwriting and the personal quest to become an artist. I say this in particular because Paul came to folk music as an outsider and yet early seminal recordings which he achieved redefined Irish folk music and are seen as landmark works to this day. He then went on to record contemporary rock and pop songs several of which were recorded by major artists such as Tina Turner. So, all in all his achievement is huge and his story traverses a large chunk of 20th-century Irish music.

NYF Radio: How did you come up with the idea for this project and to what efforts did it take to connect with Paul Brady to create this program?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: Well, the series has been running for some years now and I had always wanted to include Paul sooner or later. I happen to know Paul Brady through my own work in music and have even collaborated with him in the past. And so therefore connecting with them for this project seemed natural and he was eager to get involved.

NYF Radio: What creative and logistical challenges were involved and how did you utilize technology to solve those challenges?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: The recording of these programs in essence is reasonably simple from a technological point of view and like most location recordings these days we use various tools such as zoom recorders and the like. A large part of the programme’s achievement however occurs on the editing bench as it were, where we trawl through vast amounts of archival material and knit them into a narrative pleases both from storytelling point of view and from a purely our aural perspective.

NYF Radio: Vocal Chords continues to rack up awards in broadcasting for their extraordinary stories and conversations, what is involved in finding and convincing these exceptional musicians people to share their stories?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: Sometimes it takes quite an amount of time to gain the confidence of artists who rightly wish to be involved in programs of merit and depth. Artists we wish to speak to are frequently on tour or otherwise engaged in various projects and so therefore it takes time to find time even after they have agreed in principle to get involved. But as we make more programmes and build on our achievements I feel that prospective artists have more confidence in the outcome and show an interest in other programs are achieved and the issues which they raise and reveal.

NYF Radio: As a singer yourself, what do you personally take away from these exceptional interviews?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: I always learn quite a lot myself from these programs. There is always so much one can take away from a conversation with an artist. Each individual has their own unique engagement with the creative process, something that they often feel is magical and largely ineffable. Our job is to reveal as much as possible about that process and about the life that give rise to the art itself without compromising the artist or breaking the spell.

NYF Radio: Where did the idea come from to produce stories/conversations that provide insight into music and the creation of music? Can you talk about your creative process?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: The idea for this series came I believe as a result of a program series called vocal chords where I myself was interviewed and as a result Helen Shaw felt the perhaps I might be an appropriate choice as an interviewer who could engage with individual artists and have an empathy which would allow them to feel comfortable in talking about something deeply personal, and mysterious-their own art. My own creative process is as messy as one might imagine I perform, I write collaborate with many composers on an ongoing basis and the processes by turns fascinating and very challenging. There are times like every artist when I feel tremendous pressure and indeed a degree of trepidation but on the whole, it is a very interesting occupation which would be hard to match in any other walk of life.

Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Iarla Ó Lionáird: Well I’m hoping to record an album next year thereafter of traditional science, ancient melodies and words from the Irish traditional music Canon with orchestra. And although I have worked with forces of that size before I have never had the opportunity to commit it to recording for posterity as it were. And this project involves have a dozen or more international composers who have studied these melodies and have provided beautiful highly individual accompaniments. I think, and I hope that it will give these old songs and new life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Vocal Chords, please visit: http://vocalchords.ie/

To learn more about New York Festivals International Radio Awards, visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

 

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Open Mic Spotlight:Liliana Manna

New York Festivals Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winners from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF Radio Awards Grand Jury member, Liliana Manna of Radio Rivadavia, and 2017 Bronze trophy winner shares her creative insights on her award-winning program “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts.”

(Left to Right) Liliana Manna and Rosario Lufrano of Radio Rivadavia Argentina

 

Liliana Manna is a journalist for Radio Rivadavia Argentina. She was the first woman in Argentina radio to be named a writer-broadcaster in the News Service of Radio Belgrano and served as producer on various radio and television programs. Her illustrious career spans 4 decades and Liliana has been honored as one of the 100 personalities of the decade from 1987 to 1997 in the category of Best Producer.

Ms. Manna has earned more than 7 Gold, Silver and Bronze trophies at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. This year, she stepped up to the podium at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards gala to accept the Bronze trophy for “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts” for Best Human-Interest Story. Previous accolades include taking  home the 2014 NYF Radio Awards Gold trophy for Best Documentary for “30 Years of Democracy: Everybody’s Story.” Her award-winning streak continued, in 2014 she also won the Ondas Award, awarded by the Cadena Ser Spain, for best documentary radio program in the world “Human Trafficking: Merchants of Innocence” which on December 3rd was delivered in a special audience with Pope Francisco.

Keep reading to learn how Liliana’s award-winning program “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts” came to be produced, the challenges she encountered in production and how she overcame them, how her passion for radio developed, her personal dream project she’d like to create and more.

Liliana Manna with NYF Radio Awards Silver Trophy

 

NYF Radio: How did your Bronze Trophy winning program “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this program?

 

Lilian Manna: The inspiration was found in the sad reality that our country, Argentina, lives with regard to people who die day after day by violent episodes: armed robberies; Femicides; Unscrupulous motorists who do not respect the minimum standards of urban coexistence; Police violence; Increased drug trafficking; the application of laws that favor the delinquent more than the victim. These are social issues that have a very strong impact throughout the country.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Liliana Manna: The investigation was directed mainly to the victims, who suffered this violence and were able to survive. We consulted judges and sociologists to get some response to the increase of violence in all its forms in our society. And we also turned to two Nobel Peace Prize winners like Rigoberta Menchú and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel who provided their invaluable testimony when it came to finding possible ways to overcome these scourges.

