Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beyond Fear Audio and Transcripts Now Available

So many of the decisions being made in US foreign policy and national security seem to be driven by (or justified by) fear. But there are other ways for Americans to look at the world.

In the past and in the present, the United States has found ways to provide positive, global leadership. The radio production team at the Stanley Foundation went looking for those examples.

The result is a brand new radio documentary, "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World."

The program features reports from Djibouti, Ukraine, India, and Aceh along with interviews of Colin Powell, Sam Nunn, Richard Lugar, Kenneth Bacon, and more. This is the fourth documentary the foundation has done with David Brancaccio (host of the PBS program NOW) and the documentary once again concludes with an essay from David putting the reporting and analysis into a larger, more meaningful context.

All of the documentary material, plus photos and complete interviews (audio and transcripts) are now available here.

"Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World" is produced by Simon Marks, Kristin McHugh, and Keith Porter. It is a Stanley Foundation production in association with KQED Public Radio.

Friday, May 11, 2007

San Francisco: Sunny and Warm

Simon Marks, Kristin McHugh, and I arrived in San Francisco on what must have been the warmest May day in years. Ninety degree temperatures are not what I expect from the Bay Area, but it was a welcome surprise.

Our panel discussion in the KQED atrium, a preview of "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World," was moderated by NPR's Richard Gonzales. Kristin played her segment from Djibouti along with many slides. Simon, who reported on nuclear issues in Ukraine and India for the radio documentary, gave a preview of a similar piece is is working on for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Nu Nu Kidane of the Priority Africa Network also served on the panel.

The turnout for the event was small, but the discussion was passionate and invigorating. Special thanks to Gonzales as well as Elaine Shen and her community engagement team from KQED for all their work. I hope we can do this again!
--Keith Porter

Friday, May 4, 2007

KQED Readies for National Premiere

The final touches to "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World" are being applied. And Kristin, Simon, and I are in a mood to celebrate.

So we are headed to San Francisco for a gathering at KQED... and you are invited!
Monday, May 7
6-8 p.m.
KQED Atrium
2601 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, California

We invite you to join us for a panel discussion to explore new scenarios for US global leadership built on common action, trust, and hope—the subject of a new radio documentary from KQED Public Radio and the Stanley Foundation, "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World."
Panelists include Simon Marks, coproducer of Beyond Fear and an independent broadcaster whose reports air regularly on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, the Fox News Channel, and MarketPlace; Kristin McHugh, coproducer of Beyond Fear and program officer at the Stanley Foundation; and Nu Nu Kidane of the African Action Network.

NPR's Richard Gonzales will moderate the discussion. The panel will present previews of the audio and video segments of their reports from India, Ukraine, Indonesia, and the Horn of Africa and lead the audience in a discussion of how global security and our own sense of security at home are linked.

Hope to see you there. Don't forget, "Beyond Fear" will premiere on KQED on May 9 at 8 p.m and be available for nationwide distribution the next day. Contact Ken Mills at (763) 513-9988 for carriage details.
--Keith Porter

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Red Wagon of Culver City

After months of the planning, overseas travel, reporting, and scripting it all comes down to what we call in the radio biz the “final mix.” And it’s my job to make sure the final mix is flawless. If you’ve ever worked in radio, you know the process it takes to complete the final program isn’t as easy as it sounds.

We entrust this momentous task to Rima Snyder of Red Wagon Audio.

Like Larry Josephson, Rima works from the comfort of her home. Her Culver City, California house was built on what used to be the back lot of MGM Studios, so it somehow seems fitting that the final mix happens in the shadows of Hollywood.

There are dozens of people who could engineer the final mix, but why fix something when it isn’t broken? Rima has worked the past six Stanley Foundation/KQED radio specials. My ProTools skills aren’t too shabby, but Rima is a PT whiz.

With Rima’s trusty dog Willa at our feet, Rima works her magic as I offer up direction, suggestions and comments.

It doesn’t take long to reach the point every producer dreads: trimming the script to fit the clock. I long for the day when I can honestly say we added material to a show!

It’s easy to get married to every single piece of audio we intended to put into the show. That’s why it is sometimes downright painful to leave fabulous material on the imaginary “edit room floor.” It takes countless text messages, IM exchanges, e-mails, and conference calls with Simon and Keith. Rima patiently awaits the final decision (and offers up condolences as she trims away).

We successfully hit the magic time of 52:59 today. It will take us a few more days to “polish” up the final product. Anxious to hear the final result? Beyond Fear: America’s Role in an Uncertain World debuts on KQED Public Radio on May 9 at 8:00pm PDT. National distribution begins the next day.

--Kristin McHugh

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fighting the Cold War in New Jersey

A vacant lot in suburban New Jersey is not on my usual reporting itinerary for radio documentaries on international affairs. But there we were last week, creating a human wind buffer as David Brancaccio recorded his closing essay for "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World."

The documentary is all about looking for ways the United States can interact with the world that aren't driven by fear... and the benefits this could accrue to our national security. This line of thought reminded David of the abandoned Nike missile defense system which used to ring New York City. He had stumbled across part of the system's remains while bike riding near his Maplewood, NJ home.

