Friday, June 18, 2004

David Isay: a Mic on the Margins

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"There is always a prickly relationship with highly talented independent producers and the network," says Bill Buzenberg, who was NPR's vice president for news and information from 1990 through 1997. "It stems from the fact they are independent, don't want to work for the network, want to do radio art to the nth degree. So a mutual distrust gets in there sometimes."

MR. ISAY himself acknowledges the periodic tensions.
"I've been viewed with suspicion," he says. "There's a feeling that when you do a non-narrated piece, when you don't write, when you do something like oral history, that you haven't done the research, that you don't know your facts. There's a feeling that you're cheating."

Those feelings have not lasted long, even among Mr. Isay's few critics.

Mr. Buzenberg hails him as "one of the best radio artisans in the business."

After "Ghetto Life 101" was broadcast, Mr. Dinges wrote in a memo to the NPR staff that "pieces like this will revolutionize documentary radio."

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