The Rebirth of The State We’re In: now a podcast via WBEZ Chicago

TSWI-logo-large-300x231You may remember The State We’re In (TSWI) from Radio Netherlands Worldwide and how sad I was to hear TSWI was cancelled in the wake of RNW’s cuts last year.

Well, I just heard the following brilliant news from TSWI:

“November 6th marks the rebirth of The State We’re In: The Podcast, produced every other week by Jonathan Groubert and WBEZ 91.5.” 

Jonathan Grubert (Photo: TSWI.biz)

Jonathan Grubert (Photo: TSWI.biz)

In my opinion, The State We’re In represents some of the best radio documentary out there: TSWI has won international honors, including three New York World Medals in 2010, awards at the 2013 New York Festivals, as well as a Gabriel. Ira Glass, the talented host of Chicago Public Media’s This American Life, has praised TSWI for its “amazing editorial judgment,” and Glass rightly called TSWI host Jonathan Groubert “one of the best news interviewers on public radio today.”

Don’t believe me? Listen to some of their archived shows, like Two Enemies, One Heart.  Powerful stuff.

I will be the first to subscribe to TSWI‘s podcast.  As soon as the RSS feed becomes available, I will post it here.

In the meantime, check out TSWI‘s new website: http://tswi.biz

RNW’s “The State We’re In” wins honors at New York Festivals, albiet posthumously

The-State-Were-In-TeamI’m not at all surprised that one of my favorite radio radio programs, The State We’re In, won both a gold metal and a grand prize at the New York Festivals for “The Benghazi Blogger” and a silver metal for “The Oliver Twist of Kabul.”

Sadly, the State We’re In is no more.  It went out of production late last year after the RNW budget cuts.

The good news is that much of TSWI’s archives are still available on the RNW website.

As I’ve said before, TSWI is one of the best radio documentary programs I’ve ever heard. I held out hope that somehow they would procure funding to continue. I still hope that they’ll find a way to get back on the air (or online) someday.

Here’s the press release from RNW:

(Source: RNW)

Radio Netherlands Worldwide has won four major prizes at the 2013 New York Festivals: International Radio Awards. It won a gold medal and a Grand Prize Award for an interview entitled “The Benghazi Blogger”. 

In 2011, blogger and journalist with the pseudonym ‘Mohamed’ posted a picture of Gaddafi’s troops coming into Benghazi on his Facebook page. Soon after, he was arrested, detained, tortured and sexually assaulted. After his release, he was diagnosed as HIV+.  Yet he was too ashamed to tell his family or friends. He kept silent even after his family arranged for him to get engaged. He’s now receiving medical treatment, thanks to one of the story producers at Radio Netherlands. Yet the blogger who risked everything to tell the truth to power is still living with his secret. “The Benghazi Blogger” won the Grand Award for being the top-ranked piece out of approximately 300 entries from 30 countries.

RNW also won a silver medal for an interview called “The Oliver Twist of Kabul”. The piece then went on to win a special award, again a silver medal, in a competition adjudicated by the U.N. This second award is called the UNDPI (United Nations Department of Public Information). It features a thirteen-year old boy who sells maps on the streets of Kabul to support himself and his mother. His charming salesmanship inspired some clients to sponsor his education – his favourite book: Charles Dickens’s “Oliver Twist”.

Both interviews were originally produced for the RNW program, The State We’re In, which went out of production in November 2012.

“The State We’re In” cancelled in the wake of RNW cuts

Sad news, indeed: I had hoped that The State We’re In (also known as TSWI) would weather the RNW cuts, perhaps by gaining independent funding. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have been the case, and we’re pained by the loss of yet another stellar international radio program.

[UPDATE – 23 Oct 2013: TSWI will be produced as a podcast via WBEZ, starting November 2013]

In my opinion, The State We’re In represents some of the best radio documentary out there: TSWI has won international honors, including three New York World Medals in 2010, as well as a Gabriel. Ira Glass, the talented host of Chicago Public Media’s This American Life, has praised TSWI for its “amazing editorial judgment,” and Glass rightly called TSWI host Jonathan Groubert “one of the best news interviewers on public radio today.”

Don’t believe me? Listen to some of their archived shows, like Two Enemies, One Heart.  Powerful stuff.

