inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #76 of 168: gazornblat (dwaite) Sun 16 Jul 06 12:55
You seem to always have great energy when doing interviews - I have to
assume that there are some interviews you woudl rather have not done, or
prefered to do differtnly.. What I'd like to kow is what really charges your
boat (so to speak)...  Are there topics, people, ideas that come accross the
air, or something else that make your job all the more enjoyable?
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #77 of 168: gazorninblat (dwaite) Sun 16 Jul 06 12:55
slipped by Ed.
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #78 of 168: Angie (coiro) Sun 16 Jul 06 13:40
The filter has to be on all the time, Ed. Fortunately, it's not a
burden I carry alone. This is one of many instances where what you hear
on the air is the result of teamwork behind the scenes. Before we
bring someone on, Katrina has cleared the guest, and - not always, but
as often as possible - the guest has been discussed in the post-mortem.

It's also why I read everything I can about the guest before having
them on, and not just from supportive or sympathetic sources. That way
I engage not only my own skepticism and knowledge, but as much of both
as I can access.

One recent example of the vetting process: we were setting up a quick
update of e-voting issues. has done a lot to raise
awareness of e-voting fallibility. The head of bbv is a polarizing
figure. Bev Harris has as many enemies as supporters. She's been
accused of fiscal mismanagement within her organization. Keith
Olberman's team was so frustrated at the difficulty booking her, and
with her reportedly unprofessional behavior, that he went public with
it on his site. But there's no denying the depth of her knowledge, and
the stubbornness of BBV in tackling the issue on all fronts. And there
was a news hook that week that made her participation even more

So, we had a quick Q&A on the strictly-limited news topic. She did a
good job, informative, concise, energetic.

We got only one complaint, a personal attack on Harris. That's not to
dismiss it, but none of the facts posited in the interview itself was
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #79 of 168: Angie (coiro) Sun 16 Jul 06 13:50
Another example, not from MoJo:

A doctor was touring with a book positing a new diagnosis for common,
apparently unrelated ailments. His claim was that a substance known to
exist in the body was in fact the culprit for a range of illnesses
plaguing countless patients.  

The decision was made to have him on with his research partner. This
despite the fact his theory was new, unproven, and far from accepted by
the medical profession. I argued against it but was outweighed.

The hour turned out predictably. Any number of his statements went
unchallenged; how much could I learn in a week about immunity and the
disease process, to probe his claims? Some listeners called in to,
shall we say, question his credentials. And legitimacy of his cause
aside, he came across as a fierce self-promoter. Terrible hour.

Alas, it could have made a fascinating panel discussion. I still have
no idea whether his claims have any merit. If they do, they deserved
better examination.
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #80 of 168: Berliner (captward) Sun 16 Jul 06 14:05
So you're saying MoJo has researchers, too? 

But I'm still interested in how you decide which sources to trust when
you're building up your filter. 
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #81 of 168: Angie (coiro) Sun 16 Jul 06 14:12
Dave, a lot of the energy is adrenaline! I love the mic, I love an
audience, I'm almost always UP when I go on. It's my favorite thing.

A little insight on how that works for me: 
My husband and I went through a terrible, terrible time last year,
when a feline disease swept through our household, and we had to put
down four cats in less than six weeks. The day I got the word on the
third one -  my adorable and painfully young Maine Coon, Dr. Livingston
- I was hours away from an onstage interview with Mike Wallace. I
couldn't even get to the vet's office to be with Livingston, just had
to give the vet the go-ahead on the phone.

That night's event was the best possible medicine. When I'm talking to
someone of that caliber, with all my prep behind me, nothing else in
the world can penetrate my thoughts. It's All About the Interview.
Despite the awful events going on at home, I was as up for that
conversation as ever. 

So, yeah, the energy can carry you through a lot, and that's what
comes out over the air.

And I go back - again - to prep. The more reading and research I can
do beforehand, the more excited I can get about even the most mundane
topics. Of course some are drier than others. But everything has some
interesting little sidelights, some intriguing backstory. With the
right team in place vetting the topics and the guests (the better
story-tellers, the better the show), plus the prep, you can bring that
out for an audience.

