For new student group, better living through public radio

Mechelle Hankerson
Staff Writer

Whoever said radio was dead may have been jumping the bullet.

The American Life at VCU held their first meeting on Wednesday to listen to and discuss the popular weekly NPR program.

In 2006, during his senior year in high school, VCU senior David Osnoe began listening to “This American Life,” a radio show produced by Chicago Public Media, available as a podcast and on the radio on 88.9 FM Sundays at 10 a.m.

To share the show with other VCU students, Osnoe helped friend and VCU junior Andy Brown start a student group that gets together to listen to and discuss the show. The first meeting was held yesterday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Commons Forum Room.

“The intent of the group is to get together, listen to the show, talk about the most recent shows, and air clips from some of the most intriguing or thought-provoking shows,” Osnoe said.

“The idea was thought up by Professor Jonny Cecka,” Brown said. “We had listened to a few stories in class and he thought it’d be a cool idea to have a club and listen to it.”

Brown doesn’t know exactly how long he’s been listening to the award-winning show, but he knows he used to listen to it every Sunday with his mother.

“It was entertaining and thought-provoking, and it’s pretty easy to relate to,” Brown said. “It was a good alternative to whatever music was being played.”

Osnoe himself finds “This American Life” so interesting because “the topics are so esoteric, things you usually don’t hear about or learn about.”

The latest episode was titled “Fear of Sleep” and detailed people who had different sleep disorders and how they ended up in different situations as a result.

“I thought that was particularly interesting, because you rarely hear about sleep disorders,” Osnoe said.

Brown recalls a story about a zookeeper who becomes friends with a monkey who likes to escape from the zoo.

“The stories are usually really bizarre,” he said.

“This American Life” does not just pick a topic and discuss it, the program is also hands-on.

The show has attempted to create a band from classified ads, spent all night taping in a 24-hour restaurant, and has also dealt with more serious topics, such as following a group of swing voters for months to see how their ultimate voting decision was formed.

The show has featured authors such as Nick Hornby and David Sedaris. Sedaris was the author Osnoe first started listening to on the show.

“This American Life” usually has themes that pertain to current events, but it is not all fiction. It often features essays and memoirs.

“The tone [of the show] is sort of light and conversational,” Osnoe said. “The tonality [of the show] keeps me coming back to it, because the content can be light or serious, comical or based on current events, and even whimsical.”

“It’s just real people telling their stories and it’s always fun to listen to people tell interesting stories,” Brown said.

“[Listening to the show] is a fun thing to do,” Brown said. “You learn a lot and you start to create sympathy and connections with the people on there.”

“I’m hoping that everybody comes and has a good time and we can essentially have this community that enjoys listening to ‘This American Life’,” Brown said. “I think we all have a lot more in common than we think.”

For more information about the group and future meetings, there is a “This American Life” Facebook group, or more information can be received by emailing [email protected]

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