Monday, July 30, 2012

Women in Radio

WYSO's Neenah Ellis and NPR's Susan Stamberg

Last November I took a Weekend Intensive on radio production at WYSO in Yellow Springs. It was an introduction to Community Voices, an innovative program with Sarah Buckingham and Neenah Ellis where participants learn to record and edit audio, conduct interviews, write for radio, and ultimately produce a feature story. I so enjoyed the intensive that I applied for the 2012 Community Voices Class. I was fortunate enough to be accepted and found the experience life expanding and enhancing.

Sarah Buckingham and Nina Ellis

On June 29th WYSO sponsored a fundraising event,  a presentation by Susan Stamberg  entitled "How Art Will Save the World" at the Dayton Art Institute. Susan Stamberg is quite something. In 1972 she became the first woman to anchor a national radio nightly news program, All Things Considered on NPR. She's often referred to as a founding mother of NPR and, in her seventies, remains a special correspondent. Her reports, usually in the arts, always touch upon something I always wanted to know more about and always leave me breathing a deep satisfied sigh along with a bit of envy. Who wouldn't love to be able to travel and meet and then report upon some of the most fascinating people in the world? The DAI talk was delightful as was the reception following in the Gothic Cloister.

Susan has close personal connections here. In Neenah Ellis's introduction of Susan she told a charming story about being a new employee at NPR and having Stamberg sail in and ask, "Who are you and can you cut tape?" This was the beginning of a relationship between these two women that continues today. When Stamberg finished her talk her final remark in her thanks was, "She's Neenah Ellis and she can cut tape!" This story was especially meaningful to the Community Voice members as one of the first things Neenah and Sarah taught us was how to "cut tape" as it is still called even though it is done digitally now. Neenah's husband Noah Adams was co-anchor with Susan for many years on All Things Considered.

The Community Voices group was privileged to have Susan share her wit and wisdom with us for several hours on the following Saturday. She brought tape from several of her pieces and then gave us the back story on taping and production.

She described her experience interviewing the legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson at age 94, almost thirty years after he decided to take no more photographs. He was difficult to interview and she had to rely on tape from other people in the room, his wife and his friend John Morris, onetime Life magazine photo editor. She played the tape for us and knowing the context of the interview we were privy to what a masterful production job it was. The story itself is seamless and engaging throughout. You can hear the 2003 story at NPR.

There's a womanly trail here. Susan is at the trail head where she tucked Neenah under her wing and they became colleagues. Neenah continued the path with Sarah Buckingham, encouraging her dream and desire to create Community Voices and lending her experience and wisdom to the task. Now, I am privileged to have Sarah, at the youthful age of twenty six mentoring me. Women in radio, it's a lovely thing.

If you are curious about Neenah's journey from NPR and independent production to station manager, visit  The Transom Review.


  1. What a great opportunity to continue learning...especially about radio. I clearly remember the voice of Noah Adams on NPR. Memories!

    1. Noah Adams (Neenah Ellis' husband) came to one of our sessions! This experience has been wonderful in more ways than I can say!