"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.

Musician Teodoro Cuevas waits for business in LA's Mariachi Plaza. Photo by Emmanuel Martinez/Neon Tommy.

Musician Teodoro Cuevas waits for business in LA’s Mariachi Plaza. Photo by Emmanuel Martinez/Neon Tommy.

In 24 Hours: A Day in the Working Life, 12 Los Angeles-area workers – including a stripper, deli waitress, bus driver, metal scrapper, and bathroom attendant – take us inside their workplaces to show us what they do and why they do it. 

The Labor Day special aired on public radio stations around the country yesterday. It was reported by graduate students at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC as part of a course taught by Homelands’ Sandy Tolan and Karen Lowe of the web and radio project Bending Borders.

Karen is an old friend of Homelands; as an editor for Marketplace, she worked on many of the profiles in our WORKING series.

24 Hours is a co-production of Homelands Productions, Bending Borders, and the USC Annenberg School. It is distributed by the Public Radio Exchange (PRX).

Ruxandra Guidi‘s story about the relationship between the mother of a victim of gun violence and the person who shot him airs this week as part of the hour-long radio documentary “Guns in America.” The program is the latest episode in the BBC’s “Real America” series.


Casson Evans was three when he was killed by a stray bullet in Denver.

Ruxandra shares the story of Sharletta Evans, who lost her three year-old son, Casson, when a stray bullet pierced her car. The teenager responsible, Raymond Johnson, was caught and imprisoned, but Sharletta didn’t let things end there. She bound herself to Raymond, and to the mother of an accomplice, in extraordinary ways.

“Real America” is a product of the BBC Public Radio Partnership, which engages independent radio producers in the US to create original work for broadcast on the BBC World Service as well as on public radio stations across the United States.

Other producers contributing to “Guns in America” are Kelly Jones, Lu Olkowski, Dmae Roberts, and Skye Fitzgerald.

Members of the BBC Public Radio Partnership are the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), WBEZ in Chicago, WBUR in Boston, and KPBS in San Diego. The programs are distributed by American Public Media.


The Millers owned an avocado green 1968 Plymouth Fury Suburban station wagon, just like the one pictured, but theirs didn’t float.

Homelands’ Jonathan Miller has produced a two-part series for PRI’s The World on the 40th anniversary of the end of the Arab Oil Embargo. The first part, which aired yesterday, looks at how (or whether) the embargo changed US energy policy. The second part, which aired today, looks at how (or whether) the embargo changed us. Jon got to interview his dad, listen to speeches by Richard Nixon, and dig into some groovy 1970s music.

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

A listener contacted us after our story aired on PRI’s The World about entrepreneur Charles Mulamata’s effort to start an aquaponics business in his native Uganda. (Aquaponics is a combination of fish and vegetable farming that promoters say is more efficient and productive than conventional methods.) Geoff Platt, who develops aquaponics systems in Arizona, asked us to forward his contact information to Mulamata. Here’s what he wrote today:

Does good journalism change anything? Can words make an impact? Through this interview you may well have started something much larger than you could have imagined….

I am currently helping [Charles] develop several businesses. A mobile aquaponics van, a vertical farming system capable of much larger yields, a wood gas stove designed to reduce eye problems related to smoke exposure, and a bamboo farm to provide cheap, renewable wood to burn as well as continue to build the bicycles they make out of bamboo.

Charles Mulamata surveys a plot of land where he hopes to build an aquaponics facility.

Charles Mulamata hopes to build an aquaponics facility on this plot near Kampala. Photo by Jon Miller.

He goes on to report that Mulamata, an engineer who has started several small businesses, has petitioned the Ugandan government for access to land on an island in the Nile to start an aquaponics research facility and tilapia nursery.

We have no idea how this will all turn out, but it’s great to be reminded that a six-minute radio story can catalyze real action on the other side of the world. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.


Judges noted Eaton’s “crisp and clear writing and place-setting ambient sound.”

Sam Eaton, a freelance radio and video producer who contributed 10 of the features in the “Food for 9 Billion” project, has won the Society of Environmental Journalistsaward for Environmental Beat Reporting in a large market.

The stories cited by the SEJ deal with the Fukushima disaster and the global threats of climate change. All were broadcast on PRI’s The World and were edited by Peter Thomson. Peter also edited the “What’s for Lunch” series of “Food for 9 Billion.”

Kudos to both!

Next Page »