Nobel Peace Prize winners, Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala) and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina)

NYF Radio: How did you attract most respected specialists to speak on this topic of street violence including two Nobel Peace Prize winners Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala) and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina); Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas –author of two boks about this plight-, Priest Father Pepe (hard-working in the slums) and Guillermo Whpei (President of the international Foundation for Democracy, who has observed the peace process in Colombia)?

Liliana Manna: Both Rosario Lufrano and I endorse a professional career of many years with an ethical basis that allowed us to gain the most precious of a journalist that is his credibility.

With Adolfo Pérez Esquivel we maintain permanent contact. He is a man who, despite the honorability of his Nobel Peace Prize, accesses journalistic interviews when he is asked questions of high social commitment. It reveals poverty; Hunger and violence.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum was able to interview her in our studies of Radio Rivadavia thanks to the management of Mr. Guillermo Whpei, President of the International Foundation for Democracy, during a brief visit to the country, invited by the Foundation. Mr. Whpei is a highly qualified voice to talk about issues of concern to Latin America.

Guillermo Whpei, President of the International Foundation for Democracy

Judge Daniel Rafecas, one of the country’s top judges, rarely has an interview. Before our proposal, he did not hesitate to speak of a reality in which the judicial decision is also compromised.

NYF Radio: What unique skills does your production team require to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?

Liliana Manna: In each Special Radio Production, we propose to (metaphorically) “create radio images” using most radio resources. We prioritize reinforcing the testimonies that are heard with special effects, with music carefully selected, for each moment. The pre- production takes us about 3 months of searching for the right characters and recording studio. We try to avoid telephone interviews so as not to detract from the sound quality. There are only three people on the team: the director and conductor, Rosario Lufrano, the sound editor, Toto Berlingieri, and I as a content producer and responsible for the airing.

NYF Radio: How was your program received in Argentina and has bringing to light the problem with so many respected specialists on this topic brought about any change?

Liliana Manna: The program had wide repercussions. We can honestly say that having had the testimony of Carolina Píparo, who in 2010, being 9 months pregnant, suffered a tragic robbery in front of her home, was a very important contribution to get the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation to approve a Law Protection of victims of violence. It was a long struggle faced by relatives who suffered different episodes of urban violence and who could not conceive that criminals had more benefits than the victims.

NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for radio?

Liliana Manna: I started in 1974 at Radio Belgrano in Buenos Aires. I was already a journalist and National Speaker. I was the first woman on the radios of the City of Buenos Aires, to integrate an informative service of a radio and to read Informativos that, until then was a masculine task.

NYF Radio: Will you talk about the importance of freedom of the press? Will

Liliana Manna: Press freedom is a key condition for responsible journalism. I was censored during the years of the tragic military dictatorship that we lived from 1976 to 1983. I could answer a lot more and also include “Corporate censorship”. I just want to say that in Radio Rivadavia we work with broad freedom of expression.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people who want to find their place for a career in the radio industry?

Liliana Manna: The most important advice I can give to young people who want to find their place in the radio industry is to tell them to embrace radio … with passion. Let them be aware that we are a means of communication to express ourselves with fundamentals. We are not the owners of the truth. We are a MEDIUM that we can contribute to the search for some truth by managing with reliable sources of information.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Liliana Manna: My personal dream is always focused on the next Special Production project. I am passionate about documentaries (on radio and on TV). I think it is important to exercise Memory and not repeat stories. A dream I have: interview a serial killer. There are many who still live. And that they serve their sentence of life imprisonment.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit:http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: Mark Travis, New York Philharmonic

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight shares the inside story on some of 2017′s award-winning radio programs and the creative insights from the incredible men and women who create these inspiring programs. This week, NYF interviews Mark Travis, Associate Director of Media, Production for New York Philharmonic. This year the New York Philharmonic earned a Gold Trophy (Director) for “Celebrating the 175th Anniversary Season” as well as a Gold Trophy for Music and a Bronze Trophy for Best Director for “Zubin Mehta at 80.”  “The New York Philharmonic This Week” also took home the Silver Trophy for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program.

Mark Travis and Alec Baldwin, Host of the New York Philharmonic

Mark shares his industry knowledge with NYF as both a New York Festivals Radio Awards Advisory Board Member and as a member of the Grand Jury. He has over 20 years of experience in the music industry as a writer, producer, broadcaster, lecturer, and audio engineer. Since 2011, Mark has been the Associate Director of Media, Production for the New York Philharmonic and he has produced the orchestra’s broadcasts since 2003. He has also served as a writer and producer for Chicago’s WFMT Radio Network where he wrote and produced over 800 nationally syndicated programs–notably the Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera of Chicago broadcasts. 

The multiple Grammy-nominee and cancer survivor has been the recipient of over 25 medals and trophies for his broadcast work–including the 2015 Grand Jury Prize from the New York Festivals.

In the interview, below Mark shares insights on creating award-winning programming, how the New York Philharmonic first began broadcasting, his methodology for overcoming creative challenges, advice for future classical music enthusiasts who want to find a place in the industry, and much much more.

