Where do you get your ideas?

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“Where do you get your ideas?” 

That’s usually the first question I get when I meet a listener.  Well, it ties for first with the question, “What’s Marc really like?”  (Answer: Pretty much as he is on the air, maybe a little less focused, lots of fun, sometimes a creative disaster area but makes up for it by often buying us breakfast. Laughs easily and generously.) 

The first place we get our ideas is from each other.  Every Monday morning we gather for our weekly production meeting.  Ideally we all come in with ideas we’ve happened upon over the weekend and we share those with each other.  We sit and look at the calender and our list of ideas, and we figure out which are most interesting or important, and where they should go.  Then we go to work on them.

Another place we get our ideas is from our listeners and former guests.  We get lots and lots of emails from people who have been on the show or who listen to the show sharing their ideas with us. 

There is also of course the obvious: the news.  We get four newspapers delivered here everyday: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, and the New York Times.  We receive the Gazette and the Daily Record on a weekly basis.  On Wednesdays one of us picks up the City Paper, and Marc usually reads the Baltimore Examiner at home. All of these papers are pretty crucial to the work we do in bringing those issues to light that we then produce shows around.  Our staff doesn’t have the ability to dedicate time to investigate work.  We rely on the work of great reporters like Fred Schulte and June Arney of the Baltimore Sun and their Ground Rent series. 

As for other avenues, I have a list of websites I check on a regular basis.  I use these as a place to not only conduct research and come up with story ideas but also as a place to find guests.  Here’s a list of my favorites that I check weekly if not daily, in no particular order.

  • Slate  A great place for commentary on politics, highbrow and lowbrow culture, sports, and anything else than can have an article written about it.  I’ve learned some real wacky facts from the regular Human Nature column especially.  But I find their Obama Messiah Watch to be the most hilarious thing on the site.
  • Salon. I think of this as a more serious Slate. Again, politics, culture, wacky happenings in the world that you wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for this website.
  • The Nation.  This is the liberal political magazines home on the web.  They do some great investigate work.  We featured the author and subject of a recent investigation that alleged the U.S. Army was purposefully misdiagnosing soldiers with personality disorder in order to avoid paying medical benefits.
  • Watching America. Ever wonder what people across the world are reading and saying about the United States?  This is the place to go to read articles from newspapers all around the world, translated into English, about America.  (This is an example of how our listeners influence us.  An emailer alerted us to this website; we’ve since had the founder of it on the show and are working on a partnership with him.)
  • National Review Online.  This is the online home of the weekly conservative political journal.  This is perhaps my favorite spot on the web for conservative commentary.  I really enjoy their blog The Corner.
  • The New Republic Online.  The online home of yet another political journal, this one liberal.  I usually check this website and NRO as a one-two punch. 
  • The Weekly Standard.  Founded by William Kristol, a reliable source of neoconservative opinion.  I sometimes find the tone a little harder to swallow than the tone at National Review Online, but I guess that’s the point.
  • Baltimore Indypendent Media Center.  You can download their issues and also post articles of your own.   An interesting point of view, real passionate.
  • Baltimore Crime Blog.  I check this every morning.  It’s a sad but necessary ritual in this city. 

There are of course tons of other websites I check on a less regular basis, but those are the biggies. And I’m sure Marc and the other producers have their own favorites. Is there something you think I should know about?  A favorite website that you think has good stuff for the show?  Let me know in the comments!

-Jessica Phillips

05/31/07 Michael Sarbanes

Photo by Kim Hairston of the Baltimore Sun. Read the Sun’s article on Michael Sarbanes annoucement here.

You know, it’s good when someone who has been on the show a million times runs for office.  Instead of having to figure out who the heck their campaign director is and then attempting to find that persons number, you just pull their cell phone number out of your records and give them a call.

Michael Sarbanes will be our guest at 1:00 pm tomorrow.  He’s spent the past few years as the executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Association.  He is of course the son of retired U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes and the brother of the current U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes. 

How would his service as the City Council President be different from Maria Allwine, Ken Harris, or Stephanie Rawlings-Blake?  Tune in tomorrow to find out.

-Jessica Phillips

05/31/07 Vacant Homes

Image borrowed from www.theamericas.org

Tomorrow we’ll be discussing the thousands upon thousands of vacant homes that plaque our city, and ideas for saving them.

I realized today that as Baltimore is only the second city I have ever lived in, I have never really thought about the vacant homes.  I never really questioned what they were doing there.  I thought it was sad, sure, and unfortunate, but I guess I sort of accepted it as a “city thing”. 

