If you’ve ever listened to an installment of This American Life, you’ve no doubt heard the voice of Alex Blumberg. The bulk of my radio listening these days takes place in the car, and since WVXU carries This American Life on Saturday afternoons, I usually hear Ira Glass, the host, and his revolving crew of awesome contributors, while I’m running an errand. Listening to them go long and deep on a piece about the killing of Yitzhak Rabin, or a school play gone hysterically wrong, or the story behind a totally inappropriate straight-to-video show called Juiced, which followed O.J. Simpson as he pulled pranks on unsuspecting civilians, fills me with hope for journalism and alleviates the mundanity of yet another trip to Home Depot.
It’s not overstating it to say that Blumberg, who grew up in Cincinnati, had a ringside seat at the mini-revolution that This American Life ignited through its highly entertaining, engrossing, and thoroughly reported on-air pieces. Beyond the Cult of Ira (which is kind of a thing), the success of the show lies in its ability to capture the everyday drama of the world we live in, in all its pathos and tragedy and comedy, and deliver it with no artifice. They rekindled the high art of storytelling through the medium of radio with a deceivingly simple formula: They tell and you listen. The only thing missing is the campfire.
Now, through the magic of podcasting, we can have the campfire. Blumberg left This American Life to start an independent podcast company called Gimlet Media a couple of years ago. Podcasts are not a new thing—they’ve been around for about a decade—but he felt he was on to something. The success of Serial (spawned by another Glass disciple), and of Blumberg’s own podcast, Start Up, confirmed that hunch. In this issue, Alyssa Brandt talks to Blumberg about what it has been like to follow his gut and end up in the red hot center of a new media phenomenon.
Lastly, a shameless plug: We’ve got a podcast too! It’s called Fulcher 2 Stay, and in case you don’t get the reference, it focuses on sports in general and the current Bengals season in particular. Simply go to cincinnatimagazine.com/fulcher2stay and listen in as Adam Flango and Justin Williams drop some science—and by “science” I mean anything from Flango’s love of Christmas music to Williams’s cautious optimism about Andy Dalton’s throwing arm.