NYF Radio: How did your Gold Trophy winning program “Celebrating the 175th Anniversary Season” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this celebratory program?

Mark Travis: The New York Philharmonic is the longest-running orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. I wanted to find a way to acknowledge the Philharmonic’s milestone 175th anniversary season and draw attention to the organization’s activities surrounding it, notably the New World Initiative (http://www.newworldinitiative.com­)

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Mark Travis: I suppose the biggest challenge was figuring out how to summarize 175 years and over 16,000 concerts within the show’s two-hour time-frame. My solution was to focus on two works that have figured prominently in the orchestra’s history.  One of these was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which was featured on the orchestra’s first program in December 1842.  The other work is a repertoire-staple that the Philharmonic premiered: Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” Rather than just zero in on one great performance of these two works, I instead decided to let the broadcast unfold by assigning a different conductor to each of the four movements that made up the two symphonies. So audiences heard Arturo Toscanini conduct the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, followed by Bruno Walter leading the second movement and from there to Zubin Mehta and Jaap Van Zweden for the third and fourth movements. I took a similar approach to the Dvořák.  Here, it started with Leonard Bernstein and went from Kurt Masur to Lorin Maazel’s historic broadcast from Pyongyang and concluded with Alan Gilbert. All of the conductors selected were Philharmonic Music Directors of the past, present or future, save for Bruno Walter, who was technically a “Musical Advisor.”  By showcasing recordings that spanned eighty years, it was easy to form a compelling narrative.

NYF Radio: As Director and Writer of the programs, what unique skills do you need to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?

Mark Travis: I don’t know if the skills I bring to the table are unique so much as my programming philosophy.  Each week I strive to produce a program that I’d want to hear. I’m not thinking about awards or ratings or magic formulas while in the studio.  I’m considering how to create the best possible show using the pieces available to me.  Sometimes I have hundreds of elements and hours of material at my disposal. Other weeks I have maybe four. So, what I think really sets The New York Philharmonic This Week apart from other concert programs is the resulting variety. I’m not just speaking about the repertoire, but the fact that any given week we might present a documentary-style profile of a great artist, a themed “playlist program” with less than three minutes of talk, or a concert program with didactic highly-produced intros.  I understand this makes our series a little challenging for some of the program directors out there and I’m grateful that so many of them have stuck with us for so long, despite certain criticisms. In the end, though, I craft this program with love and respect for the listeners—from one fan to another.

NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for classical music? How did you come to share your passion on radio?

Mark Travis: I really can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of my life, but my formal training began in third grade with classical guitar lessons. I also flirted with the French horn for a short time before eventually discovering in junior high school that I could carry a tune reasonably well. I attended Northern Illinois University on a full-tuition scholarship for voice and while I never finished my degree, I landed my first radio job at Northern Public Radio at age 21. WNIU and WNIJ proved to be an amazing training ground for me with lots of practical hands-on experience. I’ve occupied numerous roles since then, but fine arts broadcasting is still a very important part of my professional life 22 years later.

NYF Radio: How did the New York Philharmonic radio broadcasts first come about?

Mark Travis: The orchestra has been on the air in one form or another since 1930.  The current edition came about in 2004 and it was largely the brainchild of my former boss at the WFMT Radio Network, Steve Robinson, and then-Philharmonic President, Zarin Mehta. Steve knew that live broadcasts were becoming an increasingly hard sell to the Network’s affiliates.  He argued that for a similar investment, the Philharmonic could present a wider snapshot of the orchestra’s season and everyone would win. The musicians could relax knowing that any imperfections on a given night could be cleaned up and member stations now had a show that could reliably occupy and fill a 2-hour time slot. Listenership almost doubled when we went to that format, so Zarin encouraged us to increase the number of broadcasts from 39 to 52 for the 2005/06 season. Listenership doubled again when we better stabilized a hard running time for the program with judicious use of fill music and it jumped considerably again when Alec Baldwin signed on to host the series in 2009.

NYF Radio: The program “Celebrating the 175 Anniversary Season” also earned a Bronze Trophy for Best Radio Special, to what do you attribute the success of this program and its wide spread appeal?

Mark Travis:  It probably doesn’t hurt that the two symphonies featured on this program occupy spots on most anyone’s “top 10” list for classical music.  I also think there’s a point of pride when it comes to the New York Philharmonic.  It’s been a cultural institution in this country for 175 years. Even people that have never studied music know of the Philharmonic,  so I think there’s a natural curiosity about its history and evolution. That’s, of course, to say nothing of the big personalities who have contributed to its success.  In any case, I’m thrilled that this show was so well-received.

NYF Radio: The New York Philharmonic earned a Gold (Music) and a Bronze Trophy (Best Director) for “Zubin Mehta at 80” and a Silver Trophy for “The New York Philharmonic This Week” for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program, what are the common elements that make up these trophy-winning programs?

Mark Travis: Central to the success of the programs you mentioned (and really every episode of the series to date) is the orchestra. There would be no show without the engaging and imaginative performances the orchestra gives us week in and week out.  They are the foundation for everything we do and their excellence inspires everyone on the staff to also be excellent. As mentioned earlier, though, I think we present the story of this orchestra and this music in a very complete and unique way and I’m so very pleased that this has seemed to resonate with both critics and audiences.

NYF Radio:  As a judge for the 2017 Radio Awards and as an award-winner yourself, what advice do you have for future entrants into the NYF Radio Awards?

