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Ira Glass of 'This American Life' to speak at UNC

You all know the voice. Now meet the face.

Ira Glass, host of the public radio program “This American Life,” will deliver a speech about radio stories Saturday in Memorial Hall.

The program, started in Chicago in 1995, features first-person stories and short fiction pieces with universal interest. The show gained popularity quickly because of Glass’s tales, which combine emotion and sincerity.

Past stories
include babies who left the hospital with the wrong families in 1951 and found out 40 years later who their real families were.

The show has picked up a massive public radio following.

“Ira Glass is an icon for me because he creates a radio show that is very intimate and has a presence,” said junior Jacki Huntington, host of a news and commentary show on WXYC.

WXYC DJs admire Glass’s unorthodox way of storytelling and his conversational tone, she said.

“All of us have really normal-sounding voices, and so does Ira Glass. We share a casual and real feeling,” Huntington said.

Adam Hochberg, a local National Public Radio news reporter, said Glass has much to offer students.

“I think it is a great opportunity for the students because Glass is a master at using radio to tell stories,” he said.

“I don’t know if I’d say he invented the art form of radio storytelling, but he certainly perfected it, and every week he demonstrates in his show how powerful the medium of radio is to telling the human story.”

The speech will consist of a lecture followed by a short question-and-answer session.

Emily Carey, the music and media chairwoman for the Carolina Union Activities Board, said CUAB brought Glass to campus because of what he could teach students.

“We want students to learn something culturally and think, as well as have fun,” she said.

“People into radio, arts, writing, communications and English can hopefully see themselves in Ira Glass and learn something.”

Buzz about Glass’s speech at Memorial has expanded beyond the campus. Both student and general admission tickets have sold out.

“I know freshmen that are excited about it, I know graduate students that are excited about it, and I know people in the community that are excited,” Carey said.

Huntington said that it is important for UNC to host a radio personality like Glass.

“It’s really a triumph for CUAB that they are bringing Glass to UNC because it is showing radio culture to UNC, which is something that is not well represented on college campuses,” she said.

With so many groups anticipating Glass, it is no surprise that he will be talking to a full house. The show sold out Thursday.

Glass’s speech is expected to mirror his acclaimed radio show.

“I think people will enjoy listening to him speak the same way they enjoy listening to the program,” Hochberg said.

“At its base, every single story is about people, and we forget that. Ira introduces us to people.”

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