Bootcamp Day 6: Great Guests!

Around an into to audio equipment and broadcast script writing we had two fabulous guest speakers today.

First we heard from veteran radio news director Jim Asendio, of WAMU the NPR station here in Washington. He told us his story, and though it was long, it was never long-winded or boring. I must admit I had, as I have had a few times since begining this program, a creeping feeling of not having acheived very much so far in life. This is somewhat aggravated of course by the rapid, oh so rapid approach of a certain daunting birthday. When he was my age, he was already an old pro. Sigh.

He had words of wisdom for us, enjoining us “You must know your equipment!”.  It seems equipment foul-ups are one of his biggest pet peeves with reporters.

But mostly I liked the philosophy he brought to his work. He wants to tell stories, tell them well and to teach a lot of other people to tell them well, all the while making money and expanding audience. He wants it all I guess.

One of the most insightful things he said was “I do not believe in objectivity. I believe we can be fair and I believe we can be accurate.” I think that’s a very healthy and reasonable goal in a media-scape sometimes objectivity-ed into mindless pablum, where “unbiased” can come to mean “toothless.”

Objectivity and personal perspective is not only unavoidable, but I believe desirable. If a person has no opinions at all informing their assessment of a story how will they ever decide where to push back against spoonfed information, when to challenge the conventional wisdom, how to ask the uncomfortable question? And who decides what “unbiased” is anyway? It’s impossible. Best just give up now and stick to fair and accurate.

In the afternoon, we heard from Chuck Lewis. Perhaps you’ve heard of a little project  he started with a buddy called the Center for Public Integrity. Yup, that one. We picked his brain a bit on his time at 60 minutes, his views on Wikileaks, his Investigative Reporting Workshop here at AU and I could see quite a few people’s ears perk up at the mention of his International Investigative Reporting class in the spring. Fingers crossed.

For anyone needing something cool to watch online may I recommend the Frontline episode he discussed with us in class, Flying Cheap, about the dangers of the budget regional airline system. I saw it a while ago and it’s excellent.


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