You can draw a pretty straight line from public radio's This American Life to KRCC's new show from producers Noel Black and Jake Brownell, which, side note, is an interesting pairing if for no other reason than their ages. Black is a 41-year-old, mustachioed veteran of the media business, including time spent with the Independent, while the 23-year-old Brownell is two years out of Colorado College, which he says allows him a more philosophical take on things.
Together, the pair host Wish We Were Here, an hour-long look at a single newsy topic originating in Colorado Springs — "tales and investigations from America's most conservative city," as the promo puts it — that then blossoms out into a more holistic conversation that brings in local and national experts.
The pilot episode, "I Is An Other," takes a compellingly literary tone in its look at Storme Aerison, a criminally minded, intersex local who went national when she joined the Coronado High School cheerleading team as a covert 26-year-old in 1990. The episode, which debuts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 5, addresses universal questions of gender identification and patriarchy, and human discomfort with times when it's not clear whether a body part is a penis or a vagina. More will follow in the fall.
And though one of the ways the single-subject show deviates is that it doesn't choose a theme each week and then put together different kinds of stories on that theme, it's still a form and function made famous by TAL.
"Thinking about shows like This American Life and Radiolab," says Brownell from a table at Colorado College's Worner Campus Center, "and now there's just this proliferation of pretty-well-produced podcasts on the Internet that are delving into stories and producing them in interesting ways; using music in interesting ways; using sound in interesting ways."
In this area, Wish We Were Here operates with a light touch. This means heightened impact when the music, most of it composed by local band The Changing Colors, swells at the end of a particularly poignant point; or when an audio clip from Austin Powers is used to devastating effect; or when a chorus of voices crash together into cacophony. It's a style also inspired by other podcasts, like those in Public Radio International's Radiotopia collective, which Black and Brownell hope to join in their quest to gain a national audience via iTunes.
"What happened over the past five years, since [KRCC program] The Big Something started, is that the nature of the way people consume information on the Internet has changed enormously," says Black. "It's gone from people having the attention span for five- or 10-minute things to having the attention span for one minute or an hour, and there's kind of nothing in between." But: "There's really still a huge demand for straight radio."
Meeting that demand is part of KRCC's strategy to offset flagging TBS numbers, and complements its goal of providing more original programming. On the fundraising side, general manager Delaney Utterback says switching to a "sustaining members model" has added consistency to the budget and lowers the amount needing to be raised during drives.
Which only leaves that "most conservative city" part, an irritating sentiment delivered deliberately.
"It's the hook that ultimately we want to undermine, to some extent," says Black. "But I think the other part of it is ... in a sense, we're always on the outside of [Colorado Springs] looking in, and we're always trying to sell it to ourselves. ... Because I'm from here, this place vexes me, because I love it so much and I hate it so much."