weekend edition sunday

Any requests for who I should come on as tonight? (That’d be in about 10 hours, at 7pm est btw)

Depending on who it is, I might be able to come up with a small thread to film for them, like I did with fem!Barty… which I still need to edit and post…



You may have heard that Alan Moore – the creator of comics like Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell – is stepping back from comics to focus on other projects – like his new novel, Jerusalem, a truly epic 1200-plus-page love letter to his hometown of Northampton.

Our critic Jason Sheehan says  “Should you read it? Absolutely.”

Because it is insane in the best possible way. Overachieving in the best possible way. Digressive in the best possible way. It’s full of cowboys and dead kids, drunken poets, history, metaphysics, strange cameos, highly personal rants against everything from modern politics to the comic book industry. There are long stretches (like a couple hundred pages about a child choking on a cough drop which devolves into a mind-and-time-bending journey through history, the future, extra dimensions, the spirit realm and, mostly, Moore’s remarkable imagination) that play out like pure, mainline literary fireworks. In its best moments, it’s like a bedtime story for the overeducated and extraordinarily verbose.

Check out his full review here – and tune in to Weekend Edition this Sunday because yours truly got to GO TO NORTHAMPTON AND TALK TO ALAN MOORE OH MY GOD … and he was an absolute sweetie. But now I have to turn 2 hours of interview into six minutes of radio, so that’s a little daunting.

– Petra 

6 Ways To Use Social Callouts

Today we have a really useful post on social sourcing from Serri Graslie, a digital specialist on NPR’s Editorial Coaching & Development team. She’s no stranger to this Tumblr and once again leads the way for NPR. – Wright

In public radio, it goes without saying that the public – our existing audience and otherwise – should be at the heart of everything we do. One way to bring more of those people into our reporting is through social callouts, where we ask the wider world to share their stories, photos and thoughts on any number of topics.

NPR has done a variety of these in recent years and we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. After reviewing some basics, we’ll look at case studies for six different types of callouts.

Making a callout happen

Every callout essentially has five steps.

  1. Hone the question and pick your platforms
  2. Write the pitch
  3. Share it
  4. Review the responses; contact and vet participants
  5. Write the story; think about how to maximize responses on air and online

The first step – honing the question – is arguably the most important part. Be specific about what you’re asking for and set it up with context. Provide examples whenever possible so you can get people thinking in the same vein. Be clear about how you’ll use their answers. And consider how the reader will feel in that moment when they’re deciding whether or not they want to participate.

You should also be thinking, early on, about where you’ll share your callout. Yes, you should hit Twitter and Facebook. But you should also think about the niche online communities where your pitch might land particularly well. Reporter Danny Zwerdling, for example, shared a callout for injured nurses on a couple of nursing listservs. For this story about a corncob pipe manufacturer, St. Louis Public Radio went looking on the PipeTobacco subreddit for someone who actually smokes with one.

When sharing it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Producer Davar Ardalan has a go-to list of well-connected people she shares her callouts with when she’s trying to reach different demographic communities, like Latinos and African Americans.

The methods for reviewing responses are largely individual. When I’m looking at answers in a spreadsheet, I like to add extra columns that allow me to sort and filter by theme, good answers, etc.

Obviously, the same rules we live with for vetting sources in every other part of journalism also apply to social sourcing. It’s easy to get burned if you don’t do approach it with a critical eye and do your homework.

When it comes time to write the story, think about how you’ll present the responses differently on air and online. Chances are, the same method won’t work well for both. For an example, compare the audio version of this segment on Thanksgiving grace traditions to the Web build.

I also like to use Storify to collect answers submitted across various social sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more (an example here with the “objects that make you feel manly”).

And although it may take a bit of time, always follow up. Thank everyone for participating and send them a link to the final story. You don’t want people to feel like they’ve poured their heart and soul into a black hole.

Read on for case studies of six common callout types.

I’m trying to … find a specific type of source

Source callouts are among the most popular and effective callouts we do at NPR. We’re helped by a large following on Facebook (4.2 million as of this writing). But that can pose a couple of problems, too. 

Sometimes we do callouts that get over 10,000 responses (as we did for this story) and they’re nearly impossible to parse. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s important to consider sharing callouts with different communities. Going beyond Facebook can improve your chances of finding the voices you need by narrowing your callout to communities specifically interested in the question you’re asking.

In one recent callout, however, it was actually helpful for us to target people who are already NPR fans. Weekend Edition Sunday was looking for someone who opposed a terminally ill family member’s wish for assisted suicide. It’s a fraught and sensitive topic and it’s not surprising that the show’s producers didn’t get an overwhelming number of responses when they posted it to Facebook.

