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Producers’ Choice: The Best ‘Think Out Loud’ Conversations of 2016

December 21, 2016

A lot has to happen behind the scenes to get great radio interviews and stories to your ears. The producers of OPB’s daily news talk show, Think Out Loud, have a unique view of the conversations that end up on the air.  Producers Dave Blanchard, Phoebe Flanigan, Julie Sabatier, along with senior producer Allison Frost and executive producer Sage Van Wing join host Dave Miller in reflecting on some of their favorite segments from 2016.

A Conversation With Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum — Jan., 25, 2016:

“We spoke to LaVoy Finicum on Jan. 25. It was the first interview we’d done in person after a few that were done on the phone. About 20 minutes into it, when I was trying to pin him down on some details about how returning Western lands to state or county control would work if state or county leaders weren’t interested, he got testy, and said, 'I’m done.' We turned off the recorder and his mood immediately brightened. Then he said he was glad we were there, because he wanted the media to pay attention to what he saw on the horizon: that federal officials were going to move in soon. It turned out he was right. Oregon State Police stopped Finicum (along with some of the other occupation leaders) the next evening as they were driving to an event in John Day. Finicum fled that traffic stop and was killed by police at a road block a mile up the road.”
— Host Dave Miller

Oregonian Noah Strycker Sets A New Birding World Record — Feb. 2, 2016:

“I love working in radio. And when people ask me why I love working in radio, I tell them about stories like Noah Strycker’s. Here’s a guy who is so into birds that he spent his New Year’s Eve birding. And he didn’t just spend his New Year’s Eve birding — he spent his New Year’s Eve birding from a hot tub. On the deck of a Russian ship. Off the coast of Antarctica. And that was just the beginning! What followed was a yearlong quest that spilled across 41 countries and brought Strycker nose-to-beak with nearly two-thirds of the world’s bird species.”
— Producer Phoebe Flanigan

 Meet Some Of The People Working At The RNC - July 21, 2016

“While Think Out Loud was at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I spoke to as many people working there as I could, people serving food, selling memorabilia and doing security. I was curious about what their days were like, and how they felt about having this big, national event in their city. Many workers told me that they had been specifically instructed not to talk to the media, but I found a few people who were willing to be interviewed anyway. They came from all over the political spectrum, and one woman I spoke with was truly undecided between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”
— Producer Julie Sabatier

 Quince And Croquet — Sept. 26, 2016:

“It’s not often you get to talk to a world-champion croquet player who also happens to collect croquet art and grow an unusual fruit. When a listener who was pitching us an entirely different story happened to mention that his uncle is Oregon’s largest quince grower, we were intrigued. So I called up Tremain Arkley out of the blue and asked him to tell me a little about his life. I think we were on the phone for an hour, and pretty soon I was telling everyone I knew about our conversation. He seemed to do everything in his life because it was a unique and interesting challenge. I knew we had to get him in on the show.”
— Executive Producer Sage Van Wing

Portland High School Students Aspire To Achieve And Redefine The 'American Dream' — Nov. 2, 2016:

“The last installment of our ‘American Dream’ series brought about three dozen high school students together to talk about their personal backgrounds and how those shaped the way they viewed this country. They shared their own experiences and those of their parents — some of whom had come from other countries. Some shared experiences of being called the N-word, and how those incidents influenced their sense of belonging. But most in the room — including those who shared experiences of overt racism and hatred directed at them — said they aspired to the traditionally-defined American dream and believed if they worked hard they could achieve “success” and home ownership. Many said their dream included getting into and being able to afford to go to a good college, which for some presented challenges. This conversation took place just before the November election, and although the high school students couldn’t vote, they were divided on whether their individual votes would count when they were able to cast a vote.”
— Senior Producer Allison Frost

 A Conversation With Sherman Alexie — Nov. 17, 2016:

“How lucky are we to have the cultural treasure that is Sherman Alexie? I can think of no other person as capable of swinging from hilarious absurdity (his impression of Willow Smith performing ‘Whip My Hair’ at a pow-wow at Standing Rock) to heartbreaking poignancy (his experience reading his children’s book for a group of 3rd and 4th graders in Chicago who were able to identify with one of the few book characters they’d seen who had brown skin).
Alexie is unflinching in acknowledging the hate, suffering, and injustice in of the world, while managing to keep his senses of humor, humility and wonder. I can’t think of another hour of radio this year that had me laughing out loud and tearing up as often as this conversation from Wordstock.”
— Producer David Blanchard

Other shows included in this Think Out Loud special include:


Portland Republican Xander Almeida at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 20, 2016.

Julie Sabatier

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