But, oh, yes, I have my favorites! And some of them are non-political,
so I miss them very much. I used to do an hour on the SF Silent Film
Festival, one of my passions being classic movies. Topics on
sustainability - which I still do - matter deeply to me. And that's a
wide, wide range, from the future of transportation to home gardening. 

And the American political and economic systems. Nothing gets me going
like injustice. 

Finally, here I'll reveal my Pollyanna side - any topic that brings
light and hope to something apparently insurmountable. A governor
commuting death sentences because he sees the hopeless flaws in the
judicial and prison systems. Community gardens as teaching
opportunities. Tenacious fighters prevailing against established power

I'm such a cynic. I have a very, very dark view of the immediate
American future. I figure if those subjects give me some hope, they'll
do the same for others, and help us all off our "we're doomed"
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #82 of 168: Angie (coiro) Sun 16 Jul 06 14:15
Slippery Ed!

Yes, MoJo has researchers! A lot of our radio stories spring off the
magazine pages. That means, by the time Katrina and I are adding a new
dimension to them, they've been through a heavy fact-check and editing
process. And all the segments we do, the radio team contributes
background info. This week, Katrina and Peter (Assistant Producer Peter
Meredith) lined up the topics, ran them by me, then lined up the
guests. Now I'm getting background emailed to me from both of them, as
they find relevant articles.

More ...
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #83 of 168: Angie (coiro) Sun 16 Jul 06 14:30
As to my own trusted sources:

First, I make it a point not to rely solely on American media. BBC has
good, reliable reporting. Google News is helpful tracking down new
sources, which I can then monitor and decide whether to trust them.

Blogs vary so widely. I consider them a good tip source, but always
bear in mind that tips need vetting. I got suckered by truthout's
report that Rove was to be indicted. Not that I reported it anywhere,
nor did I forward it as anything but, "Truthout says ...". But I got my
hopes lifted up, then smashed. Good reminder about the veracity of

For commentary, I'm as bad as anyone else. I want to cheer my side and
feel good that I'm not alone, so I bathe in the sisterly vibes of
Molly Ivins, and the mutual rage of Mark Morford. But then I venture
across the barrier and see who else might be making valid arguments
from the conservative side - or, vanishingly, the middle. Debra
Saunders of the SF Chronicle posits arguments I occasionally find
myself in agreement with, or at least in respectful disagreement.

I pay no attention whatsoever to the ilk of Coulter or Buchanan. It's
not because I disagree with them. It's because they've proven
themselves repeatedly to be intellectually dishonest. Why waste my
time? It's not hard to get me to check out your current events
analysis; it's damned hard to get me back if you waste my time. Life's
too short.

Here's where I fault myself on filtering and info gathering: I am
constitutionally incapable of watching, or listening to, George Bush
first-hand. Ideally, I would observe his press conferences or other
media set-ups as they happen, minus observations or critiques from
anyone else. But I can't. It's reached the point where his very voice 
gives rise to such shame and anger in me that I can't bear it. So I dig
up the transcripts later. It's a flaw, but not one I'm able to
overcome just now. So where Bush is concerned, my information is not
purely unfiltered.
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #84 of 168: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 17 Jul 06 04:24

    (Reminder to readers who are not members of the Well: You can
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     here; send your note to and we can post it.)
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #85 of 168: Berliner (captward) Mon 17 Jul 06 06:11
One thing about what you're doing at Mother Jones Radio is dealing
with the world of commercial radio. In other words, this isn't public
radio at all: you're dependent on sponsors. Does this change anything?
Isn't it a bit scarier knowing that if you don't sell ads, you get
booted? Do you miss Pimp...errrr, Pledge Week? 
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #86 of 168: Angie (coiro) Mon 17 Jul 06 10:35
It is definitely different! Our sponsorships include spots read live -
by me - during the show. After so many non-commercial years, that felt
downright scandalous. Fortunately, the Exxons of the world are not
about to sponsor MJ in any form. So I don't have that moral dilemma.

