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Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism: This American Life’s Harper High School

“This American Life” reporters Ben Calhoun, Alex Kotlowitz and Linda Lutton spent an entire semester embedded in Harper High School in Chicago — where the previous school year, 29 former or current students were shot and eight died.

Working with producers Robyn Semien, Julie Snyder and Ira Glass, the team created two hour long documentaries that captured daily life in a school and neighborhood racked by gun violence.

The story earned a Peabody Award, the Jack R. Howard Award for Radio In-Depth coverage and the Dart Center prize for journalism and trauma. Peabody judges called the work “vivid, unblinking, poignant and sometimes gut-wrenching;” Dart judges said the story was “profoundly moving” and “extraordinarily comprehensive and compassionate.”

Shortly after “This American Life” aired the story, President Obama hosted Harper students at the White House and Michelle Obama spent an afternoon at the school. Read more


Career Beat: Rachel Zarrell named news editor at BuzzFeed News

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Rachel Zarrell is now news editor at BuzzFeed News. Previously, she was a weekend editor there. (‏@rachelzarrell)
  • Ben Calhoun is now director of content and programming at WBEZ in Chicago. Previously, he was a producer for “This American Life.” (Robert Feder)
  • Ada Guerin is now creative director at The Wrap. Previously, she was design director and associate art director at The Hollywood Reporter. (The Wrap)
  • Jose Zamora is now on the board of directors of the Online News Association. He is director of strategic communications at Univision Network. (ONA)
  • Carla Zanoni will be global audience development director at The Wall Street Journal. Previously, she was director of social media and engagement at DNAinfo.com.
Read more

David Plotz now CEO of Atlas Obscura

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Jonah Freedman is now editor-in-chief of StubHub. Previously, he was managing editor of MLSsoccer.com. (Pando Daily)
  • David Plotz is now CEO of Atlas Obscura. Previously, he was editor of Slate (Washington Post)
  • Brie Dyas is now senior work life editor at The Huffington Post. Previously, she was executive home editor there. (The Huffington Post)
  • Jordan Chariton will be New York media editor at The Wrap. He’s editor of TVNewser. Mark Joyella will be a co-editor for TV Spy and TVNewser. Previously, he was a TV editor at Mediaite. Brian Flood is now co-editor of TVNewser. Previously, he had written for Sports Illustrated and RotoExperts. (TV Newser)

Job of the day: WBEZ is looking for a midday anchor. Read more


WBEZ cuts freelance contributions, wants more contributions from audience

Chicago Reader

Theater critics Jonathan Abarbanel and Kelly Kleiman “were told their services were no longer required, though it would be nice if they’d occasionally donate them,” Michael Miner reports.

“They want listener-generated content. They want audience participation. They want call-ins,” Kleiman tells Miner. “Given that, they don’t have any use for experts. [WBEZ Executive Producer] Justin [Kaufmann] said, ‘If we want an expert on theater we can call [the Tribune's] Chris Jones to come in for free.’”

Kaufmann confirmed the cuts to Miner, and told him the station let go others, too: Read more


Public radio’s looooong-term strategy: Have more babies, listeners

WBEZ (Facebook) | The New York Times
Chicago’s WBEZ wants its listeners to make more listeners.

The agency Xi Chicago designed the $400,000 “2032 Membership Drive,” which “inspires interesting people to hook up with interesting people and make more interesting people, thereby creating the next generation of listeners.”

As part of the campaign, which launches Friday, the ads will appear in print, online, at train platforms and bus stops, on taxis and T-shirts, with these taglines:

  • Do it. For Chicago.
  • We want listeners tomorrow. Go make babies today.
  • Hey Interesting People, get a room already. And then put a crib in it.
  • To anyone NOT currently running a virtual farm: GoMakeBabies.com
  • You’re an interesting person. Pass it on. Like, literally. Through your DNA.
Read more