Charles Bowden, 1945-2014.

Journalist and author Charles Bowden died on August 30. Homelands’ Alan Weisman describes an outsized man with an outsized personality in a remembrance on the blog of Orion Magazine. Alan writes:

“Should you aspire to write yourself, absolutely do read him, but don’t try to imitate him. You can’t. No one could. But learn from his fearless commitment to saying exactly what needed to be said… Let me rephrase that: Chuck Bowden wasn’t fearless. He was scared plenty — but he had the courage to never turn away, regardless.”





"Getting usable tape from a three-person, two-language conversation can be a culturally, linguistically, emotionally, and ergonomically complicated business," says Jonathan Miller.

Jonathan Miller interviews marathoner Selena Kosgei and her mother in western Kenya. “Getting usable tape from a three-person, two-language conversation can be a culturally, linguistically, emotionally, and ergonomically complicated business,” he writes on

More than 1 billion people in the world speak English. You could interview one of them every day for 30,000 years and still not exhaust your supply. So why worry about translating foreign-language voices for the radio?

Homelands’ Jonathan Miller tackles this and other thorny questions in the latest “Thoughts on Translation” column on the public radio website Previous contributors were independent producer Ann Heppermann and NPR East Africa correspondent (and honorary Homelander) Gregory Warner.

Photo from Peru by Bear Guerra.

Homelands’ inaugural Facebook profile picture by our own Bear Guerra.

Move over, Rupert Murdoch. First a website, then a blog, then a Twitter account… now Homelands is making its move on Facebook, a Silicon Valley start-up that describes itself as a “social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.”

We understand it also provides companies, governments, criminal syndicates, and other institutions a convenient way to to keep track of everything we think and do. If you do Facebook, please visit us, talk to us, and like us!

Homelands producers

Homelands producers Bear Guerra, Ruxandra Guidi, Cecilia Vaisman, Sandy Tolan, Jonathan Miller, and Alan Weisman

Back in the early 1990s, Homelands’ four founder-members lived together in a rented house in Costa Rica while working on the Vanishing Homelands series. But after that we scattered, and for the last 22 years or so we’ve been a pretty virtual crew. It’s a rare treat when we’re all together in one place.

So it was when we gathered for a day and a half in Los Angeles last month, to catch each other up on our comings and goings and hatch plans for the future. It was the first Homelands convergence with Rux and Bear, who were on their way from a fellowship year in Colorado to a new life in Quito, Ecuador. We were also joined by our excellent board member Maria Blanco, who snapped the picture.

Took a while, but Homelands Productions is now betwittered. (Twitterated? Atweet?) We’re tweeting about journalism, storytelling, documentary, and some of the things that move us: the environment, international development, cultural identity, migration, climate. Today we actually tweeted about baseball, but we don’t expect that to continue. Please follow us at @HomelandsProd!

Pretty soon we’ll update our website, which is current but very 2004. Could a Facebook account be far behind?

Weisman on RT

In speeches and media appearances, Alan Weisman argues that humane and effective ways exist to bring Earth’s human population in line with the planet’s carrying capacity.

Homelands co-founder Alan Weisman’s “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?” was awarded the 2013 LA Times Book Prize in the science and technology category. “Countdown” was also named the best general nonfiction book of 2013 at the Paris Book Fair and won the 2014 Population Institute Global Media Award for best book.

Raul Ramirez, longtime director of news and public affairs at KQED in San Francisco, died on November 15. A moving tribute can be found on the KQED website. Raul was also a dear friend of Homelands Productions and a member of our board.

I’ve never encountered a single person with such powerful currents flowing inside, in such abundance: humor, intelligence, kindness, awareness, curiosity, playfulness, personal bravery, professional courage, generosity, grace, decency, consideration, passion, panache, good will, a commitment to justice, an unending humanity, and a profound capacity for loving life. I’m sure I’ve missed something.

Seeing Raul always made me happy. I loved my occasional stays with him and his husband Tony on my jaunts north from LA. With those visits I understood the tremendous range of his intellectual and artistic curiosity, which sank in deeper each time, in part by my perusing his eclectic and fascinating bookshelves. His generosity on those visits was intrinsic to Raul – like when he went so far as to encourage my roars for my beloved Green Bay Packers from his couch. (“Oh, my, Mr. Tolan,” Raul declared one evening after I leapt off said couch upon the completion of a short pass in the first quarter. “I had no idea.”) Of course, that was vintage Raul, and I’ve seen it so many other times: his gift, in friendship, in professional settings too, for making people feel so comfortable.

Sandy Tolan

In January 1992, I was in Washington for interviews with government officials and scientists at the nearby Goddard Space Center for a story that would be the finale of our original Homelands namesake series, “Vanishing Homelands.” It was a program about the ozone hole, set in southern Chile and Antarctica. I had reported it with our colleague Cecilia Vaisman, but I would be handling these last interviews alone, because she had been recruited that month to produce a special public radio series set in south Florida’s Cuban community with a renowned journalist who’d grown up there, Raul Ramirez. Raul was a veteran print reporter, but this would be his first foray into documentary broadcast. Cecilia, an NPR producer before joining Homelands, would be his co-reporter and radio mentor – as, for the previous year-and-a-half, she had been mine.

When I arrived, Raul and Cecilia were also in Washington, where their reporting would be edited, mixed, and produced. Among the many things that struck me upon hearing of their experiences was how Raul had managed to apply the discipline of journalism to a story that impacted him so personally and profoundly. His allegiance to his community was matched by his obligation to his audience. He became an inspiring example to me of how a great journalist blends uncompromising professional rigor with compassion for his subjects to produce the unforgettable kind of reporting we all hope to achieve.

In the years that followed, when I’d be invited to KQED to appear on public affairs programs about my books, Raul and I would have long lunches to talk shop and life. At times when I was struggling with subjects I was trying to cover, I was hugely grateful for Raul’s encouragement, judgment, and perspective. When he joined the board of Homelands Productions, not only did we all benefit from his concern and wisdom, but we were honored to be able to call Raul Ramirez our colleague. He always will be. I hear him still, urging me on. Mil gracias, hermano.

Alan Weisman

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