And yes, all commercial radio lives and dies by the dollar. Some AM
stations sell off their weekend hours to infomercials. It's more money
for the same time slot. Depending on your market, you may tune in for
Mother Jones or Ring of Fire and get an hour-long solicitation for
vacation timeshares. Ugh.

The wider issue is, how all of radio (all of broadcast, for that
matter) will make its way financially in years to come. More thoughts
on that:
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #87 of 168: Angie (coiro) Mon 17 Jul 06 10:39
The pledge model for public radio is still doing its job. It brings in
the bucks from its usual listeners, with no special programming. For
combos like KQED TV/Radio, Radio is the cash cow.

TV is a completely different story. Viewers of regular programming,
for whatever reason, don't give enough money to keep stations afloat.
So "special programming" - and dear god, isn't some of it so very
"special" - interrupts the schedule to essentially pitch videos, or
books, what have you. It completely alienates the regular viewers. It
keeps bringing in money. It's a catch-22.

You combine that with the growth of cable TV programming, and more pub
TV stations are shutting down. Not cutting back - going away
completely. Small towns now. In years to come - who knows?

More ...
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #88 of 168: Berliner (captward) Mon 17 Jul 06 10:45
But is that cutback in, say, PBS programming posibly being offset by
local access stations, which are arguably closer to the lives of the
local visitors than Upstairs Downstairs?
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #89 of 168: Angie (coiro) Mon 17 Jul 06 10:54
We're also seeing a breaching of the gate on underwriting. These are
essentially small commercials now, there's no way around it. Subtle
differences are still enforced. For example, you won't hear a "call to
action" - C'mon down! Buy this now! See your Ford dealer. Credits
instead position the advertiser as a good community member, or reliable
trustworthy merchant. Still, the wall is weakening.

I'm not well-versed in what's happening with large commercial radio
buys. I do know the advertising dollar is fragmented all over the
place. And what used to be a given just isn't any more. 

For example, when I was growing up in South Bend - which for radio
purposes was the fringes of Chicago - a national advertiser who wanted
to reach a teenager bought WLS. Spent a litle less on WCFL. That was
it. There we all were, all the kids with the transistor radios set on
one of those two stations. (CKLW is a whole 'nother wonderful radio
story that still makes me smile. Worth your time to Google it and take
a look at its history. What a great ride it had!)

Then FM came into its own. Then rock stations broke away into pop,
"album rock", oldies, hip hop, country rock. That's just a sliver of
the formats still out there. Money flows differently nowadays.

And there's already advertising on some satellite stations. I predict
there will be more - that if satellite survives and thrives, it will
sound much like the terrestrial stations of today. Internet, too. One
of my personal favorites, Flashback Alternatives, is already sprinkling
advertising in there. 

So - money runs radio, and nobody knows how or where the money's going
to flow in years to come. Meanwhile, the pirates are doing it on their
own dime, at least for now not part of the money machine at all. Will
they be the next "community" radio stations? Now that playlists and
formatting are corporate-run, and virtually the same from market to
market, will pirate - ergo, non-profit - stations become the truly
local stations? And then does money come into the mix, after all?

It's a puzzling and exciting time to be in the business.

Here's an interesting read on one of SF's last indy commercial



inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #90 of 168: Angie (coiro) Mon 17 Jul 06 11:08
To your follow-up, Ed - 

Public access doesn't have the same mandate to educate that PBS does. 

Less definable, but also a factor, is the relative quality. PBS is far
from perfect, but their programming is largely well-produced and
attractively packaged. Sure, ideally we should all be willing to tune
in and learn about our own community and the world regardless of pretty
packaging. But the fact is, we don't. Static cameras, poor floor
direction, bad voiceovers all contribute to viewer weariness. Human
nature - we're more likely to search out and stay with programming
that's well-presented.

I have my own undeniable bias here. I've tried to be a good citizen
and tune in my city council meetings on public access. And once in a
while I've surfed past other programming there. Alas, a good portion is
flat-out unwatchable. 

