hearing vs. seeing – which do you believe?

The Giant Pool of Money‘ was a radio broadcast posted in May of 2009 on This American Life. As technology continues to expand, ways of receiving news has grown along side it. It started with print which lead to radio, and then followed with picture. Today, we can catch up in all three forms from our handy dandy smart phones. But what’s better? Print (digital for most people) or listening, like podcasts or radio?

I’ll be the first to admit, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped listening to the radio. Podcasts happen on a VERY rare bases as well. I get my news mostly by reading or videos. While I was listening to ‘The Giant Pool of Money’, the one thing I noticed in comparison to print, is you get to hear the quotes coming from the mouths of the individuals. For instance, in the ‘prologue’ section Adam Davidson interviews Richard Campbell, a Marine who attended the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of American (NACA). Why don’t you read this clip:

Adam Davidson: That same week, a few days earlier across the river in Brooklyn, I went to a completely different kind of gathering. It was not black tie. It was put on by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. It was people on the opposite side of the mortgage crisis. People facing foreclosure, trying to figure out how to keep their homes. I met this one guy Richard, he’s a Marine. This big guy, over six feet tall. When he came back from Iraq a few years ago he bought one of these fancy new mortgages with an adjustable rate. Recently his rate reset. It’s gone up by more than $2,000 a month and he’s fallen behind on his payments.

Richard Campbell: At one point, my son had $7,000 in a CD and I had to break  it. That really hurt. I was saving that money for his college. I put $2,000 back but it’s like you can’t have a future. They put you in a situation
where after a while you’re going to fail. It’s hard.

When you read Campbell’s story, what did you think? You heard YOUR voice reading that quote right? You may have sped through it too because it’s a pretty lengthy quote. Do me a favor now, and listen to the first 2 and a half minuets. You’ll HEAR Campbell. Notice the difference?

I do believe writing can take you anywhere, whether it’s emotionally or imagery. But hearing takes it to a different level. It uses your other senses that some may take for granted. Finding a balance in everything you do, including how you receive your news, is a must.

With radio and podcasts, one’s allowed to hear the emotional strain and almost begin to put themselves in the speakers position. While this economic disaster began years ago and we’ve all heard the pain and loss people have gone through, imagine when this episode first came out. A lot of people saw the news clips of people loosing their homes and the emotional damage it had. We also read about it, over and over again in papers. But to just sit and listen. With no visual, just the pure pain in someone’s voice. That can make a deep connection with some people. I believe that’s one of the strengths radio/podcasts have.

For me, one struggle I found with listening to this piece, was keeping my attention. I felt like I needed to be actively doing something while listening. Even though I was taking notes, it was difficult to look at my screen and see the homepage of the radio podcast. I even thought to myself, ‘I wish I could go take a drive and listen to this’ or ‘I should probably pick up my room a bit’. As I started putting clothes away, I found myself using selective hearing. Once I realized my multitasking skills for this paper wasn’t going to be beneficial, I pushed restart.

The narrators did a really nice job at keeping a steady, calm, a easy listening voice, sometimes it was hard for me to follow. But that also goes along with my learning style. Half way through I found the transcript version of this podcast and for me, it made a bigger impact on what I was picking up on. For me, listening and reading it at the same time, was the best thing to keep my full attention. There’s so much information in this podcast, I started getting a little lost. Having the audio AND visual stimulation was ideal to help follow the concepts and hear what people were saying, in their tone of voice.

The debate has been on about whether podcasts are a successful way to report. Honestly, what IS a good way to report these days? If there was one answer, I might be a bit concerned. We all have an opinion on what’s the best way to receive local, national, and global news. We’ve all learned to formulate our own opinion and figure out what works best for us as individuals. The upside with technology expanding is we DO have an option of how we receive our information. How cool is that?




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