Mark Travis: I feel we are a little over-saturated by programs attempting to replicate a handful of firmly established shows. I’d encourage future entrants to take pride in their original voice and to take a few more risks.  As one of my mentors used to say to me, “Fail boldly and settle for perfect.”

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for classical music enthusiasts who want to find their place in the radio industry?

Mark Travis: Musicians often make terrific radio producers and personalities as they can offer anecdotes from their personal experience and their well-tuned ears, natural sense of timing and knack for precision is often quite welcome in the studio.   But whether you’re a former musician or a music-lover looking for a possible career change, I’d suggest that you volunteer or look for part-time work at a local station so you can see firsthand what the job looks like. I also can’t emphasize enough the importance of listening to new music and new recordings on a daily basis.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Mark Travis: I have a series in the works that explores the contributions of African-American singers to the world of art-song and opera.  It will profile not only trailblazers like Marian Anderson, George Shirley, and William Warfield, but also singers of the current generation like Eric Owens and Morris Robinson…plus many voices and personalities in between. I’m still searching for the right host, but I’m very excited to share some of the stories, interviews, and recordings I’ve collected. I’ve also always wanted to produce a program or series comparing and contrasting the development of heavy metal music to classical music. Oh and if Disney, ever decided to do radio adaptations of the Star Wars films again, I’d be first in line to offer my services.

For more information about the New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: Raymond Meade,The Railway People

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight shares the inside story on some of 2017′s award-winning radio programs and the creative insights from the incredible men and women who create these inspiring programs. This week, NYF interviews Raymond Meade, writer-producer, Demus Productions, Glasgow Scotland and bassist for the English rock band, Ocean Colour Scene. Raymond earned a 2017 New York Festivals Radio Awards Bronze Trophy for his compelling program created as a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, “The Railway People.”

Raymond Meade accepting the 2017 NYF Bronze Trophy for "The Railway People"

The Scottish songwriter and rock musician was deeply moved by his visit to Auschwitz. His journey inspired him to write poems and create music to commemorate the Holocaust with an EP “The Railway People.” Raymond forged a friendship with Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor which resulted in the two friends returning to Auschwitz to record the program for BBC Radio Scotland.

NYF wanted to find out more about how this program came to be. In the interview below Raymond shares how he became inspired to write poetry and music based on his trip to Auschwitz, the creative challenges he encountered when creating the program for the BBC, how he met Eva Kor and what he hoped to achieve with his creative tribute.

NYF Radio: What prompted you to create the program “The Railway People” and how did you come to write music and poems based on your trip to Auschwitz to launch this creative program idea?


Raymond Meade: I visited Auschwitz as a tourist and was horrified by the experience. It completely numbed me. I had always wanted to visit the Camps but nothing could have prepared me for the experience. On my journey home to Scotland, it became obvious to me that I’d need to try and write about what I’d encountered. It started with some poetry which then led to some music and eventually I made the decision to try and create a whole piece to mark the memory of the victims.

NYF Radio: How did your meeting with Nick Low of Demus result in the documentary “The Railway People” and it airing on BBC Radio Scotland?

Raymond Meade: When the groundwork was laid and I knew for sure that the format was going to be a return to Auschwitz with Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, Nick called me to say he’d heard about my plans. He was keen to film it and record everything I was doing. I maybe didn’t see the potential in the whole thing to begin with but Nick thought there was a great story to be told and he was right. What unfolded was a truly incredible experience and I’m forever indebted to Nick for taking the chance on it.

Raymond Meade with Auschwitz concentration camp survivor Eva Kor

 

 

NYF Radio: You describe the program “The Railway People” as “my way of remembering the victims of the Holocaust.” What do you hope to achieve by respectfully drawing attention to this atrocity with your creative efforts?

Raymond Meade: All I’d hoped to achieve with the Railway People was to feel as though I’d done something to remember the dead. I think the whole point of going to Auschwitz is keeping the memories alive. It’s remembering what happened there and contributing to ethos of never forgetting. It’s not ancient history. It’s very recent. I wanted to be respectful and to hopefully find a new angle to tell this most tragic of stories.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

Raymond Meade: There weren’t really many creative challenges. My main issue was approaching a subject as colossal as the Holocaust and not being Jewish. I was conscious of that and I wanted to make sure that every tiny detail was fact checked and accurate. I was probably over analyzing everything but it deserved it. It simply had to be correct from the very beginning. There’s no second chances with something like this.

NYF Radio: How did you come to first meet Eva Mozes Kor and why did she agree to record your poem for the spoken word segment of your song tribute “At the Top of the Stairs?”

Raymond Meade: I felt a direct link to Auschwitz would give the project a lot of weight and I’d read Eva’s book a few months before I started writing the Railway People. I decided to email her and ask if she’d contribute a spoken word piece on one of the songs. She was very responsive and keen. She’d never been on a song before. She liked the idea and the approach but then went even further by suggesting we do the recording on the Selection Platform at Auschwitz Birkenau, the site where she lost her family in the gas chambers over 70 years ago. When I read that email, I had chills up my spine. I knew then that this was going to be extremely special and important. When we eventually met several months later and traveled to Auschwitz together, it was without a doubt, the most memorable thing I’ve ever been involved in. To go through those gates with an 83-year-old lady who experienced it first hand was truly mind blowing. The most humbling experience of my life.