I hold out hope that, somehow, TSWI will find the funding to revive. We simply cannot (and should not!) allow a show if this caliber to dissolve for twelve million listeners across our planet…

(Source: TSWI on Facebook)

We have some bad news:

The State We’re In is being terminated. As many of you may know, Radio Netherlands Worldwide was hit with a drastic 70% cutback last year by the Dutch government. We were assured at that time by Radio Netherlands’ outgoing management that the show was still going to be an integral part of Radio Netherlands, but those assurances didn’t hold.

Subsequent changes in the organization’s mandate towards a tighter focus on nations in the developing world, and a much slower-than-expected transition to new management have made it impossible for us to continue. The State We’re In exits with its head held high: it was the most broadcasted, downloaded and decorated program in the long history of Radio Netherlands, and won praise from radio industry leaders from around the world.

It was heard in top public radio markets the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and in select markets in India and Africa. Our overall audience reach was 12 million people. We will miss you and all the engaged, thoughtful responses you had to what we put on the air. It was a privilege bringing these stories — which sometimes included stories you told us — to light.

FYI: Our last original program will be produced at the end of October. There will be some repeat shows after that.

Greg Kelly, Editor, TSWI

Radio Netherlands says farewell in style

Thursday night, by the light of an oil lamp, I tuned my trusty Sony portable shortwave to 6,165 kHz. At 2:00 UTC, I was rewarded with a rich, full signal from Radio Netherlands Worldwide’s transmission site in Bonaire. Here in this off-grid cabin, on sixty rural acres, I bask in the freedom from electrical noise that might otherwise interfere with my shortwave radio listening—at least in this respect, this is the perfect DXpedition cabin.

The signal coming out of Bonaire, however, would have overcome any interference: Radio Netherlands, my dear friend of some 32 years, had opened a special frequency for those of us in eastern North America…in order to say their good-byes to the airwaves.

I can only describe the experience of listening as radio bliss…pure radio bliss…marred only by the bittersweet realization that these were RNW’s final days on the air. The experience harkened back to the day when the big broadcasters had booming signals directed toward us.

But, alas. All too brief.

The broadcast was simply entitled Farewell and Thank You. You can hear it just as I heard it—through my recording–here (actual broadcast starts at 1:15):

Then, all day Friday, for nearly 24 hours straight, RNW bid good-bye and farewell to various parts of the world via shortwave, satellite and the internet. I was lucky enough to catch two more broadcasts.

This time of day (19:00 UTC), however, I needed bigger ears than the Sony could provide. I was listening to broadcasts targeting west and east Africa, not North America. Having already charged my laptop battery, I plugged in the Bonito Radiojet (an SDR that I’m currently reviewing) and, just before 1900 UTC, directed her towards 17,605 kHz. Though my Sony found the signal barely audible, the RadioJet produced beautiful fidelity.

This RNW broadcast, entitled The First 50 Years, took listeners through the highlights and history of the Dutch radio service. Here’s the recording I made with the RadioJet:

A final sign-off

RNW headquarters in Hilversum, Netherlands (photo coutesty: RNW)

At 20:00 UTC, RNW broadcast their very final show—a repeat of Farewell and Thank You (above) appropriately targeting Africa once more. I tuned the dial to 11615 kHz and listened again to the full broadcast. This time, however, as the program drew to its close, the broadcast crew added a personal message.

Jonathan Groubert, the talented host of The State We’re In, broadcasted live from Hilversum’s Studio 4 for a deeply touching adieu. Tears were shed, and I’m not ashamed to confess that I, too, listened through a haze of them as these capable and dedicated journalists, whom I’ve grown to trust, signed off the RNW airwaves for the last time.

But listen for yourself:

Jonathan Marks, RNW’s host of MediaNetwork, also featured in the farewell broadcast, recorded the final sign-off from within Studio 4. You can listen to this and read the description on his excellent website.

Dank je wel, Radio Nederland

RNW–my dear radio friends—I’m going to miss you. Your personalities–and the collective personality of RNW itself–your award-winning content, news, reporting, and your integrity stood out amongst all those Cold War broadcasters I listened to growing up—who, as you so well put it, were merely mouthpieces for their respective governments.

Radio Nederland, I loved your broadcasting because you were fearless: you marched to the beat of your own drummer, were not afraid to turn a critical eye even upon yourself, and as a result–in a world of sham journalism, of compromise and hypocrisy—you earned my trust. You had nothing to hide, and you had so many stories to tell.

RNW: I listened.

I wish you (and your intrepid creators) the very best in all that you do. I trust your new incarnation(s), whatever form they take, will do much good in this world which so sorely needs it, and sincerely believe that your integrity will live on.