'Chronicle' Turns Critics into Podcast Poets The San Francisco Chronicle has found an outlet for some of its more outspoken critics — turning complaints into podcasts. And it all started with one irate reader who had a lot to say about an article on remote-control spy planes.
NPR logo

'Chronicle' Turns Critics into Podcast Poets

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7174569/7174588" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Chronicle' Turns Critics into Podcast Poets

'Chronicle' Turns Critics into Podcast Poets

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7174569/7174588" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


MORNING EDITION listeners are not usually shy when it comes to complaining about a story they don't like, which is fine. We love to hear from you. We do read most of your e-mails and even put some on the air, which puts us ahead of some news organizations but maybe behind the San Francisco Chronicle.

That newspaper found a different outlet for some of its more outspoken critics. The newspaper is turning readers' complaints into podcasts, and the first one was an instant sensation.

Here's NPR's Ina Jaffe.

Unidentified Woman: One new message.

Unidentified Man: Mr. Howe(ph), I'm looking at the Monday issue, August 29th, page E6...

INA JAFFE: The caller didn't identify himself but he had a lot to say to the Chronicle about a piece on remote-controlled spy planes.

Unidentified Man: And then the subhead is a tautology. It says begins testing, Forest Service begins testing pilotless drone. Mr. Howe, is there any other kind of drone?

JAFFE: Which leads the caller to a whole series of questions.

Unidentified Man: Is there any other kind of drone other than a pilotless drone? Isn't that what a drone is, an unmanned aircraft? Don't you check these things? Don't you supervise the subeditors who write these headlines? Don't you do your job?

JAFFE: After about a minute of this, the caller lapses into a kind of ecstatic chanting.

Unidentified Man: Drone, drone, drone. Get it? Drone. Pilotless airplane. Drone, drone, drone, not pilotless drone.

JAFFE: It didn't take long for someone to notice the poetry in this and do a remix for YouTube.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Drone, drone, pilotless airplane, drone, drone, pilotless, get it, Mr. Howe, drone, drone, Mr. Howe, pilotless airplane, Mr. Howe...

JAFFE: It's had thousands of hits. You can also now download it as a ringtone.

Mr. PHIL BRONSTEIN (Editor, San Francisco Chronicle): Someone asked the other day, well, is this some kind of homage to the days when newspapers were fun?

JAFFE: Phil Bronstein is the editor of the Chronicle.

Mr. BRONSTEIN: And I said, well, it's not really an homage. It is having a little fun.

JAFFE: The pilotless drone kicked off a podcast channel the Chronicle calls "Correct Me If I'm Wrong." It will feature, says Bronstein, some of their more passionate callers, and this one set the standard.

Mr. BRONSTEIN: It was obviously someone who felt very strongly about something.

JAFFE: I noticed that pilotless drone is in fact a term that has been used in quite a number of San Francisco Chronicle articles.

Mr. BRONSTEIN: Well, as it turns out, and everywhere else as well. I mean if you, you know, if you sort of research the phrase pilotless drone, you will find that it appears everywhere.

JAFFE: More than 100,000 times on Google, in fact. In the Internet age, newspapers have struggled to hang on to readers, but this podcast might just be the kind of thing they're looking for, says Marty Kaplan, a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.

Professor MARTY KAPLAN (Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California): I mean nothing that's in print ever gets to end up as a ringtone, but here you are going to a newspaper's Web site not some hip blog to find something that you can actually think is cutting edge of the culture.

JAFFE: In fact, says Kaplan, the Chronicle's podcast may be tapping into the spirit of the time in an "American Idol" kind of way.

Prof. KAPLAN: A lot of the people who are writing comments in seem to be either delighted to be humiliated themselves or to humiliate other people. There's a kind of sadism gene that's being unleashed that has as its purpose the desire to be famous.

JAFFE: A desire that may now be fulfilled for the price of a phone call, if you read the San Francisco Chronicle and you're angry enough.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.