And back to money - PBS has a massive funding machinery already in
place. Public access has nowhere near that. And unless you start more
heavily filtering what's on PA - which defeats the point of it, really
- you're not going to have something that can fill the shoes of public
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #91 of 168: Berliner (captward) Mon 17 Jul 06 11:14
Right, good points. I was just thinking of the Austin Music Network,
which spun off of the access channel to become a regular music video
and performance channel on the cable roster for a while. They never
solved the funding thing and died, but it was an interesting experiment
with alternative TV. 

Of course, the question of whether PBS actually does educate any more
is left hanging. 

I'm not sure what place commercial radio has in the rapidly
re-configuring current music business, either. Why listen to the radio
when you've got twelve gigs of MP3s in your pocket? 
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #92 of 168: Angie (coiro) Mon 17 Jul 06 18:09
And we're grappling with that as much as everyone is. Our download is
not commercial-free. Considerably fewer commercials than the broadcast
version, but our current sponsor gets a credit in the podcast.

Individuals and organizations make donations to our parent foundation,
the Foundation for National Progress. Some of those donations are
earmarked for MJR. Thus, at the end of our show, you'll hear
underwriting mentions! Not terribly common on AM radio, but I think a
damned smart way to integrate traditional and non-traditional funding

And if you think after all my years in pledge, I'd skip this
opportunity to post a donation link, you're nuts!

inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #93 of 168: Berliner (captward) Wed 19 Jul 06 07:49
Uh-oh! Bad news! You've just found out that Mother Jones Radio goes
off the air tomorrow. 

But...Good news! That funny-looking lamp you bought at the garage sale
last weekend has a genie in it, so you're not out of luck.
Unfortunately, you can't wish for world peace or the good guys taking
over the U.S. government, or unlimited chocolate, or a trip to Paris
because he's a career genie.'ve got the job of your dreams
coming to you, despite the loss of the one you'd come to love. 

What do you tell the genie? 
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #94 of 168: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 19 Jul 06 10:31
(I am so hoping that is a hypothetical...)
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #95 of 168: Berliner (captward) Wed 19 Jul 06 10:41
(Of course it is! Although, who wouldn't like a genie?)
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #96 of 168: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Wed 19 Jul 06 11:10
(Jeez, Ed, you just scared the whahoozits out of us.) 
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #97 of 168: Angie (coiro) Wed 19 Jul 06 12:12
Yeah, well - imagine how I feel.

In production for a leetle while longer, then back with a (blessedly
hypothetical) answer.
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #98 of 168: Angie (coiro) Wed 19 Jul 06 22:46
Wow, exceptionally long day today. But the show is almost put to bed
for the week.

Now to that question.

Interestingly, I've had a hard time conjuring up an ideal job.
Elements of it are clear to me. I know I don't want to leave radio -
or, as technology evolves, whatever audio tech supplements radio. But
no specific job comes to mind.


Absolutely must involve some element of public service. If the work
I'm doing isn't helping anyone, I wouldn't bother.

Has to get me out of the house. A lot of my enthusiasm sparks from
interacting with other people. Writing in meditative silence in the
woods might touch the soul of a quieter sort. Me, I'd get depressed and
mentally lazy after the first 24 hours. I can imagine much the same if
I had a studio at home and didn't have to appear somewhere else to do
my job.

WORDS. Has to have some creative writing involved, and public
speaking. I do so love words. As a corollary - it has to involve the
telling of stories. 

It would NOT involve morning drive hours. I've been a night owl all my
life, and am getting more stubbornly so the older I get. 10am is a
nice civil time to roll into work.

It would be deadline-driven. I've always wished to be more organized,
doing a touch of this and a touch of that daily, in a tidy symmetrical
approach to a series of slowly-approaching goals. But no, I need a fire
lit under my butt. 

Preferably live, but I can do well with pre-recorded.


And that's all that comes to mind. I suspect I'm having trouble with
this question because I'm already happy with what I'm doing. Just more
of the same (more show hours per week, or one of my other show ideas
bearing fruit) would - scratch that, will - make it nigh unto perfect.
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #99 of 168: Angie (coiro) Wed 19 Jul 06 22:59
Now I'm going to tilt that question just a little bit. I do have a
dream project, something I'd love to see set in motion in my lifetime.
I couldn't do it alone; I'd need the expertise of many others, and a
steady funding source.

