Tuesday, December 12, 2006


cb vs. NPR

hey...here's an idea: let's take a fun, true story about buying back a guitar that was sold in 1987, tell the story with real interviews, all recorded in real time [with some retakes to get a little more detail]. a little journalism, a little fun with sound cues, etc.. something to commemorate the 25th anniversay of the release of a song that a lot of people love.

let's make it as entertaining & clever as possible. oh...since it's entertainment, and in the interest of making the story's twist at the end work...let's recreate a segment that couldn't be taped because the law sez no taping. BUT BE DAMN CAREFUL THAT THE RECREATION IS 100% ACCURATE AS IT WENT DOWN. ethics, you know...

no attempt at deception/no exaggeration/no lying.

i'm talking about the custom agent segment at the end of the Bebe Bleue podcast i've been flogging heavily on this blog. yes, that particular exchange was not 'real' - it was recorded word-for-word, but after the fact.

big deal - no harm, no foul.

but let's jack the 'story' of the story up a notch. the piece came out kinda good, and i thought...gee, this is like a This American Life segment or something...and maybe NPR would be interested. so i sent it to a producer at NPR who works in the NEWS DIVISION. he likes it. he chops it down to a manageable size for air. puts a lot of work into it, which is much appreciated. i repeatedly tell him that i am new to this type of thing, and that i don't know NPR's guidelines...and i ask him for his input. very little of this get's sent to me - the guy is probably nutz busy and doesn't have time to train me via email.

but the piece gets edited and there is a sense from him that it's good & fun...then he asks me casually how to characterize this piece - is it 'real' or is it a recreation? i am an honest person, so i tell him that the entire piece - all the events, interviews,...all of it - is true, but the custom agent's segment had to be recreated because they would not let me tape in the Customs Hall.

well, this turned out to be a trap, 'cause producer then goes ballistic. he says now they won't use the piece. trust has been violated. he thinks i wasted his time with a bogus piece of 'news'. he implies i was deceptive on purpose.


so i write him the following:

AS -

you're kidding?

there was no attempt at deception here. i resent the implication that i falsified any of this - the events/meetings/etc.. yes, the customs agent bit is a recreation, and was done after the trip - everything else is as i've stated is 100% authentic. i am not the guy from the NYT or Washington Post falsifiying stories of crack babies or any of the other made-up journalistic stuff that's been in the news over the years.

the search for the guitar is real/the interviews are real/the incidents and live musings are real and ALL of it was recorded in real time. if i had thought in ANY WAY that i was wasting your time/compromising your or NPR's integrity, i would not have pursued this.

i can't believe this is happening, or that you now think i perpetrated a falsehood.

no fucking way...

i did this piece for myself. it was a thrill to have NPR interested, but the story was not assigned by NPR. i repeatedly asked you for help, input, guidelines...anything to make it conform to your standards WHICH I DID NOT KNOW. it is 100% my bad that i did not inform you upfront that the piece included a single 'recreation'...which i have seen or heard in many other light news/entertainment pieces. i am sorry, but i did not know that i had done anything wrong. i know NPR's ethical standards are high - so are mine. but i did not know that a recreation of a true event is not allowed.

any question of ethical authenticity can be fixed by inserting the line:

"i needed a miracle...and got one. it played out as in this recreation."

i hope this satisfies your concerns. [note: it didn't. the piece was spiked]

i know what i did, and what i didn't do...and i did not falsify anything. do what you have to do, but if you spike the piece, you are doing so based on a false assumption on your part. in the words of every reporter i've ever heard about who had to defend themselves in this situation:

"i stand by my story"

(aside: i have been listening to NPR since the middle '70's. it is my main source of news. i am a member of my local affiliate. i have many friends who work for NPR/WNYC in various capacities, and from time-to-time i have heard that NPR can be as much of a nest of vipers as any other corporate entertainment entity. i did not want to believe this...Mr. Panglossianidealisticpollyanna would not accept that a radio network that was capable of such consistant brilliance would fall prey to the same human crapola that plagues every other enterprise.)

apparently...i was mistaken.

pissed beyond pissed.

HEAR MY Bebe Bleue PODCAST with the 'offending' Customs Agent segment:


- or



Blogger bh said...

Don't let the bastards get you down. Your peice was brilliant, too bad we'll never hear the NPR edit.
Got anybody on the inside?

4:15 PM  
Blogger CBeezwax said...

well, that was the guy. been thinking of doing the edit myself at some point...just to see if i can get it down to 8 minutes.

kinda not in the mood to spend anymore time on it tho.


8:06 PM  
Blogger CBeezwax said...

but here's a positive thought:

if NPR's/my producer's stance is that "radio is the absolute truth"...and if NPR really does not compromise on that rule under any circumstances...that it reall is 'absolutle'...well, that's good, and comforting to know.


10:24 PM  
Blogger Harvey Gold said...

The LONG piece IS the piece. Cut down for the radio? Well OK, if that's what you aspire to. Slamming movies to fit commercial TVs formatting... losing subplots, great dialogue, layers that make the piece what it is, etc. Only worth it for... to get it on A&E? To get it on NP,R apparently.

Naw, you've got more important, creative, and better things to do than cut it down yo 8 minutes as an 'exercise.' If Readers Digest don't want it, we ain't condensing shit, I say!

12:10 AM  
Blogger Lane Steinberg said...

Sounds like someone was cutting back on their meds.

6:52 AM  
Blogger CBeezwax said...

me or him?


7:52 AM  
Blogger Lane Steinberg said...

Oh, him of course. It's like when a dog turns on you.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Outrageous... pathetic... lame... and everything in between. Still love the piece as is...

Chris: I sure hope that's a real picture of your brain you use as your icon/avatar... OTHERWISE I AM REPORTING YOU!!!

Be well, buddy, and hope you're enjoying May in December...

11:32 AM  

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