Raymond Meade and Eva Kor recording poem

 

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The Railway People” such a successful program?

Raymond Meade: I think it’s been successful for the simple reason that it came from the heart. I didn’t set out to write a documentary, or a film or win an award… nothing like that. All I wanted was to find my own way of coping with the experience of visiting Auschwitz. The real surprise of the Railway People is the friendship that developed between Eva and me. That was not expected and there’s some light moments in among the darker tones. The fact that so many people made contact after it aired was amazing. People of all religions, ages, occupations, all felt the same way and that was a really satisfying feeling for me because I think it moved them in the right way. There’s been so many teachers and lecturers asking if they can have copies to teach it in their various classes and that has surprised me. It’s such a massive compliment and I feel I’ve made a worthwhile piece that might help introduce people to the atrocities that occurred there.

NYF Radio: How was the radio program received in Scotland and the UK?

Eva and Raymond

Raymond Meade: It was very well received. The press coverage was huge and most of the newspapers ran stories. There was national television coverage and plenty of radio interviews too. I think it became such an unusual relationship between Eva and myself and that caught people’s imaginations. A genuine closeness has developed and I now regard her as a very dear and special friend. We speak very often and have met up a lot in the time since the recording. I’m sure it’s a friendship for life and I’m very grateful to now have her in my life, even if she does constantly tell me that my jeans are too skinny and I need to eat more food! Haha!

NYF Radio: Your program “the Railway People” earned the coveted 2017 Bronze Trophy in the Heroes category, what does earning this award mean to you?

Raymond Meade: It was genuinely one of the most special nights of my life. I’ve never been involved in anything like that before and to win the Bronze Trophy was so unexpected. When I saw firsthand all of the talent in that room, I just felt lucky to be in that kind of company for a night. But, for my own program to then be acknowledged and included was something I’ll remember forever. New York has a special place in my heart. I’m there 5/6 times a year so it was literally perfect. A dream.

NYF Radio: How did your creative background as a musician aid you in expressing your thoughts about your visit?

Raymond Meade at the entry gates to Auschwitz

Raymond Meade: I think that songwriting is the way that I’ve always dealt with my life, through good and bad times. I’m fortunate to be able to put my thoughts into words and music. When I came back from Auschwitz, I knew there was going to be something coming. It’s like an incoming signal. You just have to be open to it and do your best to express it when it arrives. It’s essentially a crutch. A coping mechanism. I’m grateful to be able to do it.

NYF Radio: As a rock musician did you find composing a musical tribute honoring those who perished in the holocaust a different process than creating music for your group Ocean Colour Scene?

Raymond Meade: It was only different because it was such an important topic. The process was no different and the songs poured out. There was no force. It was all very natural and I think that comes across in the finished tracks. I spent a little longer on the lyrics but on the whole, it was pretty much the usual way I write music.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people wanting to create a program that they have a passion about or a cause they want to illuminate?

Raymond Meade: The only advice I could give is if you feel something and you can’t ignore it then you must pursue it. It becomes something you don’t have a choice in and that’s when the magic happens. If everybody told their stories and experiences then the world would be a better place for it. I would tell any young person to wear their passions like a badge. Take chances, write letters, knock doors, make the phone calls. You can’t ever know where it’ll take you.

NYF Radio: Now that you’ve been so successful in your first radio documentary, are there any other radio projects on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?

"The Railway People" EP Album

Raymond Meade: I’ve no problem in admitting that the NYF Radio Awards has given me a new lease of life. It has shown me that I might be able to do something different from playing music and that my writing is of a decent standard. I’ve set myself a target of making 3 radio documentaries before next year’s awards and I want to be back in New York to experience that special night again. I’m working on a true crime piece, a further Auschwitz piece and also a local heroes’ collection which will be a series of interviews. The interesting thing for me was seeing how many podcasts were included. It shows that a commission isn’t everything and that there is always a way to tell the world your stories. It would mean everything to me to return next year and to be considered again. Thank you for such a special experience. It’s been incredible.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: “Majd’s Diary” Sarah Kate Kramer

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Sarah Kate Kramer, Producer for Radio Diaries. Radio Diaries took home the New York Festivals Gold Trophy at the 2017 Radio Awards Gala in New York City for their program Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl.

Nellie Gilles, Sarah Kate Kramer, Joe Richman, Radio Diaries

Sarah has produced multi-award winning radio documentaries and first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator. She traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown, New York City.  Sarah produced radio stories and an oral history project while in Morocco as a Fulbright Fellow.  Prior to joining Radio Diaries, she served as editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and as a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio where she created “Niche market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York.

In the interview below, Sarah shares her creative process,  logistical challenges she encoutered when producing her documentaries, her thoughts on how becoming a radio diarist changes the lives of the diarists, her personal dream project, and much more.

NYF Radio: Radio Diaries earned the Gold Trophy for their outstanding programs Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl, to what do you attribute the success of this program?

Sarah Kate Kramer: I think that one reason listeners responded so much to Majd’s Diary is because it’s rare for outsiders to hear a personal story from a woman in Saudi Arabia. Much of the international news coverage of women there focuses on a limited number of issues: the veil, and the ban on women driving. Because women’s voices are not often heard in the public sphere, there are a lot of misperceptions about what life for young women in Saudi Arabia is really like. Majd brought listeners inside her world, and even though the details of her life were foreign, Majd was able to create an intimacy that made it easy for people to relate to her. Listeners could understand her life and choices in a genuine way.