If money were not an issue, I'd initiate consumer training for
children. Age-appropriate lessons starting with parent guides for the
very youngest, and organized classes for kindergarten through
high-school. I want people to learn from very young to apply a
skeptical eye to all the messages we receive daily, from and through
the media. How to decode a political ad. Understanding subtext. How to
"read" an advertisement, i.e.,

-Okay, what are they selling here?
-That's part of it; let's look again. ... to make clear they're
selling happiness, by way of youth or sexiness or (unattainable)

Imagine making it clear to a 12-year-old the power of the
unattainable. The vulnerability of an unschooled consumer. The face of
a kid who hears for the first time that the phrase "lather, rinse,
repeat" was born as an advertising slogan, and grasps that in all its
implications: twice as much shampoo sold, damage to hair from having
its oils stripped, selling more conditioner; all the extra crap in the
water from all those ritual, unnecessary, second shampoos.

Older kids could watch (as an example) the documentary we're featuring
on the show this week - "Who Killed the Electric Car", then parse
through the questions:
- did the director make his case?
- did GM really market a car with the intention of killing it off? 
- look at the way he presented the GM spokesman, in the shadows with
his eyes shifting - is that fair?

Critical thinking. Savvy commercial consumers, wary political
consumers. A program like that would help countless people claim more
power in their lives.

THAT is my dream project.
inkwell.vue.277 : Angie Coiro, On The Air
permalink #100 of 168: Angie (coiro) Wed 19 Jul 06 23:29
And now for something completely different. 

As I headed home today I mulled over the evolution of a piece that
will air in this week's show. It may interest you to see how it came
together. It's a case where news events forced us to dance a bit, and
gave us a different product on the air than we first had on paper.
Here's how it morphed, from start to finish:

Harlan Ullman is one of the co-authors of the "Shock and Awe" war
strategy, that the Bush administration claimed to be following in their
attack on Iraq. (Ullman later distanced himself from their actions,
saying that what they were doing was not the strategy he and his
co-author described.) He's now with the Center for Strategic and
International Studies. With Iraq a mess and an attack on Iran not out
of the question, the original inspiration was to ask him how valid the
true S&A strategy still is in approaching this new situation. We booked
him in for a short segment this week.

Then events between Hezbollah and Israel took center stage. Okay,
punt. He's a qualified commentator on this, so we'll keep him. But now
we'd de-emphasize Iraq and Iran in favor of the new hotspot. 

Next new wrinkle: as it turns out, Harlan Ullman has a new book out.
While he's still careful not to completely alienate his supporters in
the White House, his book says the government is broken, it's utterly
incapable of dealing with everything on its plate at home and abroad.
He has a plan of great scope to reform the system. His proposals
include mandatory election participation and requiring legislators to
read all bills they vote on.

Mind you, we've got 7 minutes together, several major conflicts to
cover, an author who's primarily known for a war strategy we can't go
into in great detail. And he - understandably - wants to tie his book
into the conversation.

So what came out of this is quite different than first envisioned. For
example, his stance on nuclear technology (energy and weaponry) in
India and in Pakistan is arguably inconsistent, and something I planned
to joust with him on. That was in the interview as taped, but had to
be trimmed for time, and because it wasn't fully developed as a line of
questioning. Rather, it sounded "shoved in", with scanty set-up and no

His S&A strategy in the finished version is more of a footnote, not
nearly the main focus it was meant to be. For his part, he had an
impassioned and impressive final statement reflecting his motivations
behind the book. That had to go, too. No time, less relevant to the new
Israel/Hezbollah emphasis.

Instead, we have this learned person's take on just how far this
current fighting will go, how to plan for long-term peace there
afterward, and (from his book) his opinion on why, without very
specific cultural changes at home, we won't be qualified to deal with
this or any other world crises.

You can all decide for yourselves Sunday how it turned out. 


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