Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Projects Everywhere

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The year 2020 goes down in history as the worst year I have ever lived. But it was, in some ways, the most productive. First, I decided in 2019 to interview Oregon politicians in advance of the 2020 election. My purpose was to do what I could to make sure people knew who they were voting for and what their intentions were. So, every month, between January and November 2020, I sent emails inviting politicians running for every level in Oregon State government, as well as independents running for President and candidates for Oregon Secretary of State, to talk to me. I did something very similar in 2014, though that was an off-year election. I just love politics and I love talking to politicians, mostly, because I’m always wondering what will come out of their mouths next. I interviewed about 70 candidates overall. The site got tons of visits and is still getting hits. I’m glad people found it and hopefully, found it useful.

(I don’t understand why this image is so fuzzy. It’s fine in preview.)

Next, after the death of George Floyd, I attended one of the early protest in Portland. It just happened to be the most iconic; the protest and die-in on Portland’s Burnside Bridge. The photo of the bridge over the Willamette River, shot from the sky and full of people, was one of the most powerful images of the entire Black Lives Matter movement. Shortly after that, I decided to revive a non-profit I’d put on hold as I worked on a book about public radio between 2015 and 2019, and self-published in 2019. The non-profit, called CNBSeen, has the mission of replacing burnt out lights on cars. The motivation was to try to bring attention to the crisis of police extrajudicial killing of black men for minor infractions like burnt out tail lights. I started contacting Portland’s 95 neighborhoods in June 2020, and by November, a GoFundMe has raised about $1500. Meanwhile, almost all of Portland’s neighborhood coalitions had shown interest in hosting an event. The plan was to always start the project in January and pilot it through to the end of 2021. The violence, whether in the form of needlessly destructive demonstrations or random shootings that have rocked Portland before and since the election are scary. But I have to push past that and get started.

And finally, referring back to the book, “PLEDGE: The Public Radio Fund Drive”, I always knew I wanted to do something more with it than just have it live between two covers, on a shelf. Ever since the earliest days of first putting pen to paper, I thought the story could be told in a couple ways. One way was through facts, figures, anecdotes, history and research. That’s what the book does. But I realized that I could also dramatize the essential story of the book, which is the day to day struggle an average public radio station faces to survive. With that in mind, and motivated by another book that was transformed first into a script, and then into a musical (The Book of Mormon), I decided “PLEDGE The Book” should become “PLEDGE: The Musical.” I’ve already written it, trademarked the name and copyrighted the script. I’m working with a composer right now to turn song treatments into basic melodies that I can put words to. A local theater group has offered to do a table read, and I’m looking at possibly doing a rough staging in June.

As part of the promotion for the book and the show, I’ve created a real website for a fictional radio station that is based on the fictional radio station in the show; KKAR. On each page, I say, “This is a fictitious radio station.” According to the FCC, the callsign is inactive and the community, in eastern Arkansas that I call Helen sounds like, but isn’t the real town of Helena. The station is one affiliate in a four station network owned and operated by the fictitious, “State College of Arkansas at Helen” campus. The story looks at events within KKAR over a nine day period. The political angst, technical issues, money fights and racial struggles are all a backdrop for the all important, twice annual, KKAR pledge drive. In addition, the show promises a musical score that looks at everything from how the podcast is trying to kill the antenna, to the underwriting vs advertising shell game, to how boomers and millennials see each other up close, to why “bums and losers” isn’t what free riders should be called on-air, but how that’s absolutely how staff see them off-air. The story is a perfect vehicle for the tragic successes and comedic failures anyone who has ever worked at or listened to a public radio station, will recognize.

This is a notice to you that PLEDGE v2 is coming.

Written by Interviewer

February 2, 2021 at 06:35

Posted in Scratchpad

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