Where do you get your ideas?


“Where do you get your ideas?” 

That’s usually the first question I get when I meet a listener.  Well, it ties for first with the question, “What’s Marc really like?”  (Answer: Pretty much as he is on the air, maybe a little less focused, lots of fun, sometimes a creative disaster area but makes up for it by often buying us breakfast. Laughs easily and generously.) 

The first place we get our ideas is from each other.  Every Monday morning we gather for our weekly production meeting.  Ideally we all come in with ideas we’ve happened upon over the weekend and we share those with each other.  We sit and look at the calender and our list of ideas, and we figure out which are most interesting or important, and where they should go.  Then we go to work on them.

Another place we get our ideas is from our listeners and former guests.  We get lots and lots of emails from people who have been on the show or who listen to the show sharing their ideas with us. 

There is also of course the obvious: the news.  We get four newspapers delivered here everyday: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, and the New York Times.  We receive the Gazette and the Daily Record on a weekly basis.  On Wednesdays one of us picks up the City Paper, and Marc usually reads the Baltimore Examiner at home. All of these papers are pretty crucial to the work we do in bringing those issues to light that we then produce shows around.  Our staff doesn’t have the ability to dedicate time to investigate work.  We rely on the work of great reporters like Fred Schulte and June Arney of the Baltimore Sun and their Ground Rent series. 

As for other avenues, I have a list of websites I check on a regular basis.  I use these as a place to not only conduct research and come up with story ideas but also as a place to find guests.  Here’s a list of my favorites that I check weekly if not daily, in no particular order.

  • Slate  A great place for commentary on politics, highbrow and lowbrow culture, sports, and anything else than can have an article written about it.  I’ve learned some real wacky facts from the regular Human Nature column especially.  But I find their Obama Messiah Watch to be the most hilarious thing on the site.
  • Salon. I think of this as a more serious Slate. Again, politics, culture, wacky happenings in the world that you wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for this website.
  • The Nation.  This is the liberal political magazines home on the web.  They do some great investigate work.  We featured the author and subject of a recent investigation that alleged the U.S. Army was purposefully misdiagnosing soldiers with personality disorder in order to avoid paying medical benefits.
  • Watching America. Ever wonder what people across the world are reading and saying about the United States?  This is the place to go to read articles from newspapers all around the world, translated into English, about America.  (This is an example of how our listeners influence us.  An emailer alerted us to this website; we’ve since had the founder of it on the show and are working on a partnership with him.)
  • National Review Online.  This is the online home of the weekly conservative political journal.  This is perhaps my favorite spot on the web for conservative commentary.  I really enjoy their blog The Corner.
  • The New Republic Online.  The online home of yet another political journal, this one liberal.  I usually check this website and NRO as a one-two punch. 
  • The Weekly Standard.  Founded by William Kristol, a reliable source of neoconservative opinion.  I sometimes find the tone a little harder to swallow than the tone at National Review Online, but I guess that’s the point.
  • Baltimore Indypendent Media Center.  You can download their issues and also post articles of your own.   An interesting point of view, real passionate.
  • Baltimore Crime Blog.  I check this every morning.  It’s a sad but necessary ritual in this city. 

There are of course tons of other websites I check on a less regular basis, but those are the biggies. And I’m sure Marc and the other producers have their own favorites. Is there something you think I should know about?  A favorite website that you think has good stuff for the show?  Let me know in the comments!

-Jessica Phillips