Majd Abdulghani

NYF Radio: How did you come up with the idea for this Radio Diaries project and to what efforts did it take to connect with Majd to create this program?

Sarah Kate Kramer: The very first Radio Diaries project was called “Teenage Diaries.” We gave tape recorders to teenagers around the country and asked them to document their lives for NPR. 16 years after that series aired, in 2013, we produced a new series with five of the original diarists called “Teenage Diaries Revisited.” At the same time, we partnered with NPR and Cowbird.com on a contest to find the next Teenage Diarist. We solicited stories from teenagers around the world, and we selected Majd as the winner. We had almost 1000 entries, but her story really stood out.

NYF Radio: What creative and logistical challenges were involved and how did you utilize technology to solve those challenges?

Sarah Kate Kramer: We are based in New York City, so working with a diarist in Saudi Arabia was definitely a challenge. We didn’t actually meet Majd in person until a year and a half into the project! Majd would record “diaries” and upload them to us using dropbox. We would communicate on skype and through WhatsApp. Luckily she is a very tech-savvy individual.

The other challenge comes with the territory of producing an audio diary. We invariably end up with tons of raw tape that we need to sift through in order to construct a radio story. Majd recorded almost 100 hours over two years. Her story ended up being 25 minutes long, so editing everything down was tough. But that’s our specialty here at Radio Diaries.

Majd Abdulghani

NYF Radio: Radio Diaries continues to rack up every major award in broadcast journalism for their extraordinary stories of ordinary life, what is involved in finding these exceptional people to share their stories?

Sarah Kate Kramer: There’s no one way that we find stories, it’s different every time! But I would say that the success of any story really comes down to the characters in it. As my colleague Joe Richman says, “you can make almost anything into a good story. What you can’t do is make anyone into a good storyteller.”

NYF Radio: Your team has produced some of the most memorable documentaries ever heard on public radio broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered, This American Life, BBC, and on the Radio Diaries Podcast. How does creating a radio diary change the lives of your diarists?

Sarah Kate Kramer: I’d like to forward this question onto the diarists themselves, so they can answer.  But I will say that the process of keeping an audio diary is a big commitment. Many of the people we’ve worked with have said that it’s helped them get to know themselves better.

NYF Radio: Where did the idea come from to create stories that incorporate citizen journalists? Can you talk about your creative process?

Sarah Kate Kramer: Since 1996, Radio Diaries has been giving people tape recorders and working with them to report on their own lives and histories. We’ve collaborated with teenagers and octogenarians, prisoners and prison guards, gospel preachers and bra saleswomen, the famous and the unknown. We give people recorders so they can tell their own stories in their own words, directly to listeners, without the mediation of a third-party narrator. We like the intimacy of the form, and the way it creates empathy between people who would otherwise never meet. If you want to know more about our creative process, I’d strongly suggest reading Joe’s Transom.org manifesto.

NYF Radio: Why did you create The Radio Diaries DIY Handbook and what have been the effects of this publication on the world of radio?

In the handbook, Joe said “I enjoy the puzzle-like challenge of making stories out of found objects.” Please elaborate on your enjoyment for creating stories out of found objects and how you ultimately take all those elements and transform them into riveting award-winning stories?

Sarah Kate Kramer: We made the handbook because we want to encourage people to tell their stories through radio. Why? It’s fun! We love the medium. And we’re living in an age when it’s more accessible than ever before.

“Making stories out of found objects” is a metaphor for producing stories out of the raw sonic material of people’s lives. When diarists record themselves for months on end, they capture all kinds of things: intimate confessionals, riveting conversations…and a lot of boring moments. In fact, the vast majority of what people record ends up in the trash. At Radio Diaries we mine the tape for the hidden gems, the moments that really bring you inside someone’s life. Those are our building blocks.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Sarah Kate Kramer: We feel really lucky every day to do what we do.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

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Open Mic Spotlight: “The Messenger” Jon Tjhia and Michael Green

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews “The Messenger” Producer & Senior Digital Editor, Jon Tjhia of The Wheeler Centre (Australia) and Journalist, Presenter & Producer, Michael Green of Behind the Wire.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat "The Messenger"

“The Messenger” (Behind the Wire and The Wheeler Centre Australia) was honored with the 2017 Grand Award (National or International Affairs) for their ten-part podcast series. The program is based on thousands of voice messages sent via burner phone by Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee detained on the Australian-run detention center on the Manus Island, Paua New Guinea, to journalist, Michael Green. This award-winning series was also recognized with 2 Gold Trophies.

Jon Tjhia is the Wheeler Centre’s Senior Digital Editor. He has worked on the Wheeler

Jon Tjhia, Producer/Digital Editor, The Wheeler Centre

Centre’s multimedia, editorial and digital projects since 2010, including #discuss, the short-form multimedia series Housekeeping, and long-form podcast series Better Off Dead (Finalist, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2016) and The Messenger (Grand Trophy and two Gold Medals, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2017). He’s a co-editor and co-founder of the Australian Audio Guide.

