February 2011


If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that federal funding for public broadcasting is under threat. Today the House voted for a budget that eliminates support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides money for public radio and television programming and infrastructure.

As independent producers, we’d like to point out that public media is more than just NPR and PBS. Some of the most innovative non-commercial programming comes from independent shops. We’re creating new platforms, reaching new audiences, and telling stories that the bigger outfits aren’t telling. Although the CPB has sharply reduced its support for independent producers in the last few years, its investments in the system as a whole remain crucially important to us. (Homelands has received grants from CPB in the past, but we’re not getting any now.)

The budget battle is far from over, and it’s unclear what will happen next. If you’d like to voice your support for public media, please consider calling your senators as soon as possible. You can learn more (and sign a petition) at 170MillionAmericans.org. The Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) has also provided a handy list of action ideas.

We hope you get a chance to hear this week’s Hearing Voices from NPR. It features a beautiful, thought-provoking story by Kate Davidson about a program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that placed tens of thousands of school-age Native American children in Mormon homes between 1954 and 2000.

Kate spent a year visiting former students, host families and program officials. The unnarrated story, which was produced as part of Homelands’ Worlds of Difference project, was edited by Deborah George. It won the 2006 Edward R. Murrow Award for best national radio documentary.

Hearing Voices calls itself “the largest collective of independent radio producers this side of the semi-planet Pluto.” The show, Hearing Voices from NPR, is a weekly compilation of independent work, and is heard on more than 100 stations and available as a podcast. The executive producer is indie stalwart Barrett Golding.

You can click here for a list of radio stations that carry Hearing Voices. And you can click here for the program’s website, where audio will be posted on or around February 23.

Loyal readers will be pleased to learn that the entire Homelands Productions oeuvre is now downloadable from our website. For the last couple of years you could listen to our radio features on a special streaming audio player; now you can take them with you on your workout or commute. There are roughly 140 pieces available going back to 1991. We think there’s some pretty good stuff in there and encourage you to poke around.

The link in the first sentence (and also here) takes you to our “series” page; click on a series name for a list of stories, then click the “download” button to get the mp3.

Note that the Worlds of Difference link takes you to that project’s home page, at least for now; you need to click on the “stories” link in the banner (or just click here) to get the full story list, then click on the individual story title. Note also that the mp3s don’t include introductions, “outros” or credits. One of these days we hope to launch a podcast, in which we’ll provide a little context and give props to the producers. Keep checking this space!

Back in the early 1990s, Homelands Productions reported on the contamination of portions of the Ecuadorean Amazon by the American oil giant Texaco. Today a judge in Ecuador ordered Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001, to pay $9 billion in damages. The company will appeal, but the ruling is an important step in a process that has been held up for decades.

You can hear a 24-minute piece from the Vanishing Homelands series by clicking here. Or you can download it here. The story was produced by Sandy Tolan and Nancy Postero.

The good folks at Transom.org asked me to contribute a “manifesto” on the art of producing a feature series for public radio. The piece went live yesterday. It’s meant to provide a general idea of what’s involved in putting together a project like the ones Homelands has been producing for the last 20 years. Transom.org calls itself “a showcase and workshop for new public radio.” You can find everything from microphone advice to tips from the best audio storytellers. It’s a great resource for newcomers, and for oldsters who want to test new waters.

Jon