Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feeling Festive

I've been thinking a lot lately about bias, especially the political variety. As I listened to Ira Glass discuss allegations of NPR's supposedly liberal leanings, I wondered why one of my favorite storytellers was leaning so heavily on a concept (objective reporting) that by definition couldn't exist. As I do when I need audio advice, I turned to John Biewen. In his foreword to Reality Radio, John celebrates a form of documentary that embraces individual voice and perspective. The producers in Reality Radio not only acknowledge their role in shaping "true" stories, they use it to create innovative pieces and push the boundaries of reporting. And I dig it.

I produced a more news-oriented version of this segment for tonight's "In Our Backyard" on WORT-fm. But after rereading Katie Davis' manifesto, I was inspired to throw objectivity to the winds and tell a story in which I'm an active participant, complete with my very own opinions.

INTRO: Signs of spring are finally emerging after another epic Wisconsin winter. As down parkas become scarce, the food carts reappear on Library Mall, and UW students flee town for the week, thousands of midwesterners will celebrate warmer weather by sitting in the dark. Preparations for the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival are underway across an otherwise deserted campus. Lauren Peterson caught up with one of the festival’s masterminds at their temporary box office on the second floor of the Memorial Union.

OUTRO: To join festival organizer extraordinaire Allen Ebert and Superwoman Meg Hamel in the countdown to opening night, follow @wifilmfest on Twitter or visit .

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Elementary Education

My friend Simone gets the weirdest spelling words.

Seriously - week after week, her third grade class is required to define and memorize some of the most bizarre words in the English language. While Simone and I are unclear as to exactly where these words come from, we've abandoned our search for practicality among her vocabulary lists. Instead, we celebrate their innovative fusion of Little House on the Prairie lexicon and select terms from the Watergate Tapes.

I didn't realize how badly I've needed a few minutes of unadulterated silliness until tonight's Spelling Words Extravaganza. Hence, my most recent piece. In the spirit of awkward juxtapositions so heartily embraced by the makers of Simone's English worksheets, I was inspired by my favorite audio piece of all time and the brief, eclectic style of the Third Coast International Audio Festival ShortDocs.

INTRO: For some, education is a global debate involving scholarly theories and reform strategies; for others, it's something a little more...elementary. On a recent Tuesday evening, Lauren Peterson and eight year old Simone A-K attempted to master such third grade vocabulary staples as "beachcomber" and "scratch test."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

One Day Longer, One Day Stronger

Photo by the great Cat Degen
I am tired.

And I'm not talking about the regular, watched too many episodes of West Wing instead of going to bed kind of tired. No, the kind of tired I am is the type of exhaustion that makes your bones ache and your muscles drag and your sister say, "Wow, you look tired."

My whole city is that kind of tired. It's palpable to anyone who happens to be walking down State Street, away from the Capitol Building that we can't get into anyway. The same people whose energy has spurred me on for the last 24 days are walking more slowly, heads down, signs lagging, visibly hurt.

Lucy, Maddy, Anna and me (photo by Jessica Carrier)
The last month has contained some of the most difficult days of my life. I've been disappointed by public figures, flabbergasted at the daily goings on of state politics, and offended by hateful, disparaging comments slung by media outlets and senators about myself, my fellow state employees, my family, my teachers, my schools, and my city. I'm more committed than ever to my cause, but I readily admit that pushing forward has become increasingly difficult.

I was feeling pretty low yesterday when I remembered a piece by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister I had heard at the Third Coast Festival. Listening to Si Se Puede (which starts about halfway through this episode of Re:Sound) was like a Five-Hour Energy for my mood (only much less disgusting and without the fear of possibly becoming radioactive). I highly recommend it to anyone who's feeling the Governor Walker hangover right now.

...another photo by Jessica Carrier
Our story isn't there yet, because it isn't finished. We don't have a triumphant ending. But even though it's a work in progress, I wanted to give something to my citywide, statewide, cross-country family of protesters. This isn't news, and it doesn't have a perfect story arc. Think of it as a love letter to the hundreds of thousands of people who have stood together for the last several weeks. One day longer, one day stronger!

HOST: This Wednesday, the state of Wisconsin passed a controversial bill limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Here, labor activists at Thursday's solidarity rally react to the bill's passage, and a Madison union organizer discusses a press release distributed by the Governor Wednesday detailing "Strange but true provisions of collective bargaining."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Votes for Wisconsin

At the Capitol with my dear friend Catherine and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (I vote for her every chance I get!)

For the last several weeks, visitors to downtown Madison haven't been able to walk a block without seeing a sign encouraging Wisconsinites to "RECALL WALKER."

Don't get me wrong - these protests have been home to some great signs. My recent favorite was the man walking his dog and carrying a poster that said "Animals for the ethical treatment of people." I also loved "Scottie: Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious spring by sweet humiliation of your sorry ass" (what can I say, it appealed to the former theatre major in me). And there's the ever-popular "Screw us and we multiply." Clever signs abound.

But every time I see yet another "RECALL WALKER" sign, I fight the urge to stop in my tracks and let out a dramatically anguished howl. That sign makes me angry.

In recent paragraphs, I believe I've established myself as pro-sign. And like the vast majority of my friends, colleagues, and neighbors, I am appalled by Governor Walker and everything he stands for. But the thing is - we voted for him. My state elected Scott Walker with 1,128,887 votes to Democrat Tom Barrett's 1,004,257. 52 % of my ever-so-slightly liberal-leaning, union-loving state voted for a man with an outspoken love affair for all things GOP and a record of using every loophole at his disposal to shirk collective bargaining regulations during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive. As The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes asks, "Why so surprised about Walker?" The only thing that's astonishing about his actions since taking office as Governor is the speed with which he's accomplished more or less what he promised he would.

Basically, we brought him on ourselves. From my soapbox, a recall just doesn't seem...well...called for. Know what does?


Lots and lots of voting.

So rather than think about the 40 or so protesters I've spoken to who have confessed to sitting out the 2010 gubernatorial election, I'm working on a handful of pieces about one of my favorite subjects:


Lots and lots of voting.

This first piece is taken from an interview I recorded earlier this year with a group of members of the Dane County League of Women Voters. I didn't have my awesome new recording equipment when I spoke with the LWV, so the audio quality isn't fabulous, but the women are. Plus, March is Women's History Month. Kind of perfect, right?

HOST: Last October, amidst the now controversial 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial race, the Dane County League of Women Voters offered this pep talk to young electors.