In a dimly lit Lisner Auditorium Saturday night, public radio personality Ira Glass opened his show with what he called “the feel of radio.”
Glass, who began his radio career at National Public Radio when he was 19, hosts “This American Life,” and now a television spin off on the Showtime Network under the same name. The show follows a documentary format, chronicling the odd lives of ordinary Americans.
Sitting at a mixing board located in the center of the stage, Glass shared stories about his experience in broadcast journalism and the power of radio before a sold out audience.
“It’s the job of journalism not to just tell us what is new it’s the job of journalism to tell us what is, like what is our world,” he said.
Glass was critical of his peers in broadcast journalism, saying they have lost the “humor, surprise and sense of discovery” that used to be apparent throughout the news.
“My problem with most radio and television broadcast journalism is that it makes the world seem smaller, stupider and less interesting than it is,” he said.
Glass offered advice to people starting careers in radio by saying a good story on the radio allows the listener to relate to and visualize the program.
“Radio is your most visual medium,” he joked. “That’s not actually true, but if you say that in a certain tone of voice, it seems true.”
Glass also touched on the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. He remarked that radio has the same ability to spread the compassion King preached to his followers.
“Nobody changes their mind (on political issues) by what they hear on the radio about that,” he said. “But I do believe a radio show can help us see each other and that empathy makes us sane.”
Glass ended his show by answering questions on the upcoming season of his TV show, music in radio and politics.
When asked whether he would start a school for people interested in radio broadcasting, Glass said starting a radio program with similar humor to The Daily Show would be more worth his time.
“I think doing something like a news show with the tone of The Daily Show . that would be the thing that pushed everything to the next level, even more than a school,” he said.
Janice Goldblum, a District resident, said she was impressed with the show’s sound and story-telling aspects.
“People don’t listen to stories anymore,” she said. “I’m glad Ira brought that back for a couple of hours tonight.”
Elizabeth Paulson, another area resident, said Glass’ stories are personal and life-changing.
“(The stories) are the kind that you think about non-stop throughout the week until his next show,” she said.
“This American Life” has 1.6 million listeners weekly, and has become very popular in its podcast format available on iTunes.
Sam Sweeney, a sophomore at Georgetown, said he enjoys Glass’s show but was taken aback by the intensity of the radio show’s following.
He said, “I loved the show, and love American Life, but I didn’t realize the extent of this cult that follows him.”