|Genre||Scientific, philosophical investigation|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Syndicates||Public Radio Exchange|
|Exec. producer(s)||Ellen Horne|
|Air dates||since 2002|
|No. of series||11|
|No. of episodes||58 (List of episodes)|
|Podcast||Radiolab Podcast Index|
Radiolab is a radio program produced by WNYC, a public radio station in New York City, and broadcast on public radio stations in the United States. The show is nationally syndicated and is available as a podcast. In 2008, Radiolab began offering live shows.
Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the show focuses on topics of a scientific and philosophical nature. The show attempts to approach broad, difficult topics such as "time" and "morality" in an accessible and light-hearted manner and with a distinctive audio production style.
Radiolab received a 2007 National Academies Communication Award "for their imaginative use of radio to make science accessible to broad audiences." In 2010 the program received a Peabody Award. In 2011, Abumrad received the MacArthur grant.
Having majored in experimental music composition and production at Oberlin College, Jad Abumrad worked for New York City Pacifica affiliate WBAI before landing a job freelancing for National Public Radio (NPR). In 2002 he produced a series of post-9/11 radio documentaries called 24 Hours at the Edge of Ground Zero, and regularly contributed material to Studio 360, both for WNYC. The first weekly episodes of Radiolab aired in May of 2002, and each compiled two hours worth of NPR stories around a particular theme with between-story commentary from Jad Abumrad. These themes were not necessarily science-related, but tackled issues such as the death penalty, religious fundamentalism and politics in Africa and the Middle East.
In 2003 Abumrad was given an assignment to interview ABC News science reporter Robert Krulwich and the two men discovered they had a lot in common: both were alumni of Oberlin College (though 25 years apart), and both had worked at WBAI before moving on to WNYC and NPR. They became fast friends and began collaborating on experimental radio pieces, the first of which they sent to Ira Glass for a proposed Flag Day episode of This American Life. "It was horrible," said Glass of the tape in an interview with Abumrad and Krulwich. "It's just amazing that you were able to put together such a wonderful program after that."
Not to be dissuaded, Abumrad and Krulwich continued to collaborate. By 2004 Radiolab had become an hour-long, science-themed program characterized by Abumrad's unique sound design style, and Robert Krulwich appeared as a "guest host" on a program about time in early June. By the following episode (Space, aired two weeks later), they were co-hosts, launching into the program's first official season in 2005.
Radiolab is aired on over 300 radio stations across the U.S. Each episode is one hour long and tackles various philosophical and scientific topics. However, the show began in 2002 as a three-hour weekly show on New York City radio station WNYC's AM's signal. It wasn't until 2004 that Krulwich began appearing as a regular guest and eventually as a co-host.
Each Radiolab episode is elaborately stylized. For instance, thematic—and often dissonant and atonal—music accompanies much of the commentary. In an April 2011 interview with the New York Times, Abumrad explained the choice in music: “I put a lot of jaggedy sounds, little plurps and things, strange staccato, percussive things.” In addition, previously recorded interview segments are interspersed in the show's live dialogue, adding a layered, call-and-response effect to the questions posed by the hosts. These recordings are often unedited and the interviewee's asides appear in the final product. In the same New York Times interview, Abumrad said, “You're trying to capture the rhythms and the movements, the messiness of the actual experience...It sounds like life.” And unlike traditional journalism, in which the reader is given only access to the final article, not the interview, Abumrad added that Radiolab's process is more transparent.
Radiolab has been widely acclaimed among listeners and critics alike. Around 1.8 million listeners tune into the show, though most of them access it via podcasts. It has even been hailed, along with This American Life, as one of the most innovative shows on American radio.
In a 2007–2008 study by Multimedia Research (sponsored by the National Science Foundation), it was determined that over 95 percent of listeners reported that the science-based material featured on Radiolab was accessible. Additionally, upwards of 80 percent of listeners reported that the program's pace was exciting, and over 80 percent reported that the layering of interviews was engaging.
Radiolab has also won several awards, including the 2010 George Foster Peabody Award for broadcast excellence. In spring 2011, Krulwich and Abumrad took the show on a live, national tour, selling out in cities such as New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
On September 24, 2012, in a podcast titled "The Fact of the Matter", the program ran a segment about the yellow rain incidents in Laos and surrounding countries in the 1970s. Included in the story was an interview with Hmong veteran and refugee Eng Yang, with his niece Kao Kalia Yang serving as translator. After hearing the segment, Kao Kalia Yang and others complained that her uncle's viewpoints had been dismissed or edited out, that interviewer Robert Krulwich had treated them callously, and that the overall approach to the story had been racist. The complaints prompted several rounds of allegation, apology, rebuttal, and edits to the podcast, as well as commentary in various sources such as the public radio newspaper Current.
Through stories, interviews, and thought experiments, each hour-long episode usually deals with a specific topic and investigates it from several different angles. Using sound design (not a common practice in modern radio programming), rapid dialog edits and sound effects are used to build a soundscape constructing an expository conversation, and usually feature brief, seemingly unscripted tangents. The credits are generally read by people who were interviewed or featured on the show, rather than by the hosts.
As of June 15, 2009, the podcast offers full, hour-long episodes on a regular schedule with a variable number of podcasts in between "that follow some detour or left turn, explore music we love, take you to live events, and generally try to shake up your universe." These extra podcasts, referred to as "Shorts", are occasionally combined into full-length compilation episodes.
- Radiolab Live. WNYC, Retrieved 11 Oct 2012.
- "'In Search Of Memory' Wins 2007 Best Book Award From The National Academies; Wnyc's Radio Lab And Writer Carl Zimmer Also Awarded Top Prizes". The National Academies Office of News and Public Information. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "WNYC's RADIOLAB Wins Peabody Award". 2011-03-31.
- "MacArthur 'Genius' Award Winner Jad Abumrad". Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- Transcribed from the introduction in the "Musical Language" MP3 podcast."Musical Language". WNYC Radio. Retrieved 2010-04-28. "From WNYC, New York Public Radio, this is Radiolab. This is one of five episodes from Season Two. Radiolab is a limited run series."
- "WNYC – Radiolab Archive". WNYC Radio. Retrieved 2010-06-01.
- Abumrad, Jad. "About the Staff". Retrieved 2007-05-31.
- Radiolab: "Jad and Robert: The Early Years." WNYC, May 6, 2008. Retrieved 2010-8-6.
- Radiolab: "Time." WNYC, June 4, 2004. Retrieved 2010-8-6.
- Radiolab: "Who Am I?." WNYC, February 4, 2005. Retrieved 2010-8-6.
- Walker, Rob (April 7, 2011). "On ‘Radiolab,’ the Sound of Science". The New York Times.
- Bottomley, Andrew (January 11, 2012). On Radio: Radiolab and the Art of the Modern Radio Feature. Antenna: Responses to Media & Culture.
- Flagg, Barbara (May 19, 2009). Listeners' Evaluation of Radiolab: Choice. InformalScience.
- WNYC's RADIOLAB Wins Peabody Award. WNYC. March 31, 2011.
- Rainey, James (March 9, 2011). "On the Media: 'Radiolab' takes its audio smörgasbord on the road". Los Angeles Times.
- Bob Collins (October 25, 2012). "The Yellow Rain fallout". Bob Collins news cut. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
- Andrew Lapin (October 24, 2012). "Search for ‘truth’ results in Radiolab apology". Current. American University School of Communication. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
- "Stochasticity". WNYC Radio. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- Official site
- Audio interview with Krulwich & Abumrad on the public radio program Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
- Podcast interview with Jad Abumrad
- Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich interviewed by Charlie Rose on January 2, 2013.