Thursday

June 18's Ear Cave in Hartford

It was a bittersweet affair when dozens of us gathered at La Paloma Sabanera for the Ear Cave. With the coffee house closing at the end of the month, it's the last ear cave that will be held there and it's reminder of how much Hartford will be losing when La Paloma closes.

WNPR's Catie Talarski introduced the evening's host/presenter, Bradley Campbell, who works at Rhode Island Public Radio. Previously he worked at WGBH, the Takeaway, Morning Edition and WCAI. He's also a graduate a Salt Institute and a native Oregonian. Campbell played four stories for us, which is most of the upcoming season of stories of a new series that he's produced with Muck Rock.

Muck Rock is a website designed to help people obtained documents through Freedom of Information requests. The radio show, which is being launched soon through the Public Radio Exchange, really has its own voice and approach - in part helped by the multiple reporters who are in the stories. It's also a very lively and interesting series. I feel that should be said since let's be honest, I think very few people think of FOIA as exciting.

(And those are just the people who know about FOIA...)

What's interesting is how they manage to use the documents and the process of obtaining the information as part of the story. It never comes out as feeling meta or behind the scenes, but rather a step by step process of beginning with some information and then trying to uncover more. It's a structure that works well for what they're doing and in part by having a different approach, by telling these stories in a new and different way – especially considering that some or a lot of the information is already out there and known to people – it really adds something to the experience.

The stories he played ran the gamut. There were aerial drones and the effort by Muck Rock to get documents about drones from all fifty states – in Seattle they found that the police department had obtained two drones through a Department of Homeland Security grant and that the police department failed to notify the City government about this fact for two years, which led to some very angry people.

There were also stories about the well known Hmong leader Vang Pao and an entertaining story about Beyonce and her lip syncing of the National Anthem at President Obama's second inaugural.

Can't wait to hear the rest.

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