• Sarah Albiston

Why I love Ira Glass.

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

It's one thing to fall in love with a singer you admire – from the first note, you're hooked. You can feel their voice in your bones, and you absolutely know that he or she is singing from your own experience.

But, to fall for a radio journalist? Well, that's a bit different.

I can still remember the first time I listened to This American Life, on my local public radio station. I actually pulled the car over so I could really listen. I'm sure I texted at least two friends and called a close colleague.

I was in awe that someone with such a calm, relatively undistinguished radio voice, could grab my attention so gently and powerfully. This American Life, now on the radio for more than 20 years, was and continues to be groundbreaking. Instead of interviewing the famous or the infamous, Ira Glass interviews regular people. Not famous. Not well-known. And he makes them – and their stories – unforgettable.

Listening to Ira Glass is like listening to a wise teacher. He asks brilliant questions. He can pry open a shy subject like a Maryland chef pries open an oyster. Not easy at all, but it seems so simple.

Ira Glass has won awards, attention, countless fans, and even cameos in a few movies – as himself, of course. We fans just love that. So, how did I go from being not just a serious fan, but to proclaiming that I Love Ira Glass? I could name 100 reasons. But, in honor of Ira's own brevity and pinpoint accuracy in getting to the heart of the matter, I will attempt the same.

Ira honors creatives.

What's the difference between an Artist and a Creative? Just ask one. An Artist will claim it with both hands, and say “I am an Artist.” It really doesn't have to do with how much they've sold, how much recognition they've gained, if they've been published, or if their work hangs in posh galleries. They believe they're an artist, so they are an artist. And they'll tell you so. Artists do not struggle with output. Output is what drives them. They must create, so they do.

Creatives are no less talented, experienced, or respected. But they see themselves differently. As a talent in-process. Not quite there. Still working on it. It's not that creatives have less pride or more self-doubt. And they certainly deliver output. But what distinguishes creatives is their self-definition. They see their work, their art, their output, as a reflection of themselves as individuals. Their output isn't art. It's self.

Ira Glass (IMHO) sees himself as a Creative. When he says “I've been doing this for more than 15 years, and it's still hard, every day”, you believe him. When he says “It took me so long to understand that it's normal to struggle”, you – if you're a Creative – nod your head in agreement. When he says “You must invent the thing that's exactly right for you”, you know he understands the challenges of marketing your work.

Ira is a gracious listener.

As a trained journalist and lifelong broadcaster, Ira Glass knows how to interview his subjects. But what sets him apart aren't the questions he asks. It's how he listens and responds. It's clear that his guests know they're being listened to and understood. His questions are never rude, provocative, or pushy. With many tv journalists I often cringe when they conduct interviews with stars or politicians. Curiosity is not driving the questions. Ratings are. But when Ira Glass asks a question in his broadcasts, the guest opens right up, naturally, and with ease.

The level of trust and respect that he gives to his guests is palpable. His style is unique. He doesn't pepper them with questions. Instead, he has a conversation with them. It's interesting to note how often Ira's guests will say “Do you know what I mean?”. They want to be sure he gets what they're saying.

Ira champions the human struggle.

Ira has covered a dazzling array of topics on This American Life. A week in the life of a used car sales team in New Jersey, after a major stock market correction, and a hurricane. The story of a young post-grad woman whose fiance turned out to be the identity thief she and investigators had been chasing for years. Family members having last conversations with dying loved ones. In each story, Ira establishes a warm connection with his guests. You would swear he has known each guest for years.

The conversations in This American Life are enlightening, shocking, truthful, unexpected, funny, and heartbreaking. But, Ira Glass always leaves the listener with a glimpse of hope. No matter how tragic someone's tale is, there is room for joy. And while Ira unveils these stories with great respect for his guests, he also leaves his listeners with something to savor as well. A true tale well told.

#Ira Glass #This American Life

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