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Playlist: News Station Picks for November

Compiled By: PRX Curators

 Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/77857196@N00/119205121/">Tuer Geist</a>
Image by: Tuer Geist 
Curated Playlist

Here are the November picks for news stations from PRX News Format Curator Naomi Starobin.

Learn about what Naomi listens for in news programming or nominate a piece for Naomi to consider.

Remember the basic questions of reporters? Who, what, when, where...and for many of us, the favorite is "why?"

This month's picks are stories that answer the "why" questions. We look at why persistent societal problems aren't corrected, why someone changes her life based on an experience, why freshly hatched lawyers are being asked to appear at trials, even why it's okay to use cutesy nicknames for your pets.

Mind the Gap: Why Good Schools are Failing Black Students (54:00 and 59:00)

From Nancy Solomon | 59:01

Independent journalist Nancy Solomon does a great job with this hour-long feature about the achievement gap. Right off the bat, she's in a New Jersey high school with a history teacher, and he's cynically playing "guess the level" of classes based on their racial makeup. Some of her first-person comments about her own observations help listeners discover and explore the gap at the same pace she does. She gives us great access to students' and teachers' attitudes.

This piece came out of Solomon's year as a Spencer Fellow in Education Reporting. It was produced in September 2009, and feels fresh and relevant. A shorter 2-part version of it just ran on Weekend Edition on October 31st and November 1st.

Based on the collection of listener comments on the NPR website, this one really makes people think.

By the way, there are 2 versions available: 54 minutes and 59 minutes, depending on whether you want to take local breaks in the hour.


Award-winning NPR Reporter Nancy Solomon
takes you inside a school to hear a discussion on race in the classroom.  Listen as students try to explain what went wrong with their education. Join her at the kitchen table with black middle-class parents who thought that a move to the suburbs would ensure school success. Find out how the school's best teachers motivate their students. Be a fly on the wall in the busy dean's office where where kids with discipline problems land.

Two versions are available. The 54-minute version has a music-filled news hole and one-minute music breaks at :19 and :39 for station cutaways. The 59-minute version has additional content to cover the news hole (not music), and the same station breaks at :19 and 39.  The promos have 6-sec music tails for station tag.

A digital media package is available free to all stations that includes a call to action, audio slideshows and links for more information. To preview or to link to: www.nancycsolomon.com

Funded by the Spencer Fellowship in Education Reporting and free to all stations.

Those Who Care

From Alaska Teen Media Institute | 02:13

This sound-rich contemplative piece by teen Max Jungreis is his look at why people help each other. It's interlaced with clips from people, famous and otherwise, caught in the course of caring about others or talking about caring.

This comes from The Alaska Teen Media Institute, whose mission it is to provide Anchorage teens with the training and the tools they need to tell their own stories in their own voices.

This would pair nicely in a longer segment with a feature or interview.

Default-piece-image-0 This commentary discusses some of the reasons as to why people are helpful to one another.

Aha Moment: Underground Railroad

From Zak Rosen | 04:29

Beautifully produced, with a vibrant message. This piece, a nice standalone for an ME or ATC segment, will bring your listeners right into the heart of the essayist, Therese Peterson, as she talks about why playing a conductor in a reenactment of the Underground Railroad gave her the courage to change her life.


The Underground Railroad was an informal but vast network of people who helped slaves escape from their holders in the 1800's.  It's estimated that during its height…between 1810 and 1860…The Underground Railroad helped over 30-thousand people escape enslavement. 


The First Congregational Church of Detroit was known for being a safe house for escaped slaves to sleep and eat along their journey.  Today the church, which has since moved to midtown Detroit, plays host to the Underground Railroad Living Museum. 


Volunteer actors lead tours Monday through Saturday in the church's basement.  The walking tours from slavery to Freedom last about 40 minutes, but they represent a grueling and profoundly dangerous yearlong journey from Oak Alley Louisiana to the Canadian border, northeast of Detroit, Michigan.  The tours are lead by conductors, which are in the case of this reenactment, escaped slaves as well. 

Therese Peterson started volunteering as an actor in the Confrontational Church's tour in late 2005.  She says that if she wasn't given the opportunity to play the part of the conductor…she might not be with us today.  Therese takes us through the tour…and tells us how being a conductor changed her forever. reenactment


"What about Nicknames?"

From Paul Messing | Part of the Thoughts from an Animal Communicator series | 02:25

A refreshing, loosely constructed essay on why it's okay -- and not patronizing -- to give your pet cutesy nicknames. Animal communicator David Louis riffs on the question, and gives us permission to say "Mugsy-Wugsy" anytime we want.

This comes in at about two-and-a-half minutes, and would make a nice pairing with and contrast to a more structured feature about animals or pets.

Paul Messing produced this. He's a writer/producer/composer out of Bloomington, Indiana.

Wils_ball_pillow_feb2008-02-18_small Animal communicator David Louis speaks extemporaneously about pets and their nicknames.

LItigation training

From NPR Economic Training Project | 04:07

This piece, from reporter Blake Farmer, was done as part of the NPR Economic Training Project. It looks at why law firms are training young attorneys to do trial work. It's a solid, well-crafted piece, and we hear from young and old attorneys and people who train attorneys.

The piece was done in Nashville, but is universal enough to be aired in other communities.

If you're doing a series on the repercussions or opportunities in the down economy, this would fit in nicely.

Brian-iverson-video-screenshot_small The economic downturn hasn’t spared professionals like attorneys, and one firm in Nashville is going to new lengths to push trial work from high-dollar senior partners down to the firm’s associate attorneys with far cheaper hourly billing rates. Following the lead of much larger firm’s in the country’s financial centers, Bass Berry & Sims has just finished an in-house litigation program because law schools aren’t putting out trial-ready graduates. The American Bar Association is even considering changes in its accreditation standards as part of a 3-year review. The question for today’s more cost conscious clients is whether saving thousands in legal fees is worth rolling the dice on an attorney who hasn’t won before.