If you’re reporting on things that are really relevant to people’s lives, then pegs for your stories will drop out of the sky, whether you plan for them or not. Just report on the right stuff, get ready to publish or air it whenever it’s ready, and a related news event will happen that’ll make your work appear timely.
That’s an excellent piece of advice I got a few years ago from Anthony Brooks, co-host of Radio Boston on WBUR (a show I used to work on) and an NPR alum. I thought of it this week as I was writing a follow-up to last week’s episode of The Pub, in which we discussed discrimination against certain voice qualities within public media.
While all of my guests agreed that vernacular, regional or ethnic dialects among reporters, commentators and hosts should not only be tolerated but embraced, it seems there is one vocal attribute against which it is still OK to discriminate — vocal fry.
So I was working on a riff that would explain, in pretty technical terms, what exactly fry is and why I think there’s nothing wrong with it. But since I was working on this thing days after the Pub episode that inspired it, and more than a week after This American Life took on the subject, I was worried it might sound dated by the time we posted today’s episode.
But if you’re writing about the right stuff, a peg will happen. In this case, NPR officials revealed in an email to stations Monday that Sabrina Farhi — a noted vocal fryer — is out as the primary underwriting voice on the network. They declined to comment when Current asked why, or what this means for Farhi’s job.
There may be plenty of legitimate reasons for NPR brass to remove Farhi, whom they anointed with great fanfare less than two years ago as the successor to Frank Tavares and his 31-year legacy in the job. But man, I hope her vocal fry, or the many misguided audience complaints they’ve received about her fry, isn’t among them.
On this week’s episode of The Pub, I will attempt to finally put the great vocal fry debate to bed . . . with science. Once you understand it, you’ll stop hating it, I promise.
Also in the show:
- A great conversation with former NPR host Jacki Lyden about her new micro-news organization The SEAMS, which reports on fashion, a topic she never felt got the respect it deserved at her old gig
- West Virginia Public Broadcasting CEO Scott Finn, fresh off his Punch Sulzberger fellowship at Columbia Journalism School, will share five things that he thinks public media can learn from commercial media
- Now that The Pub is a month old, we’ll examine its reception, and talk about how you can help it thrive
We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at email@example.com; and you can contact Current generally at firstname.lastname@example.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.
If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to email@example.com, either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!