For the Love of the Craft

back to our usual programming, mostly

ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
“We as young producers are often taught implicitly or explicitly that in order to be successful we must make ourselves perfectly useful and mostly invisible,” former New York Times and Radiolab producer Kelly Prime tells Hot Pod News in Skye Pilllsbury’s story, The Undervalued Work of the Audio Producer. Photo credit: Zoltan Fekeshazy


Happy Pride Month, queers and allies! To kick off June, I wanted to share with all of you one of my favorite stories of all time. This is Noah St. John’s The Last Mile, which was Snap Judgement’s performance of the year in 2012.

This 6-minute powerhouse of a story is about a car ride, singing along to Melissa Etheridge, and actively choosing the ones you love over and over again through life’s ridiculous ride.

When I was a teacher, I often shared this story with my middle school students. Some of them would cry. Some of them wouldn’t even notice at the first listen that Noah’s moms are lesbians. And year after year, many of my usually hard-to-impress tweens broke out in spontaneous, unbridled applause at the end. Enjoy.


Shout out to my KUOW colleague and #AZNxBLM creative partner Diana Opong for sending me this Hot Pod News piece by Skye Pillsbury in the midst of our powering through production together for an upcoming special: The Undervalued Work of the Audio Producer.

Do you know what a public radio producer does all day? Unless you are also an audio producer, you probably do not, and that’s part of the problem.

“The vagueness of the word producer has haunted me — us, our community — forever,” Keisha “TK” Dutes, executive producer of Spoke Media and former producer of shows including Thirst Aid Kit and Rise Up Radio, told me on the phone earlier this month. “It’s vague in a way that serves everyone except for the makers, the producers. When I’m trying to explain my job to outside people, sometimes I just shut down and say, ‘I make the show.’ Like I made it. See the script? I wrote that. See the microphone? I set that up. Hear the music? I told them where to put it and how to fade it.”

Dutes said that, because the role of producer has become a repository for numerous jobs within podcasting, the expectations of a single person’s role can easily get out of sync with reality. “We love this job,” Dutes continued. “We love it through abuse. We love it through racial reckonings. We love it through unfair wages. We love making audio, right? And because of that, a lot of folks have been taken advantage of.”

This story is not just about the world of audio production, it’s also about all of us who have ever sacrificed adequate support or compensation in exchange for doing work we love and believe in. As a former public school teacher and current public radio nerd, I wanted to project this essay into the sky as I read. Spread the word!


Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month might be over, but #AZNxBLM is forever. Or, it’s just the start of a conversation at least.

Drumroll please…here are all of the 14 multimedia projects that have come from this quick and determined endeavor fueled by the 20 artist-activists of color who make up our #AZNxBLM crew.

#AZNxBLM is calling for solidarity between members and allies of our Asian communities and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a project of ROCK PAPER RADIO and The Slants Foundation.



That’s a wrap on issue 44, friends. Thanks for listening/reading/watching/holding on.

So many high fives to all of you who have showed ROCK PAPER RADIO and #AZNxBLM so much love throughout AAPI Heritage Month. (And a special high five to my fellow LGBTQ Asians who have had time enough for one quick deep breath before switching into rainbow gear for Pride month.)

The news cycle might be eating us all alive, but I truly believe that art is action and we’re heading in the right direction, one surprising collaboration at a time.

See you next Thursday.


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