This American Life Celebrates 500th Episode
Once called the vanguard of a journalistic revolution by the American Journalism Review, This American Life aired its very first episode on July 5, 1995. Now in its 18th year, the weekly show entertains an audience of about 1.8 million with its thought-provoking programs. In a recent interview with Slate, founder and host Ira Glass reflected on the program’s evolution:
Over the last few years, we’ve gone from being a show that was almost entirely very personal stories to a show that is much more engaging the news. When the show started, the mission of the show was to apply the tools of journalism to stories so small and personal that journalists weren’t doing them. And occasionally, we would do something that would touch the news…But after 9/11, we became more interested in the news—the whole country became more interested in the news. And the show exists partly to follow what we as a staff are interested in.
For the 500th episode, the staff will talk about their favorite moments on This American Life. Glass praised the show’s experimental format, which he described as “flexible enough that we can to do whatever we want.”
It’s interesting to note that in an accompanying interview, Glass said he thinks of his interviews with guests as story plots:
Really what I’m thinking about is: “What is the story arc of this story? How do I get plot going and how can I get them to tell me the plot in a way that will work in on the radio?” So… I’ll go into the interview with a set of thoughts I have about their experience.
Bonus: You can catch the 500th episode and browse previous episodes stretching back to 1995 through This American Life’s archive.