Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Masturbation

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chicken-choke

The nomination window for many radio journalism awards has closed for this year.  But Daniel Estrin, a reporter for The World, a newsmagazine for Public Radio International, should be at the top of the list to be nominated next year.

Mr. Estrin reported on a film circulating amongst the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel that encourages men and boys to refrain from masturbating.  This post isn’t so much about the film.  I mean, how much conceptualizing does one need to do?  It’s more about the thinking outside the box.

When was the last time you heard a story about masturbation?  Terrorism, daily.  Police violence, frequently.  Plane crashes, ocassionally.  Sex between the elderly, rarely.

But masturbation?

The editorial staff at The World definitely get credit for this.  I consider it a ballsy decision.  I mean, I can imaging Mr. Estrin heard of the film and approached his news director.  Or, I can imagine his news director heard of the film and approached Mr. Estrin.  Either way, I’ll bet whoever got the news that a story about, um, … spilling “sacred sperm” was being considered, got a little bug eyed for a second.  Finally, somebody probably said, “Oh, why not?”

Like I said, this isn’t so much about the content as about the decision to tell the story.  But, I did have a few questions.  Like, the story didn’t mention women at all.  So I’m guessing that even a taboo subject like masturbation among men and boys has its own taboo aspects that are absolutely unthinkable among Orthodox Jews.  Tackle that next, in a few years.

Still, it was a shocker.  I was cheering at the radio almost the whole time.  He went there.  And although at that moment, I wasn’t letting the story raise the curtain on my “Theater of the Mind”, I was reassured that radio can tell any story if it is … handled properly.

Radio tells a lot of stories that many consider questionable.  Unfortunately, most either reinforce our own immutable views or continue to numb us with their violent or inane ubiquity.  Every now and then, one comes along that is neither too vile or too predictable but some magical combination of both that manages to give a little slap.

And to top it off, Mr. Estrin ended his story by calling the whole thing, “A touchy subject”.  Wowzers!

Well done.

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Written by Interviewer

February 27, 2015 at 08:02

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