By the Way • November 18, 2013

Good news for dear friends!

We’re putting the band back together, in a new world. With the peerless producer Mary McGrath, we’re bringing Open Source back to our first radio home, WBUR in Boston. Drawing on our roots in New ...
Thanks to Barry Blitt and The Atlantic

Thanks to Barry Blitt and The Atlantic

We’re putting the band back together, in a new world. With the peerless producer Mary McGrath, we’re bringing Open Source back to our first radio home, WBUR in Boston. Drawing on our roots in New England and our interest in the wider world, we’ll be doing a weekly evening program (Thursday nights at 9, rebroadcast on the weekends), re-launching radio and online conversation as challenging, as engaging, as various, as irresistible as we can make it. 

Strange thing: all of us have changed in this mobile, digitized, smartphone and twitter world. Stranger still is what hasn’t changed:  New England as an American capital of ideas, teaching, learning and research – of thinking! – as it has been since Emerson’s heyday in the 1830’s. The Hub today is a hive of hives – in the brain sciences, health care delivery, every kind of tech and biotech, also music, poetry, security studies, economics, in all the great branches of human exploration. President Obama had it right in his speech after the Marathon: we live in an iconic American city, and our creative and intellectual diaspora excels in every field of human endeavor all over the world. Boston’s late mayor, Kevin White called it a “small town of international significance.” Our goal, drawing on the almighty human voice and the many extensions of modern media, is to make radio talk as bracing and smart as this Global City we’re living in. 

Our website, radioopensource.org, is central to our new project. We will be expanding Open Source’s online platform of podcast conversations on the widest range of solid stuff, local and global, that people talk about: books old and new, music of all kinds, culture in general, and, of course, politics. We will be sharing our podcasts with WBUR, and at the same time we’ll be counting on a growing radioopensource community, as we always have, to help shape our discussions, sharpen the questions and make connections where others haven’t even noticed the dots.

Mary, Zadie & Chris

Mary, Zadie & Chris

Will you join us in this conversation? Will you help sustain it? We’re installing our first PayPal donate button on the site. In the new media landscape it takes a community as well as a public radio station to kickstart and support a mission like this one. Please give that donate button a try! And while you’re at it, sign up for our newsletter. 
 
The sweetest discovery in the twenty years Mary and I have been working together has been that we could actually build a living chain of listeners — a pulsing coral reef of conversation on the radio and the Web. And all of us could sustain a sensibility of open-minded hunger and enthusiasm around strong call-in talk with a tuba soloist and the Tulip Lady, as well as with Eddie Palmieri and Toni Morrison. The best thing we’ve done is build that far-flung network of loyal enthusiasts. We are hugely grateful to you, and proud to have done it together. At the start of a renewed adventure, we’ll be cheered more than ever by your support and encouragement. 

Podcast • June 27, 2008

Tony Schwartz — for the Next Generation

Tony Schwartz made his famous TV and radio commercials (like the “Daisy spot” for Lyndon Johnson, and Coca Cola’s “It’s the Real Thing” campaign) in what felt like a chapel in his apartment in the ...

tony schwartzTony Schwartz made his famous TV and radio commercials (like the “Daisy spot” for Lyndon Johnson, and Coca Cola’s “It’s the Real Thing” campaign) in what felt like a chapel in his apartment in the old “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood of West Side Manhattan. Hunched over his turntables, wrapped in earphones and cables in a room lined on every wall with Tony’s 40 years of sound recordings, he’d remind you of the Wizard of Oz with his bumbling air of magic, but also of Orson Welles with his grasp of theatrical effects, and also his friend Marshall McLuhan with his flair for multi-media theory and his experience with how message systems really work, in and out of your body. I’d first entered this little high church of sound covering George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972.

daisy

I went back in 1974 to write this Times piece, Packaging Voters for Candidates, TV-Style on Tony, the “best in the business” of media consulting. And I went back and back for ever after to absorb Tony’s coaching. He was gently instructive when I took him my first television stand-ups after leaving the Times. “You’re trying to do what Times training impels you to do — push ‘facts’ through the camera lens at the viewer. But listen to me, Chris: television is not a medium of information; it’s a medium of effects…” I learned on my own, when I came back from vacation to the TV desk with a mustache, that television viewers are looking mainly at their presenters’ hair, and not hearing much of what they say. Tony observed that television is mainly an auditory medium, and would be more effective if your picture tube was out of commission. He beleived that for many evolutionary and anatomical reasons — not least because “people are born without ear-lids” — the ear and audio deliver more of the signals that form our thinking than the eye does. And many of the trademark Tony Schwartz spots on television were commercials that deliberately slowed down the eye input with still photos, for example, or neutralized the eye with a shot of just an office clock and a second hand, while an actor’s plummy voice was asking: “Would you give me sixty seconds to tell you why Bob Abrams should be Attorney General of New York?”

tony and mike

Tony adored the babble of babies and the outdoor sounds of his block of New York. Above all he loved what Studs Terkel calls “that fabulous instrument, vox humana.” The blossoming of Tony’s reputation in the Seventies and the soundness of his books — The Responsive Chord and Media: the Second God — ran nicely parallel with the rebirth of radio at NPR. I was late taking the cue to radio myself, but I knew from Tony that radio was God’s own medium, and by the time I got there I knew from Tony why it felt like home. It is wonderful to realize, in the responses on Tony’s death two weeks ago, that the pied pipers of the rising radio generation — people like Jay Allison and Ira Glass— are devoted practitioners of Tony Schwartz’s ideas.

So maybe the next question is how many more of the podcasters and other newbies enabled by the inexpensive tools of Internet radio will get the blessing of Tony’s techniques and wise encouragement. I engage the brilliant and prolific TV documentarian David Hoffman — of “Sputnik Mania” in theaters this summer and the comprehensive film Guerrilla Media about Tony — in the conversation here not only to remember the master of sound and his signature pieces, but to introduce the wisdom of Tony Schwartz to the podcast generation. With your help, it might be just the start of our appreciation of Tony.