Michael Green, Presenter/Producer/Journalist for Behind the Wire

Michael Green is a journalist and producer in Melbourne, Australia. For the last few years he has been working on Behind the Wire, an award-winning oral history project about Australian immigration detention. You can listen to our podcast, The Messenger, about Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese man who is in immigration detention on Manus Island. He is co-editor of our book, They Cannot Take the Sky, published by Allen & Unwin, and the producer of our exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum, which opened in March 2017. Over the years, Michael’s written for The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change, Nautilus, Right Now and Overland Journal, among others.

In the interview below Grand Award winner’s Jon and Michael share what sparked their idea for their award-winning podcast series, how they came to work together and connect with Abudl Aziz Muhamat, the creative and logistical challenges they encountered and much more.

Michael Green, Behind the Wire with Sophie Black and Jon Tjhia, The Wheeler Centre at 2017 NYF Radio Awards Gala

 


NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this podcast series?

MG: The first night I exchanged voice messages with Aziz, I was overwhelmed by how warm and open he was, and by the sound and character of his voice. And that voice was coming from a hidden place. I just wanted to know everything I could about him, and what he was going through. I knew right then that radio would be the perfect way to share his story.

NYF Radio: How did the two of you come together to produce this program?

JT: In mid-2016, the Wheeler Centre ran a competition called So You Think You Can Pod – in which we invited aspiring producers to pitch a podcast series, judged by a panel including producers of Reply All, Soundproof and Ingredipedia. To cut a long story short – Behind the Wire’s pitch was the winning one. Michael was overseas at the time, and had woken up at some heinous hour of his morning to Skype in for the event – but ended up unable to establish a clear voice line during the event itself. Ironic, really; the process was a little reminiscent of Michael’s challenges in connecting with Aziz.

After the competition, we worked with Michael and his team [André Dao, Bec Fary, Hannah Reich] to support the development of their show, think about a structure and sonic identity, and so on. We thought the emerging story was unusual, surprising, nuanced and important, and we agreed on many aspects of the framing and the telling. We wanted to support and expand Behind the Wire’s very direct work in bringing (literally) unheard voices to the fore, and eventually, we all chose to produce the series together.

NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with Abdul Aziz Muhamat?

MG: For the last few years I’ve been working on an oral history project called Behind the Wire, about Australian immigration detention. I first got in touch with Aziz as part of that project – I was hoping to speak with him for a story in our book. Two people I knew gave me his number. And because of my track record, he was able to do his own research, and figure out whether he wanted to speak to me.

NYF Radio: What logistical challenges did you encounter while working with a refugee who was reporting while in detention?

MG: For the first few months we spoke, Aziz wasn’t allowed to have a cell phone, so he could only use it secretly, in his room when there were no guards around. There isn’t much signal at the detention centre, so he couldn’t make a call. We decided to use WhatsApp voice messages instead, but on many days, even that wouldn’t work.

NYF Radio: What risk did Aziz’s reports put him at and how did he avoid attention while reporting from the Manus Island detention center?

Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

MG: After Aziz had been speaking to me secretly for a few months, the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled that the detention centre was illegal. After that, the authorities allowed some small freedoms, including cell phones. So, thankfully, he is now allowed to use his phone openly – although the lack of signal still makes it difficult to communicate freely.

NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by drawing attention to this story with your creative efforts?

MG: Right from that first conversation, Aziz said he wanted to speak out – to be ‘the messenger’ – about the situation in the detention centre, so that people outside would know what was going on. In Australia, the policy of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and refugees is controversial. It’s a very high profile issue, and it’s in the news nearly every day. But a view from inside is rare, especially something as in-depth as The Messenger. We think it’s important to show the complexity of that experience.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

MG: We have a huge amount of material – over four thousand messages, plus other interviews, so thousands of pages of transcript. Our team – André Dao, Hannah Reich, Bec Fary and Sophie Black – has done a lot of hard work to bring the most resonant issues and emotionally powerful moments into the final show.

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The Messenger” such a successful program?


JT: Hm – it’s hard to talk about your own work in this way! But as Michael mentioned, it’s been important of us to expose the complexity of what’s happening in Aziz’s story, and the myriad tensions of the broader situation; I hope that comes across.

As a piece of radio, we’re very mindful of a listener’s attention, as well as the space you create when you invite someone into a world. We wanted that space to be a generous one, and for it to push against certain tonal expectations that exist around stories of refuge and trauma. That said, I don’t think it’s so far-fetched that, with a few changed circumstances, many of us could face similar challenges to the ones Aziz faces. He’s an articulate and affecting bearer of his own story.

NYF Radio: As a journalist, will you discuss the importance of freedom of speech?

MG: Australia has a long-standing policy of detaining asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Those detention centres are usually located in remote locations, far from outside scrutiny. The people held there are denied the ability to speak out about who they are and what they’re going through. That means there’s a huge gap in the public understanding of this policy and its results. It is also demoralising for the asylum seekers. I know for Aziz, it has been incredibly empowering to be able to tell his story and to be heard.

NYF Radio: How was the podcast series program received in Australia and globally?

JT: It’s hard to gauge with any definitive sense! At the least, we’ve tried to make the series – which happens to anchor in an Australian context, but pulses with a near-universal one – inviting to people anywhere. And here, it’s been a politically polarising issue for a long time, although I would speculate that the narrative is in the process of shifting.

On a personal level, we’ve been approached by people who’ve connected strongly with Aziz through the series. There’s been some academic interest in the work, too. I think the best feedback we’ve received is that it changed somebody’s mind; it’s not very often you hear that these days.


