This American story-telling

This American Life’s Ira Glass, who oversees what we journalists think is one of the last great hopes for “long-form journalism” (as it is so haughtily called), doesn’t necessarily call what he does journalism at all. From a Times Q&A leading up to his new Showtime video version of the show:

Q: How do you think your work differs from traditional journalism?
A; We’re taking the tools of journalism and applying them to people whom you wouldn’t normally apply them to — people who aren’t famous, people who aren’t powerful, people just like you and me.

Q; What are you talking about? Journalism has always had human-interest stories.
A; But a newspaper probably wouldn’t run an article where a cop remembers one weird incident with a squirrel when he was a rookie. That’s too far from any kind of normal news hook.

I’d say that’s false journalistic modesty. If journalists are storytellers, Glass & Co. are the masters of the craft.

  • Hasan Jafri

    Agreed. Ira Glass makes us proud.

  • http://www.technologyevangelist.com Ed Kohler

    I had a chance to see Ira Glass taping a show in Minneapolis this past week. Awesome stuff, as usual. I think one of the main differences is the approach to story telling. Sequential stories and anecdotes of This American Life are much different from the type of story telling used by newspapers.

  • scote

    “long-form journalism” (as it is so haughtily called),

    Why wold it be “haughty” to call 20-30 radio essays “long-form journalism” in an era of 5 second sound bytes?

    Such a term seems descriptive rather than “arrogantly superior and disdainful.” Ironically, your distain of the term “long-form journalism” does qualify as “arrogantly superior and disdainful.” I find your opinions interesting and often informative, but you are nothing if not arrogant so it seems that it might behoove you to be careful before accusing others of the same.

  • scote

    Correction: (grrr.) That should be “20-30 minute long radio essays”

  • http://blog.chuckbrown.com Chuck

    I listen to a lot of radio, but Ira and This American Life are the only thing on radio that I really care about, should I somehow miss them.

    And now that they are available on iTunes for free weekly subscription, even that won’t happen again.

    I’m very interested in seeing how the TV show turns out. If it’s as great as the radio deal, it would definitely be worth the extra 10 bucks a month.

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  • http://ari.typepad.com Steve Rhodes

    Sometimes TAL devotes an hour to a single story.

    I hope they’ll be able to do that on the tv show at some point.

    The tv show is half an hour. I’ve seen the first episode and it is good.

  • http://ari.typepad.com Steve Rhodes

    A couple of examples of hour long shows:

    Somewhere in the Arabian Sea

    http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/02/206.html

    Harold Washington

    http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/97/84.html

  • http://ari.typepad.com Steve Rhodes
  • Scott Butki

    He’s very intelligent and he, along with other favorites like Sarah Vowell,
    are responsible for some of the best stories I’ve heard in radio in years

  • TSOL

    Glass and Vowell have certainly mastered the insufferable smugness of professional journalism!

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