I just ran across the letter I wrote to stations when I signed up with PRI almost five years ago. In honor of the close of the Sound of Young America era (and the dawn of Bullseye), I thought I’d share it here.
The great improv teacher Del Close had a maxim: “play from the top of your intelligence.” That’s what public radio means to me. Never talking down, never patronizing, always probing and discovering.
I’m 26, and I think that makes me, more or less, a member of the first generation to grow up with public radio. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t listen to “This American Life,” or “Quirks & Quarks,” or “Car Talk,” or “Fresh Air.” As the news and information public radio format reached maturity, so did I. I’m better for having had public radio as a part of my life. The values of public radio are ones that I share. I want to go in-depth. I want to be engaged in the world around me. I want to learn.
I work hard every week to make sure that “The Sound of Young America” plays from the top of our intelligence. The guests are sometimes unusual for public radio — relatively few folkies like artists on their way to house concerts or authors talking about the Middle East, and relatively more rappers and comedians — but at the heart of my show is a pretty simple idea. There’s no reason not to show a rapper the same respect we’d show a singer-songwriter as a matter of course, and there’s no reason not to have fun while we’re doing so. In other words, we mustn’t forget the “intelligence,” and we have to remember the “play.”
So that’s what “The Sound of Young America” is. Every week, an in-depth interview or two with someone I think is awesome. Maybe some comedy to lighten things up. I care more about the show than anything, and I think listeners can tell. It’s hand-crafted radio, and I hope it lives up to the ideals set by Del Close.
On the other hand, Close was also known to eat marijuana as a snack, so maybe I should find a quote from someone a little less nuts. Maybe Barbara Budd from “As It Happens”? I dunno …
Producer and Host