But the show did get exactly what they needed. Scott Schwimmer wrote in about his father, Robert, who has pancreatic cancer. Because the family loved NPR, they agreed to come into a studio together for an interview with Rachel Martin. The result is really must-listen radio.

I’m trying to … crowdsource images

Photo callouts can work really well online. They can also turn into good radio segments with a little extra work. We had that experience with the #nprcensus callout for the New Boom series on millennials.

Because millennials are such a large and diverse group, we wanted to incorporate a social project that helped give them a face. Morning Edition producer Selena Simmons-Duffin had the idea for a “census” where we asked 18- to 34-year-old’s to send us a selfie with their demographic categories on one side and the descriptive categories they wish they could use on the other.

We received hundreds of responses through Instagram and Twitter. To tie it all back to the radio, I interviewed a couple of them about their varied millennial experiences for a segment to wind down the series on All Things Considered.

(NPR Visuals producer Emily Bogle has many great tips on doing visual callouts here.)

I’m trying to … find story ideas

Sometimes finding story ideas can be as easy as just asking your audience: What should we cover? Former NPR intern (and now Wyoming Public Radio reporter) Miles Bryan did just that in the Los Angeles subreddit last year.

He received a number of interesting responses and ended up pursuing a lead that led to a story about the waiter call systems in Korean barbecue restaurants.

When doing something like this in reddit, it’s a good idea to message the moderators of the subreddit beforehand. Having their buy-in will go a long way toward a having a successful callout. Otherwise reddit tends to be allergic to anything it perceives as self-promotion.

(Kate Parkinson-Morgan wrote a great guide for us about how she worked with reddit’s music communities to build interest in NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest.)

I’m trying to … gather personal stories and ideas

Though counterintuitive, callouts sometimes work well when you don’t know what you’re looking for. That was the case for a series Melissa Block did on trade lingo. She wanted to talk to folks across professions and industries about the weird words or phrases they use at work that outsiders might not understand.

The nature of the callout meant that producers Theo Balcomb and Rachel Rood had no idea what words they might get. So they put out a call using a Google Form (a survey that feeds into the spreadsheet you see below) that was shared on Facebook and Twitter.

The response was excellent. They heard from all sorts of people, including seabird biologists, skydivers and video game designers.

Voicemail or voice memos also work well for this type of callout. Smartphones have made it very easy for someone to record their voice and email the file. (The internal mics tend to be pretty good!) 

I’m trying to … start a discussion

A callout can also be a way to start an open discussion with the audience that informs the direction of your reporting, as well as find sources. NPR’s Identity and Culture Unit recently used a callout like this for conversations led by Michel Martin about the fear of black men.

There are a couple of things to note about this callout. In the survey, Morning Edition producer Jessica Pupovac had respondents drop themselves into different categories (“I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt anxious because of the presence of black men”; “I’m a black man who has experienced the irrational fear of others simply because of who I am”; etc.). That made sorting the responses much easier. She also allowed people to share their thoughts but request to not be contacted. This option likely helped them acquire a wider array of experiences. 

I’m trying to … have fun

And you may want to do a callout just for the sake of having fun with your audience. That was the case with this story Weekend Edition did about music designed specifically for cats. 

Producer Sarah Handel Card asked listeners to play the music for their pets and report back (spoiler alert: reactions ranged from manic to unmoved).

If you’ve done a successful callout or have questions about putting one together, I’d love to chat. Email me: sgraslie@npr.org.


Richard McGuire’s gorgeous Here started as a black and white cartoon in Raw magazine 25 years ago – now, McGuire has made it into a full-color, utterly absorbing book chronicling billions of years in the history of one small space – from prehistoric swamp to Native American hunting ground to family home to future strangeness, all appearing in little windows throughout a larger room.

Reviewer Etelka Lehoczkcy says "the magic of Here is that somehow, alchemically, this sparse little exercise begins to yank on your emotions. As your eye lurches around the page, as you flip back and forth between pages, an irresistible sentiment swells. Rare among conceptual works, Here manages to tug your heart even as it undercuts your comfortable role of reader.“

McGuire himself tells Weekend Edition Sunday that he used family photos as reference imges for Here, but it’s not a memoir: ” did want to talk to touch on all the universal things that we go through - love and death and the major themes. I was looking at a lot of family photos for reference, but I also looked at the archive of a collector that - he collects vernacular photography. And, you know, all family photos look similar in a way, you know, all the holidays look exactly alike. And my main thing was trying to make this book accessible and universal.“

”The entire book really felt musical to me,“ McGuire adds. "I mean, I’m a musician as well. Without having a protagonist, I was worried about how the flow of the book - someone was asking me in an interview that I did earlier, like, is the room the protagonist? And I think, you know, the room isn’t there all the time. I think it’s time itself is the protagonist, if there has to be - if there is such a thing.”

