The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

Owen YoungmanOwen YoungmanOwen Youngman

Radio (or, more properly, audio) days

Chicago Tribune famous front page drinking glasses

75 years of headlines on a single bookshelf, including two versions of GREAT WAR ENDS

Last week I popped down to WBEZ (or do you say Chicago Public Media?) at the invitation of my former colleague Rick Kogan and his producer, my former Medill grad student Katie O’Brien. The purpose: to appear on “Afternoon Shift,” the program that Rick has begun hosting since Steve Edwards left to take a position at the University of Chicago’s new Institute of Politics, or as folks are wont to call it, “David Axelrod’s new thing.” (Rick’s also still at the Tribune, and it’s also worthwhile to troll chicagotribune.com to find him.)

Anyway, Kogan’s opening essay about his long involvement with and regard for newspapers is pretty evocative, and as you can see it put me in mind of the two sets of Tribune headline drinking glasses I have sitting on one of my bookshelves at Medill. The essay is followed by a three-way discussion among him, Katie, and me that tries to ask and answer questions like, Why journalism? and Why journalism for you, Katie? WBEZ.org called it “The Future of Facts.”

Chicago Public Media is using several different platforms for putting its archival material online, and here are two:

  • A Storify collection of tweets and links that includes pointers to all of the individual segments of the program. One swell feature is that it appears you can add comments to the audio track at any given point along the audio stream, though I haven’t tried it.
  • An audio link on SoundCloud that takes you to a fairly straightforward interface.

I’m always  interested to hear from people after I go on WBEZ or WTTW or WGN, but was really, really surprised at how many people contacted me after this segment aired. Apparently I have a lot of discerning friends who make a habit of listening to public radio in the middle of the afternoon, and they seemed to enjoy the chat. Perhaps you will, too.

A different kind of retrospection is included in this one-hour podcast, in which I talk about the early days, or perhaps the early minutes, of newspapers’ transition away from typewriters and rubber cement — first to computerized typesetting, and eventually to interactive services like America Online and then to the Web. Anthony Cekay, the son of my late Tribune colleague Thomas Cekay, asked me to sit for an interview on the topic, given his own recollections of Tom’s having worked with me in the early years of chicagotribune.com.

This podcast is now more than a year old (June 2011), so I listened to it today to make sure it still seemed interesting. I think Anthony’s questions did a good job of helping us avoid pointless anecdotes and letting us discuss things about the past that have clear implications for news in the present and future. Among the topics we chat about at various lengths are why and how I brought an Apple II into the sports department in the early 1980s to compute batting averages; to how and why it became evident that interactivity would transform news gathering and news consumption; to just where branding and blogging and social media are leading journalists and journalism.

I link to the podcast here because I do think it’s pretty light on unhelpful nostalgia, and hoping that as a piece of oral history it contains a few elements that might be surprising to even some of my friends.  So, if you have an appetite, have at it (link repeated to save you from scrolling). As noted, it’s an hour. And your mileage may vary.

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