learning from mistakes – the radio version

Being a voiceover talent AND an old radio person, behind the scenes stuff involving announcers has always fascinated me for no particularly good reason. Social media has taught me I’m not the only VO/Radio Guy who finds this stuff interesting.

So the other day, when I was listening to NPR, I noticed there was a different voice doing the underwriting announcement. It was particularly different to me because it was a man.

What was going on? Was this ANOTHER NPR announcer change?

As you may recall from a blog post a few years ago (2013 to be exact; you do have all these posts memorized, don’t you?), a man named Frank Tavares who had been the NPR underwriting voice for decades ended his run. A change was made.

In deciding to make a change in their underwriting voice, NPR management decided to pick a female voice. An voice and stage actress named Sabrina Farhi was chosen.

While I liked her commercial demo, I am on record as saying I did not like the underwriting reads Farhi gave on NPR…. after about 2 years, neither did NPR. For the bad reads, I blame NPR.

In 2015, Jessica Hansen replaced Farhi as NPR underwriting announcer. Fortunately, Farhi is still doing voiceover and theatre work, according to her web site, as she should.

Hansen gives a better promo read than Farhi did but I always hear a kind of aloofness in Hansen’s underwriting reads as opposed to a more friendly or at least conversational read that I think might sound more engaging to the listener.

Also, it should be assumed and can be safely noted, NPR doesn’t give a rat’s butt about how I think their underwriting scripts should be read…likely nobody does.

Also I’m going to assume that Hansen, like her predecessor, is reading as directed so she can’t be blamed if I don’t like her reads.

So since I’ve heard a male underwriting announcer recently, does that mean he has replaced Hansen at NPR?

Doesn’t seem so. But it does seem like I am late to the party on the addition of this second announcer to the NPR funding credits voice roster.

This article from Virginia Commonwealth University notes that their alumnus, Chioke I’Anson is one of two voices now reading Underwriting Promo scripts for NPR. This change took place around November 2016. Evidently I hadn’t been listening closely enough to NPR.

Dr. I’Anson (Ph.D.) is not a professional voice talent. NPR’s director of promotion and audience development heard I’Anson at an NPR Story Tellers Workshop, liked his voice and offered him the job.

Where was the lesson in all of this? Let’s go back to 2013, when NPR replaced Tavares with Farhi…the change was trumpeted across the media. When Farhi was replaced (fairly or unfairly depending on how you look at it), NPR looked bad.

When L’Anson came on board, it was billed as ‘an addition’ to the announcer roster not ‘a replacement’. Further, there was very little written about it. No big announcement, a behind the scenes change, done and done. That, it would seem, was the lesson learned.

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