NYF Radio: Your program “The Messenger” earned the coveted 2017 Grand Award in the (National or International Affairs) category, what does earning this award mean to you?

JT: The Awards came as a shock to us; the Grand Award even more so! A real fright in the inbox, in the wee hours no less. We were most excited about telling Aziz, of course – he’s given a lot of himself to doing this work with us, and I hoped he’d take it as one sign that his effort has been acknowledged and appreciated, and his trust validated. It doesn’t change his predicament, of course, but he was thrilled!

The Awards have always been an opportunity to listen to more work from places and producers that we just wouldn’t stumble across in the course of our days. And likewise, we’re particularly grateful for the ways in which it’s helped to bring our work to a wider and different audience. As a small, independent team – largely running on unpaid hours – it’s exciting to have our careful, thoughtful work recognised.

But – the work continues. We’re still producing the series. Aziz remains in detention – in an unpredictable situation which we’re seeing fall apart as a government deadline to close the centre approaches.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people wanting to create a program that they have a passion about or a cause they want to illuminate?

MG: One thing that sets The Messenger apart is the depth of the reporting. It’s a long hard road, but my advice is to aim for as much depth as you can – be slow and careful and really get to understand your subject. The most compelling and original stories emerge that way.

NYF Radio: Now that you’ve achieved success with this project, what other radio projects are on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?

JT: We have a couple of episodes of The Messenger to produce, and those are our focus for now. The Wheeler Centre has a few exciting radio/podcasting projects in the works which will be aimed at generating more critical and practical conversations around the craft of radio making, and working with independent producers, writers and so on. I’m looking forward to having more time to consider different ways that audio can be woven together with other formats of creative work – and also, to listen!

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Award, please visit:http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/ and to browse the 2017 Radio Award winning programs go to: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/worldsbestradio/2017/

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Open Mic Spotlight: Anna Foster, 15 Minutes from Mosul

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Anna Foster, Presenter and Journalist for BBC Radio Live. Anna presents Drive on Radio 5 Live-the BBC’s national news and sports network,  and for the past 15 years she has reported major stories from around the United Kingdom and internationally.

Anna Foster, BBC Radio 5 Live

Ms. Foster has earned an impressive number of New York Festivals International Radio Awards throughout the years, including earning the prestigious 2017 Gold UNDPI Award and a Gold Award for her program 15 Minutes from Mosul, her important story

on the refugee’s in the camps outside the Iraqi city of Mosul.

While reporting for BBC, Ms. Foster has traveled to Sierra Leone to tell the story of the Ebola outbreak, reported from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, covered the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels and explored the refugee crisis in Germany.

She has a passion for developing the next generation of journalists, and increasing the visibility of women in the media via mentoring and encouragement.

In the interview below,  Ms. Foster shares her motivation for creating her award-winning program, how she came to connect with the Iraqi’s in the refugee camps, the creative challenges she encountered and how she solved them and more.

NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this program?

Anna Foster: I’d been following the awful impact that the Islamic State group was having not just in Iraq and Syria, but closer to home too. I’d travelled to Paris and Brussels to cover the terror attacks there, and was desperate to tell the stories of people who were living under the control of this awful organisation. They were largely voiceless at that stage – the difficulty of getting in to IS areas and the danger that people faced speaking out there had led to a wall of silence. But as people finally managed to leave Mosul I saw a chance. I really wanted to make a radio programme about people – parents and children, teenagers, men and women – ordinary individuals with extraordinary stories to tell.



NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with Manal and the other Iraqis in the refugee camp?

Anna Foster: We were in the camp, talking to the refugees, hearing horrifying stories of the lives they’d fled from. They were so warm and eager to speak, inviting us into the tents that were their new homes. I wanted to get a real sense of how they were living, so we were with a UNICEF medical team moving from family to family, giving vaccines to children who’d had no medical care under IS. Our fixer Mahmoud felt a tug on his sleeve – it was Manal’s relatives desperate to tell us her story. I still remember ducking through the canvas to see her two boys lying on a dirty mattress, with the thinnest arms and legs I’d ever seen. Their weak, pained cries took my breath away. It was such a tough moment, but I know I had to take pictures, talk to Manal, and find out what had happened to them.


NYF Radio: What risks if any did the people who shared their story have to come to terms with?

Anna Foster: Very often the people we spoke to didn’t want us to broadcast their names, because they had relatives who were still living in Mosul and at huge risk of violent reprisals. We had to be so careful, making sure we didn’t include faces in photos unless people’s whole families were known to have escaped from IS to safety. It was a huge responsibility, and I’m so glad that people trusted us enough to put their lives in our hands. Something like that really pushes you to make an incredible job of the material you get, to really do justice to people’s stories and make sure they’re heard around the world.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

Anna Foster: I wanted to make something unconventional, something that wouldn’t just grab the attention of people following the news, but instead break out of that mold and really speak to anyone who heard it. Because of that it doesn’t have a classic narration style, it’s very raw, I wanted the listener to feel like they were standing right alongside me, seeing what I was seeing at that moment. Equally though, I wanted it to be a compelling and beautifully produced piece of radio that stood out. We took the 15 minutes theme – the length of time it takes to travel from Mosul to the camps – and counted that time down through the programme to highlight that even though people were out of the city, they were still so close to danger.

To find out more about New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/


 

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