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All Things Considered Home Page30th Anniversary of ATC
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All Things Considered

A day in the life... (continued)

10:45 a.m. — Klinger and Editorial Assistant Rhonda Ray get their assignments. For this afternoon's show, find a family law expert to discuss the Massachusetts DNA-and-paternity case, and a French commentator to discuss the Les Mis sequel; and contact Kerrey's office about an interview. They'll also make inquiries about a possible drug czar interview, and a possible Downey story.

11:00 a.m. — For a segment to air later in the week, Siegel interviews David Courtwright, author of a new book about changing attitudes toward drugs. Siegel is in an NPR studio; the guest is in a member station's studio in Jacksonville, Fla. The interview runs 13-1/2 minutes -- much longer than it will air. Kelly and Associate Producer Lisa Harmon, who listened and took notes throughout the interview, discuss how to cut it; keep the top, plus one question in the middle, and the last question. Siegel agrees.

A studio engineer has digitally recorded the interview. Harmon calls up the sound file on her desktop computer screen, where it looks like a long horizontal Rorschach test. The system lets her edit spoken words as easily as a word-processing program allows the editing of written words. The vast majority of sound used on ATC is recorded digitally, though some still is captured on reel-to-reel, 1/4-inch-wide analog tape -- and most every ATC cubicle still contains a console for playing, cutting and splicing that tape by hand.

Harmon is producing a "two-way," a simple discussion between a host and one other party. Other ATC stories require the "mixing" of more audio elements: the host or reporter's narration, called "tracks"; excerpts from interviews, called "actualities" or "acts"; and background or environmental sound, called "ambience" or "ambi."

11:19 a.m. — On a legal-pad grid he may redraw 20 times in a day, Turpin sees so many stories of a similar length (6-7 minutes) that, he says, "It's going to be hell to put this together. I wish we had a good little short news story," to break up the pace.

Associate Producer Jon "Smokey" Baer edits the sound file of Wertheimer's 9:30 a.m. interview with the Washington Post 's Tokyo bureau chief, on Japan's new prime minister. What was an 8-minute discussion comes down to half that.

Klinger gives Wertheimer background material on the Massachusetts paternity case, so Wertheimer can prepare for an interview set for 12:30 p.m.

Acting National Desk Editor David Sweeney and Turpin discuss a story possibility.

11:30 a.m. — Acting National Desk Editor David Sweeney gets a call from Northeast Bureau Chief Andrea DeLeon: New Jersey's acting governor, under fire for business dealings, has decided not to run. Is this worth a piece for ATC? And if so, who will report it?

Turpin learns that a story he saw as lead material -- on the Bush administration reassessing its strategic weapons systems priorities -- will not be done for today's show. He curses under his breath: "I had such a nice A segment..."

Noon — "Every day's really weird, but today ... we've got a lot of stuff, it's just not the right stuff," Turpin says. He'll have to squeeze in a story on the Manhattan charity Hale House, because there's a new development on allegations of financial mismanagement there. And now an editor wants 7-1/2 minutes for a story for which Turpin can't spare more than 5-1/2.

Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg calls to brief Turpin on today's Supreme Court arguments in a tobacco advertising case. When he hangs up he notes with some relief, "Nina's always good for a lead." He also says yes to a short story on New Jersey's acting governor from Eugene Sonn, a reporter for member station WHYY.

Siegel interviews welfare expert Megan Twohey.

Wertheimer and Producer Jeff Rogers consider where to trim minutes from a report she's preparing on 30 years in the war against cancer.

Siegel's back in the studio, interviewing reporter Megan Twohey about welfare reform, for the Changing Face of America package that will fill the show's second half hour.

Wertheimer huddles with Weiss, Kelly and Producer Jeff Rogers for help editing her report on 30 years' advances in the war on cancer, to air May 2. She's gotten it down to 28 minutes, but it can't run more than 22. At this point in a project, she says, the hosts turn "to people not as in love with the material as we are, to tell us which parts work and which parts are boring." (When the four emerge from Weiss' office 45 minutes later, the report's been cut to within a few seconds of the target length.)


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