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Compiled By: Susan Matheson

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Dead Animal Man

From Ira Glass | 07:49

Portrait of a guy who picks up dead animals for a living for the DC Dept of Sanitation.

Dead Animal Man
Ira Glass

Shutterstock_158653940_medium_small Portrait of a guy who picks up dead animals for a living for the DC Dept of Sanitation.

This was first produced in 1989, for Weekend All Things Considered. It ran on This American Life in 1997.

I use it often in reporter seminars because it was a quick-turnaround feature (5 hours of reporting; 2 days to write and produce) that still has a lot of personality. It's funny at the beginning and sort of wistful at the end, though saying that doesn't capture it either. It's just one of those lucky stories with lots of surprising little moments. In reporter seminars, I always point out how, like any good feature story or interview, at some point someone's got to say something big and universal about what's happened in the story. This one does it in the easiest way possible: after all the action, there's 2 1/2 minutes of the guy and me just talking about what the hell it all means. Many reporters aren't sure exactly how to make a scene work on radio, and this story uses every trick in the book: I narrate a lot of the scenes ON SITE, while gathering the tape (like the first scene, where I explain, while running across a highway, that we're running across a highway). There are also incredibly short scenes, sometimes as short as one sentence of setup script and one line of tape. Also, there are lots of tape-to-tape transitions and unusual transitions from one scene to the next. It's a good story to illustrate all the ways to avoid the rut of doing acts&trax&acts&trax, over and over. It's entirely airworthy still, I think. Fun to listen to. Gets laughs. It's one of my favorite stories, out of everything I've produced in over twenty years.

The Devil's Violin

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 06:28

The story of the birth of a violin.

Guarnieri_lg7_small Imagine a fiddle, or any instrument for that matter, before its ever been played - when it's just a piece of wood.

There's a moment when an instrument comes to life.

Producer Suzi Piker brings us the story of the birth of the "Devil's Violin".

Small Town, Big Whale

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 05:57

20 years ago the working class town of Lubec, ME buried a giant whale. The town is working together once more–this time to dig it up


In 1994, a 60-foot long, 150 thousand pound Finback Whale washed ashore on Mowry Beach in Lubec, a small town in Down East Maine. Left by the government to fend for itself, the working class town buried the whale on its own. 20 years later, the town is once again working together–this time to excavate the partially decayed whale in the hopes of displaying the skeleton. This radio story explains why and how the town plans to excavate, clean, and display the whale with little to no money. It also reflects on what this endeavor says about the culture of Lubec and Down East Maine. Finally, there is a scene at an excavation of the skeleton.  

Just Another Fish Story

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 08:28

A small town in rural Maine recalls the impact of a beached whale on their community.

Default-piece-image-1 Ten years ago, a whale washed ashore on the beach of Lubec in the poorest county in Maine. The people in town had to make a decision quickly—how would they get rid of a 60-ton dead whale?