Helping Others Feel Whole: Rob Rosenthal on Media That Matters

by Stephanie Brown

rob_rosenthal.portrait.photo_by_ed_kashiAs we count down the days until Media That Matters 2014, check the CMSI blog to learn more about our #MTMDC panelists and why they engage with media that matters. 

Radio producer and instructor Rob Rosenthal will be speaking at Media That Matters 2014 on the panel Radio Matters: How sound carries a story and other takeaways. Here is his story.

1. What do you do? How is your work breaking new ground?

I’m a freelance radio producer and instructor. I produce documentaries, podcasts, multimedia, audio tours, and the like. I’m the lead instructor at the Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

As an instructor, my goal is to “catapult” students into careers in public radio and audio storytelling. In my production work, I typically produce stories that foster a sense of place. If I break new ground at all – and I’m not sure I do – I produce a podcast on audio storytelling for the Public Radio Exchange called HowSound. HowSound is one of only a few resources available for instruction or, as we put it, “the backstory on great audio storytelling.”

2. How did you get where you are? What have you done in the past?

I think I got where I am, in part, by putting myself into situations where I learned as I went.

For the first part of my radio career, I managed community radio stations for about fifteen years. I then founded and ran the radio track at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

And, in addition to the production work I mention above, I’ve produced multi-media stories for the Open Society Foundations, universities, and non-profits; I’ve produced, hour-long radio documentaries, public service announcements, commercials….

3. What current or future projects do you want to tell us about?  

Currently, I’m in the early stages of production on a radio documentary marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau’s “Cape Cod.”

4. What do you think makes media a powerful tool for change?  

Media is a powerful tool for change when it connects citizens with truth, when it provides an honest portrayal of how we live our lives.

5. Have you personally experienced a situation in which media made a positive difference? Tell us about it.

I produced an hour-long documentary on the state-sponsored eviction of a mixed-race community from an island on the coast of Maine in 1912. It was an act of racism, eugenics, and economic opportunism.

Despite the fact that the incident took place a hundred years ago, it has lingered in the lives of the descendents of the evicted, many of whom spoke publicly about the impact of the eviction on their lives.

Characters in the documentary told me that hearing their voice and the voices of others with similar stories validated their own life and feelings and helped them to feel whole. It was as though the radio program assisted with righting an injustice.

6. Why do you want to speak at Media That Matters?  

I hope attendees will find my thoughts and perspectives on the incredible importance of audio and narrative useful for their media work.

Meet Rob and other innovative media makers at the Media That Matters conference this February. If you haven’t signed up yet, visit the registration page.


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