"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 Transom.org.

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 Transom.org. Previous contributors were independent producer Ann Heppermann and NPR East Africa correspondent (and honorary Homelander) Gregory Warner.


A Stanford University research technician erects a net on a Costa Rican coffee farm. The team has identified more than 100 species of birds on farms and associated patches of forest as part of a project to calculate the value of biodiversity. Photo: Sam Eaton/Homelands Productions.

It’s the biggest week yet for the “Food for 9 Billion” project, with five stories scheduled to air on PBS NewsHour and two on PRI’s The World.

Today on the NewsHour, Sam Eaton visits Costa Rica, where farmers and researchers are finding that biodiversity isn’t just good for the environment, but also boosts productivity and profits. Also today, on The World, Mary Kay Magistad eats a meal with the organizers of a grassroots campaign to cut down on food waste in China, where leaving food on your plate is a sign that you’ve made it.

Tuesday on the NewsHour, Jon Miller travels to Qatar to visit a high-tech experiment in transforming sunlight, seawater and carbon dioxide into food, fuel and fresh water. On Wednesday, also on the NewsHour, Sam reports on an ultra-efficient vertical vegetable farm in Singapore.

On Thursday, Jon reports for The World from Uganda, where scientists and activists have staked out very different positions on genetically engineered virus-resistant cassava. Also on Thursday, on the NewsHour, Sam visits farmers in India who are returning to their traditional seeds to protect themselves against the ravages of climate change.

Finally, on the NewsHour on Friday, Serene Fang and Susanne Rust of the Center for Investigative Reporting look at California’s resource-hungry dairy industry, which is turning to China as domestic markets dry up.

As always, if you can’t catch the stories on the day of broadcast, they will all be archived at Foodfor9Billion.org, along with slideshows, interactive graphics and other goodies.

Belated Happy Labor Day! Last weekend Re:sound, the Chicago Public Radio program that showcases radio documentaries from around the world, broadcast (actually “re:broadcast”) “The Work Show,” featuring Homelands’ WORKING project. The hour, which was first heard last September, weaves interview bits with executive producer Jon Miller with excerpts from several profiles from the series. Those include a pirate in Indonesia (by Kelly McEvers), a movie director in Nigeria and a French chocolate taster in Ecuador (both by Jon), an oil worker in Canada (Chris Brookes), a lobster diver in Honduras (Claudine LoMonaco), and an express mail driver in Beijing (Sandy Tolan).

“The Work Show” was produced by Delaney Hall and hosted by Gwen Macsai. If you missed the broadcast you can still hear it online, presumably until the end of time. WORKING aired on Marketplace between 2007 and 2009 and received the 2008 Sigma Delta Chi Award for radio feature reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.

My profile of the Kenyan marathoner Salina Kosgei is airing around the country this week on World Vision Report. Salina, who grew up poor in a remote village in western Kenya, is considered the top challenger to favorite Paula Radcliffe in the ING New York City Marathon on November 1. It’s her first race since she won the Boston Marathon in April by less than one second.


Salina Kosgei was the 10th and youngest child of poor farmers in the highlands of western Kenya. The family home had no electricity or plumbing; Salina got her first shoes at age 14. As a kid, she used to run 10 kilometers to school, barefoot, just for the fun of it. Twenty years later, she’s still running, not for kicks but for a living. It’s been a long slog, with plenty of ups and downs. Then this year she found herself elbow to elbow with the defending champ in the most prestigious marathon in the world, with the finish line in sight.

Jon Miller’s profile is scheduled to air on Marketplace on Thursday, July 16. To hear it, read more about Salina, and see 23 terrific photos by Kenyan photographer Stevie Mann, click here. The story will be posted around showtime.

The Third Coast Festival has come and gone. What an amazing community we indie producers have managed to create! Two and a half days of hugs, grins, coffee, wine, and dancing. Oh, and networking, workshopping, CD-swapping, and technical talk. (There was a touch of the Titanic about it, with news of failing banks and free-falling financial markets burbling quietly in the background.)

On Saturday afternoon the fabulous Kitchen Sisters (a.k.a. Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva) presented their “favorite things” to an exhausted and admiring crowd; somehow they coaxed all 400 of us to stand up and join in rousing renditions of Sixteen Tons and A Little Help from My Friends. That night Homelands’ pal Chris Brookes was named this year’s “Audio Luminary” (that’s the festival’s lifetime achievement award) — if you’ve never heard his work PLEASE check him out. A good place to start is an award-winning piece he did as part of our Worlds of Difference series called A Map of the Sea.

Sandy, Cecilia, and I snuck away from time to time to talk about our next project. We’d like to do a multimedia series on hunger. As with WORKING, we’ll want to focus on individual human beings. It’s a timely topic, sad to say: the number of hungry people around the world is now more than 900 million, and rising. With the economic mess, water shortages, food and fuel price volatility, rising populations, and climate change, things are unlikely to improve in the near term. If you have thoughts about the topic, or if you have ideas on who might support the project, please let us know!


P.S. Next up on WORKING is Kelly McEvers’ profile of a pirate who robs ships in Indonesia’s Strait of Malacca. If you want a reminder, go to our website and sign up for our mailing list.

This week, as the global economy collapses, Sandy, Cecilia and I head merrily off to the Third Coast International Audio Festival in Evanston, Illinois. It’s an annual meet-up of people who tell stories with sound, with a pretty heavy emphasis on radio (the festival is organized by Chicago Public Radio) but also with sessions on podcasting, social media, and other 21st century formats. I’ve gone every year since 2001 and it always makes me giddy. For those of us who work alone in our attics or basements, it’s awfully nice to spend a few days soaking up the collegial vibe. And of course it’s inspiring to hear the great things folks are producing.

Before I go I thought I’d quickly report on what’s going on with WORKING. I’ve been editing three terrific profiles with three terrific reporters. Kelly McEvers spent more than two weeks tracking down a pirate in Indonesia (check out her blog for an amazing peek behind the journalistic curtain); the guy she finally found goes out at night on a little boat, climbs a pole onto giant cargo ships, and robs the crews with a machete. The intrepid Gregory Warner journeyed from Rwanda, where he was on another assignment, to the end of a tiny tunnel deep in a jungle in the Democratic Republic of Congo to find a guy who spends his days chipping away at a wall of rock with a little spike, looking for a mineral used in cell phones and other gadgets. And the inimitable Sean Cole spent a few days with a Ukrainian dancer doing a death-defying Argentinian cowboy act for a Russian circus traveling in England.

It’s weeks like these that remind me what an incredible privilege it is to do this work. I’ll let you know if the feeling persists.