So he incorporated the missiles into his closing essay using them as a symbol of the fear Americans felt during the Cold War. And then he suggested we actually go to the site to collect some natural sound and record his reading. Kristin, Simon, and I loved the idea because we are always looking for ways to inject as much sound richness as possible into these documentaries.

After leaving Larry Josephson's recording studio in Manhattan we went to Penn Station and caught the New Jersey Transit train to Maplewood. There David used his trusty GPS navigation devices to find what is now a nearly empty expanse of land amid a purely American suburb. The site has winding, narrow pavement in a path which ultimately loops back on itself. There are small, assorted concrete platforms and manhole covers in various locations and a rusty, overgrown chain link fence topped by barbed wire.

After poking around a bit we pulled out the recording equipment and tried to find a place and a position which could at least minimize the noise of a steady, brisk breeze. While David was nearing the end of the first take, a police patrol car cruised slowly through the site. I was sure we would be asked to leave... trespassing and all that... but the car completed the pavement circuit and kept right on going.

I guess the site of radio documentarians practicing their craft is more common in New Jersey than I assumed.
--Keith Porter

Friday, April 13, 2007

Larry's Place

Last week, David Brancaccio, Kristin McHugh, Simon Marks, and I gathered in Larry Josephson's Manhattan radio studio to record David's narration for the documentary "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World." All of you in the public radio world have met Larry or know him by reputation. He was present at the creation of our industry and not much more needs to be said.

But his base of operation is worth further description. This fifth floor apartment on Central Park West is his home as well as the workplace for a small staff of people. It is infused with an amazing collection of radio equipment and paraphernalia, although "collection" may give it too much of a sense of organization. David quipped that this is probably what his home would look like if he didn't have others regulating his purchase of old microphones and gizmo treasures.

Sylvester the cat, wandering through the rooms, gives the place a very civilized and homey vibe. People love recording at Larry's place certainly because of the excellent sound quality and technical expertise of the staff. But the comfortable feel of the place adds a relaxation and warmth to the aural experience which cannot be quantified. And I have no doubt that it adds to the success of our projects.

In the tiny, un-remodeled bathroom, the modern office phone hanging precariously over the stool has a laminated sheet with the speed dial codes for an impressive array of international news organizations and area food delivery operations. For a moment I thought about grabbing the phone and pushing the button marked "NPR Washington Desk" before regaining my professional composure.

Later, standing in the recording booth, I looked at the rows of reel-to-reel tapes holding raw interview audio. The spines read Woody Allen, Nelson Mandela, Bob and Ray, and so on. On that day we had to finish up on time because Alec Baldwin was headed in next to read some scripts.

Kristin and David in the recording booth

A while back I saw that Julia Child's kitchen had been carefully disassembled and reconstructed as a permanent display at the Smithsonian. I wonder if they could do that with Larry's place?

--Keith Porter

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dateline: 600 Feet Below Ground Somewhere in India

Several years ago, after safely returning to the surface from my 5th reporting visit to the coal-mines of Eastern Europe, I decided that as far as the mining industry is concerned I had very much "been there, done that". Unlike the poor men who have little alternative but to grind out a living down some of the deadliest pits in the world, I was there by choice. And from then on, I chose not to return to some of the most cramped and potentially deadly working environments on the planet.

So, it was with some trepidation that I travelled to Jadaguda, 900 miles south-east of Delhi, at the invitation of the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL).

It's the operator of India's uranium mines - and the folks at UCIL were good enough to allow us to record a significant chunk of "Beyond Fear" 600 feet below ground in one of their mining complexes.

Never having visited a uranium mine, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's not like a coal-mine at all: you can't actually see the uranium, which has to be detected through various radiation tests before the mining engineers can be told where to deploy their drills.

Once deployed, they mine around 2500 tons of rock from the cavernous, spacious tunnels that have been dug in the ground here. That rock is then pulverised; the powdered rock is turned into a slurry; and it's from that slurry that the uranium is derived.

Ramdendra Gupta, the head of UCIL, used to work in India's deepest gold mine. He transitioned to the uranium industry because, he says, it has "growth potential."

It certainly does. As India's population grows and its economy rises, the country has a desperate need for new sources of power. Currently, the country's nuclear power stations only supply 3 per cent of India's electricity. Mr. Gupta wants to see that figure rise seven-fold.

The Bush administration wants to help him get his way.

The proposed US-India nuclear agreement will permit co-operation with India's civil nuclear program, and allow the country to import supplies of uranium, even though it's one of only 4 states that fails to honor the Non Proliferation Treaty. (North Korea, Pakistan and Israel are the other three).

Critics of the deal say it will doom the global non-proliferation regime, and that the US is being inconsistent by permitting India to develop its nuclear program - both civil, and military - while insisting North Korea and Iran cannot develop theirs.

Indian officials tell us their country's democratic fiber is strong, and that as a rapidly-rising power in the region, they both need a nuclear program, and can be trusted with them. The redoubtable Mr. Gupta also points out that UCIL has been mining uranium here since the 1960s, and that India's nuclear program will continue whether the deal with the US goes ahead or not.

You'll hear more of his views in "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain Role" - the first American radio program to have been recorded, in part, down an Indian uranium mine.

--Simon Marks