Read the full interview here.


Literally got ZERO answers right on today’s NPR’s Weekend Edition puzzle. Can you beat me? If not we are all doomed.

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Images via Ten Speed Press

Afraid of vegetables? (YES. Yes, I am.) Don’t know what to do beyond sautee-with-garlic? (YES THAT’S ME.) Yotam Ottolenghi is here to help! Check out his interview on Weekend Edition Sunday – and then try this seriously amazing-looking recipe for peas with sorrel and mustard. And then tell me where the heck to buy sorrel.

Recipe: Peas With Sorrel And Mustard

(Serves four as a side dish.)

10 ½ ounces/300 grams fresh or defrosted frozen green peas
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoon dry mustard
¾ teaspoon superfine sugar
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups/220 grams green onions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 3/8-inch-/1-centimeter-thick slices
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds, toasted
6 tablespoons/75 grams Greek yogurt
3 ½ ounces/100 grams sorrel leaves and stems, coarsely shredded

Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the peas, and blanch for just 30 seconds. Drain into a colander, refresh under cold water, and set aside.

Place both mustards in a small bowl with the sugar, 3 tablespoons water, and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix together to form a smooth paste and set aside.

Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the green onions and garlic and fry for 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Turn down the heat to low and add the mustard sauce, peas, 2 teaspoons of the mustard seeds, and the yogurt. Stir for 1 minute until everything is well mixed and the yogurt is warmed through. Remove from the heat, stir in the sorrel, and serve at once, with the remaining 1 teaspoon mustard seeds sprinkled on top.

From Weekend Edition Sunday: Virtual Games Try To Generate Real Empathy For Faraway Conflict

In this virtual world, Begalman has experienced a mortar shelling from Bashar Assad’s regime. This is Project Syria, a virtual reality experience built by a team of students at USC. The bomb blast and the destruction are created with the same kind of tools used for video games, except that this is not a regular video game.

“In America, we’re deeply involved in Syria, but we’re very disconnected about — what is that place?” says Nonny de la Peña, head of Project Syria and a longtime journalist in print and film. “Who are the people? Why do I care? Why are we there?”

Peña says the game helps people feel a little closer to Syrians in the middle of the civil war.

“I sometimes call virtual reality an empathy generator,” she says. “It’s astonishing to me. People all of a sudden connect to the characters in a way that they don’t when they’ve read about it in the newspaper or watched it on TV.”


Farewell From Host Liane Hansen”.  Chipmunks invasion. 

'I Saw The Light' Takes Actor Back To Classical Roles
Tom Hiddleston portrays Hank Williams in the biopic "I Saw the Light." He tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that taking on the country icon was more like his Shakespearean roles than one might imagine.

Tom was interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Report Sunday edition. This is the first interview I’ve heard that brings up Hank’s reputation as the Hillbilly Shakespeare, and has Tom draw a parallel. It’s worth a listen.

If you go here you can download the interview for offline listening.

That’s it for us from the Motor City. We heard a lot of opinions about Detroit’s bankruptcy and the city’s future. We talked with people in their backyards, at the bus stop, and around the breakfast table. Listen to Weekend Edition Sunday over the next couple weeks to hear the stories we collected while we were here.

In the meantime, we leave you with this image. The iconic sculpture of Joe Louis’s fist. Says a whole lot about the spirit of this place.

YA superstar Ann Brashares has a new book out that ventures into some unfamiliar territory: The Here and Now takes a young girl from a terrible future of “blood plagues” and transplants her to present-day upstate New York, via time travel. Fellow NPR Books tumblr-ess Petra Mayer profiled Brashares – of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame – for Weekend Edition Sunday. She writes,

“Such a complex storyline poses a problem for a writer who’s never stepped into a time machine before. ‘You have to figure out your own rules, I guess, for time travel. You have to decide how you’re going to handle the paradoxes, how you’re going to handle the changes that people make, whether time will even allow it,’ [Brashares] says. ‘And I spent a lot of time with this book with my head in my hands, sitting at my desk, trying to keep things straight.’”

Check out the rest of Petra’s profile here.