But it’s not, is it?  It’s a Baltimore thing, I guess.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What other cities have you lived in and what was the vacant home situation there?  What are your ideas for how to fill those homes?

Hope you enjoy the show.  Marc will be talking with Michael Mazepink of the People’s Homesteading Group,Alan Chantker from the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Investor’s Association,and Michael Bainum, Baltimore’s Assistant Commissioner for Land Resources.

-Jessica Phillips

05/30/07 Immigration

We’ve got a huge two hour special on immigration for you today.

 We begin with a look at the history of social attitudes towards immigration in America.  We’ll be joined by Daniel Tichenor, professor of political science at Rutgers and the author of two books on immigration.  He’ll talk about how this current ruckus over immigration is nothing new-that the American collective freaks out about immigration every few decades or so.

Then, a good ole fashioned debate with Matthew Spaulding of The Heritage Foundation and Flavia Jimenez of the National Council of La Raza.  We’ll talk about the immigration reform legislation currently being considered by Congress.  Does this bill make anyone happy?

In the second hour, we are going to take a look at the epicenter of illegal immigration-the Arizona-Mexican border.  I was shocked to learn while researching this show that an average of 300 bodies are found in southern Arizona alone each year.  The bodies of course are of border crossers who set out on foot and were killed by exposure to the elements, or who were abandoned by their “coyotes”.  We’ll hear from Mike Wilson, a member of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation who operates water stations for border crossers on the land of his reservation, and Reverend Robin Hoover, the founder and director of Humane Borders, who operates 86 water stations on public land.  They see this whole debate in terms of a humanitarian crisis. 

We’ll also be joined by Ignacio Barraza, the mayor of Nogales, Arizona.  Nogales is Arizona’s largest border town. The image below is the warning map for border crossers that Humane Borders created for Nogales.  Border towns have a lot of challenges to deal with beyond just dealingwith a constant influx of people, many of whom need medical attention.  There are other things that come across the border-drugs and arms to name a few.  Those things bring with them a criminal element that those border towns have to deal with.   It’s not easy.  You could argue that these border towns offer a hint of how towns hundreds of miles away from the border, all across the country, will be affected if we don’t figure something out. 

Also joining us will be Joseph Mathew.  He is the director of a documentary called Crossing Arizonathat explores the reality of life along the Arizona-Mexico border.  His film profiles politicians, activists, and militia leaders all struggling with their own ideas about what to do regarding illegal border crossers. 

I hope you enjoy it!

-Jessica Phillips

The red dots indicate recovered bodies.  The blue flags indicate water stations operated by Humane Borders.

05/29/07 Nora Pierce

Nora Pierce is a former student of Marc’s who just released her first novel, The Insufficiency of Maps.  She is also a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University.

Here are some links to more of her writing and more information.

East Side, West Side. (story)

Guess Who Loves Me Now? (story)

Official Simon & Schuster page

-Jessica Phillips

05/29/07 ACLU

In the first part of the second hour of today’s show, we welcome former Attorney General Steve Sachs, ACLU-MD Director Susan Goering, and ACLU-MD Archivest Suzanne Smith to look back at the extraordinary history of the ACLU here in Maryland.

Whether or not you agree with the politics of the ACLU, their history is fascinating.  Some of their cases in the past 75 years have included:

  • Filing a wrongful termination case on behalf of Maryland Bethlehem Steel workers who were fired after invoking the 5th Amendment during House Un-American Activities Committee hearings.
  • Representing a man who was refused the public office of Notary Seal because he would not express a belief in God.
  • Defense of John Waters against a charge of violating abobscenity law while filming.
  • Defense of the Klu Klux Klan when officials in Thurmont and Elkton refused them a permit to march down Main Street.

So join us please as we discuss the interesting, complex, and historical role of the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland.

Jessica Phillips

05/29/07 BGE

Coming up during the first hour of today’s show, we are going to discuss the upcoming rate increase in your BGE bill. 

 Here is an article in the Baltimore Sun about it.

Could former public service commissioners have done more to prevent this?  Is this rate increase unfair?  The same PSC order that okayed the rate increase also lay out a “long-term strategy of examining the wholesale energy market and studying all facets of the state’s deregulation plan in hopes of advocating reforms leading to lower rates.”   What does that mean? And were the promises that lawmakers would find a way to avoid this just empty election year promises?

We’ll discuss all that and more this afternoon with Skip Trimble, an energy expert with South River Consulting, Chairman of the Public Service Commission Steve Larsen, and Johanna Newmann, an advocate with MaryPIRG.

-Jessica Phillips