Joe Frank: Radio Auteur

Andrew Leland writes: ‘Through his broadcasts over the course of forty years, Joe Frank, who died at seventy-nine this past January, brought the notion of the auteur to postwar American radio. He cleared a path for generations of producers who think of telling stories for radio not as a disposable information-delivery system for a mass audience, but rather as a place for ambiguous, strange artistic expression. Frank’s style earned him no more than a modest cult following. But his legacy lives on, in a very different form, in the work of Ira Glass (whose first job in public radio was as Frank’s production assistant) and in Glass’s own outsize influence on radio and now podcasting, where many of the best shows don’t aim to break news or provide trenchant analysis. Instead, they prize, above all, narrative tension and surprise, lending them an absorbing, binge-worthy quality that helps to build an emotional connection between the hosts and their listeners.’

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