Raconteur and radio tycoon Ira Glass recounted his favorite lessons from a successful career in broadcast journalism at the Granada Theater in downtown Santa Barbara this past Saturday. The host of popular radio program “This American Life,” Glass’ topics were both intriguing and eye-opening to everyone in attendance.
Glass opened the show describing a struggle many mothers experience: the conflict between society’s beauty standards and good mothering. After watching an episode of Saturday Night Live, the daughter in his story played dress-up as Hillary Clinton. After adding on a pantsuit and make up, the mother exclaimed, “Wow, you look so much better!”
The daughter proved herself more mature, saying “I don’t think that’s what you’re supposed to say to your daughter.” The mother feared for her daughter’s self-esteem and the possibility of negatively impacting it for the rest of her daughter’s life. Glass cleared the air by following up with the daughter years later. The daughter resolved the issue in her confidence and sensibility, letting Glass know that she did not think that it affected her and still laughs about it.
Glass discussed many topics over the night. “One of my favorite things about my job is interviewing kids,” he said. “Their honesty allows them to make better interviewees than their adult counterparts.” Glass spoke of how candidly they spoke of difficult topics such as love.
One story Glass shared that highlights how freely children will share their emotions was about a junior high-schooler’s crush. The romance could go no further for various reasons, and the boy had to accept it for what it was. Bravely, while on microphone, the boy shared that although his crush knew his feelings and rejected them, life was still tolerable. Glass described how the boy’s raw emotions provoked sympathy from the audience.
Joe, the protagonist of another story, believed that love was a ridiculous waste of time. He was so convinced that he told his mother he could not love her because it does not exist. Only when he got a girlfriend a few years later did Joe start to reconsider his views on love.
Glass praised Joe’s parents in how they handled Joe’s precocious ideology on love. Glass said, “Sometimes it would really hurt [Joe’s mother’s] feelings.” However, she and Joe’s father did not intervene and allowed Joe to explore and grow without making a judgement. Glass narrated his stories in the same way that Joe’s parents approached an issue; by taking stories as they were, and not making a harsh judgment.
For Glass, this is the ultimate goal of journalism: to get a story out without taking sides or jumping to conclusions. He said, “Beauty is there to be perceived if you’re willing to perceive it.” Glass understood that human bias primarily takes place through what is seen. After relaying a few stories, Glass explained his special relationship with radio. Radio, which prizes what is heard rather than what is seen, transcends that judgment because it changes the way people think and perceive things.
Glass shared segments of a Syrian refugee’s story. The refugee would stay positive and encourage her family throughout hardship. Her optimism would be relatable for anybody in a difficult situation.
Yet, in America, many would ignore the girl based on judgement of her appearance, particularly her veiled face. On the radio, one has no idea what the picture is until they listen to the speaker. “There’s nothing to distract you from connecting, you know,” said Glass, referring to how radio is without a visual element.
Glass’s performance was really a testament to the power of radio. Radio allows people to get their stories out to a grand audience. It makes deep connections between people through bold, honest stories. People go on radio to share some of the most meaningful events that have occurred in their lives. Radio breaks down the physical barriers that can get in the way of their stories being shared.
The show was two hours long, but the humor and condensed storytelling made it feel as though it were a twenty minute NPR segment. Life is short. Stories are short. Glass’s work reminds listeners to embrace the world for what it is and listen because life’s show gets better when one is open to listening and seeing it through other perspectives.